A Certain Slant of Light


There’s a certain slant of light—
the way the sun slices through half-opened blinds,
of a late afternoon in autumn,
a single star and fireflies
on a new-moon night.

There’s the sound of cricket calls,
a desperation to be heard,
the creak of wood-on-wood,
the texture of a rocking chair,
thick white paint, over paint that tells
the tale of those who came before.

There’s the taste of tears,
so many drops of loss,
the flow of pain down rounded cheeks,
my mother’s soothing touch.
That’s when I learn, too soon
(curled up upon her lap)
of death. There’s always that.

Over at dVerse Poetics Stuart McPherson invites us to tell a growing-up story. Yesterday a neighbor passed away and this brought to mind my first understanding of death. I was barely of an age to remember, but the details and circumstances of the telling are clear in my memory. Interestingly death has been a constant companion throughout my life as a nurse in the field of death and dying.

The title of this poem and first line come from the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

25 thoughts on “A Certain Slant of Light

  1. An emotional piece. Very well written.


  2. Oh, this is beautifully done – I feel I’m right there in that room. Yes, perfect capturing of a moment of loss. Yes.


  3. Jamie Dedes says:

    There’s always that, it’s true. Had to read this a few times over to saver all the sense engagements … and remember what it felt like as a child to have the reality of what death means hit. Hadn’t thought about that in years, Victoria.

    Well done! 🙂


  4. I know what it is about your poem, Victoria–you stimulate all the senses with your words. Amazing.


  5. Myrna says:

    Beautifully written. I like the build up to death. Your poem, like life it has many lovely ingredients. Enjoyed reading this so much.


  6. Tony says:

    I picked these lines out before I saw the comments, so I’m going to say that out of all the richness here, these lines were my favourites:

    There’s the taste of tears,
    so many drops of loss,
    the flow of pain down rounded cheeks

    I note that I am not alone 🙂

    I did not suffer a death in my family until I was in my late twenties, so I can only imagine what the effects of that would be on a child. Thanks for givi this glimpse of a world I didn’t have to live in.


  7. janehewey says:

    wonderful, heart-awakening poem, Victoria.


  8. Thank you for sharing that beautiful memory, Victoria, and your mother’s gentleness and depth of grief was most likely what brought you to bring comfort to so many. Blessings, Kalena


  9. Mary says:

    This is beautiful. I love the way you have evoked the senses….sight, sound, and taste. Indeed a life contains ‘so many drops of loss,’ I think. Immeasureable numbers by the time we reach our age, I think. This poem brought me back to my first loss. My grandmother died when I wa six. (My own granddaughter is five now…lord, I hope I am around a long, long time!) Your poem is always worth waiting for.


  10. stuartmcphersonpoet says:

    this is excellent Victoria. Some real specific observations, I particularly love the line about ‘paint over paint’…i don’t know why, but I often think but this for some reason, i suppose its like the ringlets of a tree, its someone’s old life beneath the new. In the context of this poem it become metaphorical, in that as a child you are innocent and free, until exposed to death which changes everything, and forever, and the old life gets painted over (I hope im making some kind of sense! apologies if not!)….i think, what im trying to say, is that your poem is a perfect example of that moment of realisation. the moment thing change. great poem


  11. Dick Jones says:

    Poignant and evocative, this juxtapositioning of youthful vitality and death.


  12. The moment that we understand the permanency of that loss, the first time our hearts physically ache with that knowledge, a very hard moment indeed. Lost so many in my life, and understanding that death is a part of life doesn’t always erase the pain and loss, only time eases, and still there are moments when memories flood back in spite of our strength and resolve.
    Nice capture Victoria, well expressed.


  13. jasmine calyx says:

    Oh, from your last stanza I love these:
    “There’s the taste of tears”
    “my mother’s soothing touch”
    “That’s when I learn, too soon.”
    “There’s always that.”


  14. zongrik says:

    death casts a shadow…good metaphor


  15. klrs09 says:

    Lovely. “. . .the texture of a rocking chair, thick white paint. . .”


  16. yasniger says:

    Reblogged this on yasniger and commented:
    There is always something mystical about sun rays coming through an open door or window……


  17. yasniger says:

    I like the imagery of it….. See what you make of this piece of mine.


    Dancers in the sun’s light
    Amaze my privileged sight
    And fill my heart with delight.

    Floating in some physical void,
    Dazzling the spectacle they lord;
    Visible in the air I cannot avoid.

    What I see likens a light dust,
    Entertaining my eyes’ own lust
    As the ray blows them all out.

    A comet must have just gone by
    And beamed pass my open eye,
    From the bright splendor up high.

    Its mild rays’ lonely lights tread
    On a woven lit path boldly made
    To awaken the soul’s long dead.

    The mystery is doubt’s glory
    That yields an affectionate story
    Daring every notion’s theory.


  18. claudia says:

    the inclusion of sound, taste and touch makes this very real and felt..sorry for your early loss


  19. kkkkaty says:

    ..the texture of a rocking chair..how acutely those details stick with us ..sweet 😉


  20. This is a such a vivid piece, you wrote it well and I am sorry for your loss.


  21. Death definitely makes us grow up in unfair ways, although “life isn’t fair”- even though I hate that cliche. I like the imagery you’ve used here.


  22. WabiSabi says:

    This poem went straight to my heart. I am reminded of Thomas, ‘after the first death, there is no other.’ Thanks for sharing!


  23. brian miller says:

    death found me early on in the form of my grandparents….they are my earliest memory of death…i like how you put all the texture and sensory impressions in at the beginning…these are the things that attach a memory….


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