Brown Lodge No. 22, A.F. & A.M., Arrow Rock, Mo.
To Each Light of Which I Am a BrotherG. C. Waldrep
In the disused lodge hall I am listening for the sound of brightness,
which has breadth. Not the sound of fire, which has depth.
The candidates line up, as if for inspection.
Even in a small house objects (mostly small objects) may be hidden.
Light reaches through to where the gavels once lay. Is brightness,
then, a pedestal, were we to approach it.
Miltonic light, not bright exactly, but in conversation with bright
ness. It can pierce milk, assert ancient authorities.
Peephole with its handmade cover like a raindrop, a drop of milk,
mercury, or blood. At certain times one would swing the cover
wide & view the other. Admit or deny.
Brightness, not the same as whiteness though often mistaken for it
in two-dimensional representations.
The sound the gavels made, wood against wood, word against
I recognize fire by the absence of fire, & the depths from which that
House by house, tales of houses being moved, by mule team, on
log rollers. Everything here is both palimpsest & tabernacle.
The material is the wholly necessary part, where both inception &
reception of sound are concerned.
I sat quite still & let my blood work it out for me.
If I had a prism in this place, what would I see (through it) (or,
otherwise). The worn wood, a fossil, photosynthetic reach
locked into its last amplitude.
To purify the sounds, to wash them clean—how?
I make no mistakes. Or, the mistakes I make become my cisterns,
my lovers, split migration around which the bright ships canter.
Push back the latch & search the depths. (We say “depths,” plural—
Electricity, neither brightness nor fire, its surface hum: we tolerate
it, & much more.
I listen for measure, for the instruments of measure. Topolithic, a
word I absorbed without being subject to what we call pain,
Rolled glass of the old windows seeking the center but so slowly.
Brightness in its many modulations: can’t be handled.
At this point a prayer may be offered (among the many desolations
already mentioned, for instance children, my own or others’).
I take a deep breath, sound a B-flat, more or less. It leaps the baffles
matter presents, it magnifies.
In the rear of the derelict dwelling a scrap of sheet music was found:
a hymn I knew. Scored for voice, for neither fire nor brightness,
that is, for the human.
The vitrine, which promises both attention & safety, falsely. I breathe
on it, I bend closer.
Shout at the fire if you like.
Friendship, association, these common aims, you must make some-
thing of something, as out of nothing.
I rest my living body on the bodies of others.
Does rest make a sound, & if so, how can we hear it, what prosthetic
do we use. I see you with my hearing, as upon a narrow ladder.
Value, a test.
Comfort ye, my people (says your God). Not a ladder, but a filter.
Not a rudder, but a wine. Inheritance, subject to arbors.
I imagine—no, it is not the time for imagining.
Brightness, which knows time as periodicity & decay, two vagrant
Everything here could be so rapidly returned to oxygen & carbon.
& yet, for a little while—
I strengthen my aloneness in the midst of the fast. I prepare my
rituals, this & divers others.
This one, though. You blow into it, as if it contained a single burn-
ing taper. You measure yourself against precisely this.
All the gavels have been broken, surely: at any rate they are no
And the wasps’ nest: what does it do? Effloresce? Genuflect?
You see me, but do you recognize me (is a question). The altars con-
structed of symbols & flesh, as per tradition. You offer—what?
Not forgetting the impact of a series of disastrous floods & fires, nor
the violence man does to man. Empathy, that outlier, elliptical.
Address your elders thus, as you have been instructed.
Now the brightness in its bathing-state stays, remands itself. It has,
in truth, known fire, & fire’s hollow drum.
The death to which I’m promised, does it know me here (I slide the
peephole cover back into place).
Matter is sonant; spirit is—something else. Something full, towards
which the risks align. It receives matter cordially: Yes. You are