Learning To See in the Dark
At 5 in the morning
there’s no light outside my window,
no light inside, either,
except for this: my eyes adjust
and discover shadowy shapes
emerging in the velvety blackness.
Am I learning to see in the dark?
Today, before the sky is readily visible,
before the trees are distinct
and not just a deeper sort of darkness,
I am greeted by a hidden cardinal.
There is no concept of red in the dark save in my mind –
even unseen red – but this is heard red.
My heart knows it.
“Cheer, cheer, cheer,” this bird of darkness trills …
to me, because who else is there to hear
at 5 a.m. in my backyard,
other than the fawn cavorting gleefully,
his mother, far more sedate,
and a family of four raccoons waddling up the hill.
Last night, my mom was in my dream.
And now that I think about it, the night before, too.
They say a visiting cardinal is the spirit of a loved one
no longer with us, no longer fleshed.
I don’t know if that’s true, but this hidden redness
in the darkness outside my window sings now.
And I, after dreaming about my mother,
invisible herself for more than 12 years,
am awake to enjoy it.
I notice how the edges of the split rail fence
and the Ent-like trees step out of shadows.
Are my eyes adjusting from rods to cones?
Years ago I sat at sunset
with my eyes also adjusting,
watching clouds and deepening rays
play dress-up, hue after hue,
when my phone pinged
and an image of that same fashion-plate sun
rising over the Great Wall of China appeared,
sent just then by a friend on holiday.
The same sun in two worlds at one time.
A cardinal singing in the darkness.
Funny how we adjust,
how we learn to see in the dark.
(c) 2021 Jennifer Johnston Crow