At the end of my hall at work is a picture window and, beyond the window, a leafy tree (still leafy, even though it’s November). Larkin Street is just below this window. If you walk up Larkin, you’ll find porn theaters, guys selling watches and drugs, and good Vietnamese food. The superior court is just across Larkin from the picture window and most days you see lawyers in wrinkled suits going in and out. People hang around outside the court arguing with each other about child custody, child support, traffic tickets and their obligation to perform jury duty. It’s a sad street most days, desperate and tawdry. The light today doesn’t make it look anything other than what it is.
When I looked down the hall today, it struck me that the light is lower in the sky than it was just a week ago — it’s somehow become late in the year, and even this early in the afternoon (it’s 1:00 here), things seem to be ending .
And that is when I found myself thinking about Emily Dickinson, a woman who knew all about that kind of light.
There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings, are.
None may teach it anything,
‘T is the seal, despair,
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.
When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
On the look of death.