Editor's Note: For the first time in the history of the San Mateo County Fair, a 300-page anthology has been published that includes more than 100 stories, poems and essays from writers who submitted award-winning work for the fair's literary contest. The idea was the brainchild of Bardi Rosman Koodrin, a San Bruno resident who runs the fair's literary contest, and the anthology, titled "Carry the Light," features work from many Peninsula writers.
This poem was inspired by a recent period of solar activity, and, for this writer, it brought back memories of the dark winter skies of northern Wyoming and of stories told by an old uncle and his German-born friends.
From p. 286, "Aurora"
I remember draperies moving gently with the winds,
Winds that came unheard and unfelt, out of the silence of the night.
Stirring those draperies that floated in the sky, beyond my northern home.
They moved to the music of an unknown ballet, seen only by mystics and gods,
That came in winter to my northern land, when nights were dark and long.
They went away when the full moon shone or summer nights grew short.
Old men knew, who’d watched the night. “Northern Lights,” they’d say.
Sunlight shining on ice-fields to the north, or glinting from shields of maidens,
Maidens that guarded treasures once hidden in lands left far behind.
Would the old men have believed fantastic tales now told
Of storms on the sun, of tornadoes, whirlwinds, vortices that swirl
Out of unknowable depths, bursting upward, thrust out into jets
A hundred Earthspans high? Of loops and arches flung upward
Only to shrink back into the maelstrom from which they came?
Could they conceive of shreds of glowing gas torn away, fading to dark,
Speeding outward to a rendezvous with us, invisible bits of eternity trapped,
Brought to Earth by magnetic lines, unheard and unfelt, out in the silence?
Now, glowing draperies move to the music of an unknown ballet, seen only
By mystics and by gods. And by cold silent quartz eyes, ever circling Earth.
No. How could the old men have believed? Far easier were glinting shields
Of treasure-guarding maidens. Now the old men are gone, and with them
Their Northern Lights. But are they still there, those draperies moving silent
In the northern sky? I look north, but see nothing but the sky-glow of
Ten million human lights scattering back from a blanket of sea-haze
And human smoke. But take me back. Take me to the northern home of
My childhood days. Take me beyond, to the plains of North Canada,
And let me see for myself what glories adorn the black sky. Let me see the
Milky Way again, and show it to children who have never seen what I have.
Take me south, and let me see if Southern Lights mirror those of my youth.
Prove that the glories of the night sky remain, though we damage our world.
I’m an old man myself, now. Perhaps I shall one day know.
Excerpted from "Carry the Light" with the permission of Sand Hill Review Press, the publisher. The book is available for purchase for $12 on Amazon.com.
Jamie Miller's first career was spent as an engineer at NASA's Ames Research Center. As is common for engineers, he was a wretched writer and set out to remedy that. He has ambitions for writing young people's novels, but somehow always returns to the expressive possibilities of poetry.