Guest artist: Judith Arcana


Birthday moon, Whidbey Island, Washington, July 2005.

The Light on the Water

by Judith Arcana

(always, writers say, the light on the water
shines like diamonds, shines like gold
but the truth is that gold, and that diamonds
want only to shine like the light on the water)

Just now, on the early morning river
every spangle is a bird
flashing tiny wings of light;
the sun has thrown a sheet of hammered gold
over the slow skin of the dawn river;
a raft of light turns on dark water
tethered to the boat dock
moving with the river.

And I, waking here,
dreamed the sun falling down in the ocean
light in the heart of the sea
fire at the heart of the sea
my heart is on fire in the water
light burns in the heart of the sea
sea water skin on the body of sunset
sunset a fire at the watery edge of the world
fire all there at the edge of the world
burning the skin of the water
wet sand a mirror for fire in the water
sunset a tipped bowl of flame
I ask myself, again

Can I be in love with the light on the water? so in love that
I long for that light on the top of a mountain,
and in the prairie need to touch it with my eyes?
In forest the light comes pouring all down, gilding a pool
where sun finds a break in the trees and I, mouth open
lips burning, kneel blinded inside the blaze.
I yearn for the liquid full moon, running silk silver all night
crave lightning on through the wash of the rain
weep at stars that tip waves in the lake
I want to see fireclouds up in the sky
their waterhearts pierced by the sun,
to drown through geometry gleaming in light
on the floor of a sunstruck pond.

Now again sun falls into ocean, moon rises out in far sky
they stream to me, here on the shore
light shivers the water, goldsilver crosses the sky
crosses the world, this whole world coming to me
the shivering glimmering path leads to me
just here to my face, to my feet
moons and suns rising and falling in water
light falling here into love.

Judith Arcana writes poems, stories, essays and books and is a longtime scholar, teacher and activist. She is the author of Grace Paley’s Life Stories: A Literary Biography; two classic feminist books about motherhood, Our Mothers’ Daughters and Every Mother’s Son; the groundbreaking poem and monologue collection What if your mother; and several poetry chapbooks, including the recent 4th Period English. Holy waters have always nurtured her–native to the Great Lakes region of the United States, she lives now in the Pacific Northwest.

“The Light on the Water,” © Judith Arcana, was first published in Nimrod: International Journal, 1998. For permission to reprint, contact “Birthday moon” © Diana Rico and may be reprinted under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.

About Diana Rico

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6 Responses to Guest artist: Judith Arcana

  1. Judith Arcana’s poem is beautiful and evocative–I was touched by the moonlight, by memory, by metaphor. Thank you Diana for sharing it.

  2. Pingback: Former Jane member Judith Arcana has a new poem » Herstory Incites

  3. Beautiful, evocative. This was a wonderful pause in a difficult day in cold Minnesota where it has been difficult this winter to see sun, moon, or stars. Thank you!

  4. Meredith says:

    Fabulosity! What beautiful Words

  5. What a play of fire and water! Kudos to Judith!

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