Twelve Ways of Looking at Darkness by Chaun Ballard

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

                          after Wallace Stevens

I was bred in the darkness
out of pant stank & memory
Papa held the keys to the x­y

while Momma flowered for him
like a child under the moon

I slid out of her darkness
head first with bloodshot eyes
& skin that wouldn’t take in the light

like candlelight
we learned to count our days
in darkness

the blacker the berry — Momma would say
is the dark-darker-darkness
the kind whose outer flesh does not respond
to anything less than magenta

I’ve known the whites of too many
eyes in passion & flame
those whose souls eternalize

even the darkness

when Papa’s roost was away
Momma hen wasn’t the wiser
so (of course) the two could not be reconciled

& neither could our dark nest

we admire everything brilliant
star & moon
flame & angel

never once have I heard one say
how lovely the dark is

I adorn the head of Cushitic
thick-napped necks Afros
do rags & wave caps

even Alexander turned his face toward Egypt
when he saw our multitudes
layered in the darkness

God said let there be light & there was
light & God saw that the light was good
& they would have believed us —

if only I hadn’t coveted your light & you
my darkness

even if I left this section blank
(which I am considering)
the em dash would still spill dark
onto the page

eleven ways to say darkness:
aphotic / obscure / ill­intended / inhumane / indistinguishable /
somber / murky / nothingness / Cimmerian / after the earth has been cast out
or swallowed / nebulous — if anyone or anything else remains

my shadow is a child.

Photo of Chaun Ballard

Photo of Chaun Ballard

Poet and photographer Chaun Ballard was raised in both St. Louis, Missouri, and San Bernardino, CA. For six years , he and his wife have been teaching in the Middle East and West Africa. He is currently a graduate student in the University of Alaska, Anchorage’s MFA Program. He’s had poems recently accepted by Apogee Journal, The Caribbean Writer, Grist: The Journal for Writers, Sukoon, Orbis: Quarterly International Literary Journal, Off the Coast, Rattle, and other literary magazines. His photos can be seen in the latest issues of Gravel and The Silk Road Review.