"We'll Leave a Light On" - Tom Clark
Without it, what savage unsocial nights
Our ancestors must have spent! All those deadly
Winter nocturnes in caves and unillumined icy
Fastnesses: they must have laid around and
Grumbled at one another in the dark like the blind,
Fumbling each other's features for the wrinkle of a smile.
What tedious repartee must have passed! Perhaps
This accounts for the dullness of much archaic
Poetry, whose somber cast is notorious and must
Have derived from the traditions of those
Long unlanterned nights. Jokes came in with candles.
How did they see to pick up a pin, if they
Had any? How did they get dinner down? Think of
The mélange of chance carving that must have
Ensanguined dining after dusk! Lights out,
Not even love's what it's cracked up to be.
The senses absolutely give and take
Reciprocally. One wants to know whether that's
An elbow, a knee, or the night table
Before one returns the favor of a friendly nudge.
Wasn't it by the midnight taper all writers once digested
Their meditations? By that same light we ought
To approach them, if we ever expect to catch
The tiger-moth of inspiration that dances
In the word incandescent.
Light is necessary to the human battle against fear and uncertainty. It can supply security and light-hearted relief: "jokes came with candles." At solstice the northern hemisphere begins its slow turn back to the light, at year's end the illumination of fireworks extinguishes all dashed hopes and ignites new ones in their place. New Year's Eve is the most social night of the year to balance the ledger against those dark, "savage unsocial nights / Our ancestors must have spent." Make plans, and on the longest night imagine that all can happen with the right amount of luck, pluck, and light enough to see them through. "We'll Leave a Light On" by Tom Clark appears online at his blog Beyond the Pale.