The Empire of Lights

After Magritte: L’Empire des Lumieres 1954

The past is the antithesis of burglary. Imagine
a house in darkness. Or to be more precise,
imagine darkness in a house. Something akin

to that Magritte where the light is held
at tree’s length by a clutch of tungsten bulbs.
The looming woods proofed with shadow thicker than tar.

In the House of the Past we move backwards
from room to room, forever closing doors
on ourselves, always closing doors.

In each room, we leave some of those little trinkets
we love most, that the house is stealing from us.
Because we cherish them, web abandon them

to the furniture of strangers. Whenever we go
the doors swing shut behind us without a sound
and the dust drifts up into the ceiling like smoke.

Oh there io much we would love to hold on to,
but so little room. If only we could come back,
if only we could come back in the morning,

things would be so much better. But on we must go,
creeping backwards through silent bedrooms,
closing doors quietly for fear of waking ourselves.

Emptying our pockets, emptying our hands. Heavy
with emptiness, we crouch down at last on the lee
of a shattered window, where we dream of those

ancient burdens, long resolved. And the fragmens
of glass fidget like broken insects on the rug,
eager to heal where our fists will gently touch.

John Glenday


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