Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Poetry Friday: A Light Goes Out On The Fourth

Google Images

In this week’s installment of Poetry Friday, Flagstaff physician Mark James brings us a poem about safety. Last year on the 4th of July, he witnessed a traumatic emergency while on a run to the top of Observatory Mesa. He was unable to help in the situation, but it stayed with him…how quickly things change, the transience of life and light. On this 4th of July, Mark shares his poem A Light Goes Out on the Fourth, his salute to emergency health care workers, and a reminder to all of us to stay as safe as we can this holiday weekend.

Red lights flashing, speed by, passing,                                                                                                                         

on wheels, carrying      

racing hearts 

to an urgent event;

on this day for observing                                                                                            

bright points of light                                                                                                           

in a dark sky city,

on this day of celebration

for past days of glory

that fade so quickly.

Here, at Pluto’s home,

where one day, it is,

the next day, it is not.

Here, where starlight’s beginnings and endings align with heaven and earth;

where families gather to witness the arrival of remnants of prehistoric light, 

come to rest.

We stop to gaze at what has been approaching                                                          

for such a long time,

for light-years.

Long enough that we forgot it was on its way,                                                          

that it has always been arriving,

even before our beginning.

We are still amazed at this constant occurrence.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Then, suddenly, a star falls;                                                                                                        

and the stream of light goes out.

We exclaim with glee.

Then, a loved one falls                                                                                                    

and their light goes out;

We grieve in despair.

9-1-1 arrives to strip off the body’s thin covering

and applies practiced rituals to bring light                                                                  

back into this heavenly body.

Waves of pale skin rhythmically shudder                                                                    

with each frantic compression.

A shocking crudeness amidst this elegance of physics.

Then, the ending quietly transforms                                                                            

into a new beginning;

as resistance gives way to acceptance                                                                           

on this time/space continuum.

Surrounded by shock, even while stilled with wonder,

a cry goes out to the heavens in recognition of this common cosmic event.

Next time, I’ll make a wish on a passing star;

Today, I’ll run in quiet solitude

in the beauty of pines,

as light shatters silence,

and memories return,

opening an awareness of the fleeting space

between each precious moment.                

Gillian came to KNAU in 2001 as a freelance reporter. Her first story won an Arizona Associated Press Award. Since then, Gillian has won more than a dozen Edward R. Murrow Awards for feature reporting, writing, editing and documentary work. She served as KNAU’s local Morning Edition anchor for many years before becoming News Director and Managing editor in 2013. When she’s not working, Gillian likes to spend time in the natural world with her dog, Gertie. She is an avid hiker, skier, swimmer, and reader.