A sighting of unknown light

by Stephanie Pressman
“It appeared to be a small wax candle that rose and
lifted up…which to a few seemed to be an indication
of land…” Columbus, 11 October 1492


Perhaps a native lit a firebrand in the night
to hunt magic mushrooms or ward off
predators, though the dark was luminous
with fireflies and glowworms. St. Elmo’s fire,
seamen called it when it was blue-violet
near the tips of masts. Some had seen
it on land on the edge of leaves, on the tips
of steer horns. This was yellow light, a specter,
a possibility. Now they thought to steer
toward it, having been so long without the smell
of dung, the last bull roasted a fortnight past.

Below them stoplight loosejaws aimed
their infrared at prey only anglefish
could see. Sea slugs crawled over algae-
covered frogfish as if they were blue-green
glowing rock. Protozoa luminesced on the rocks
of Mouchoir Bank. Perhaps a series of tremors
set off earthquake light and they felt it only
as an extra swell lifting them closer to the dream:
chasing foxfire, a will o’ the wisp.

                                                            It would not
have been a fireworm; the moon phase
was wrong. Nor was it a native fisherman on
night catch, the seas much too heavy.

Home folk would place lighted
candles in their windows for beacons
but the crews were long from home
longing, longing to reach something.
Stephanie Pressman started writing poetry at about age eight and finished a romantic novelette at thirteen. Currently mostly retired she lives in Cupertino, California, editing and producing chapbooks and books of poetry and short stories for her very small press, Frog on the Moon. Her work has appeared in many journals including Bridges, cæsura, CQ/California State Poetry Quarterly, The Kerf, The MacGuffin, Montserrat Review, and online in Newport Review. She was the recipient of the 2013 Cupertino Poetry Award.

© 2013, Stephanie Pressman