They Dwell in the Blue Abiding Light

Cathy Song Click to

ssongCathy Song was raised in Hawaii and draws on her Korean and Chinese ancestry for her work. Her first collection, Picture Bride, received the 1992 Yale Younger Poets Award, and she has published four subsequent books, including most recently Cloud Moving Hands (Pittsburgh, 2007). Her work can also be found in many anthologies, such as the Norton Anthology of American Poetry and Best American Poetry.  “They Dwell in Blue Abiding Light” first appeared in Shenandoah 56/1.

They dwell in the blue abiding light
that surrounds them like a field.
They have earned the right to rest here,
getting what they didn’t get in life,
deep and hushed respect.

They float in the blue abiding light
unworthy of fear.
They can return to the places
where they once huddled,
hiding the smallest of them
from the knocking wind,
the steel-shanked pacing closing in.

In soft pulsations they are carried,
falling through memory like snow
covering the towns they never left,
the houses they ran from
only to be reeled back again,
lashed to beds that bore the grunt of exhaustion,
night terrors punishing puny lungs.

On back porches, in rumpled heaps,
sadness and happiness are carted away
by the ragpickers who came sweeping,
tossing into boxes dishes, shoes.

In fullness they exist
as they did not in life,
getting what they didn’t get,
servings of kindness.
Without hunger, the intervals between
the rise and fall of breath
grow longer.
How little air they require
as they move toward clouds of floss –

the field in the blue abiding light
of the morning they walked into as children,
spewed from streets, intensely awake,
the first of their kind
to perceive some measure of assurance
that what fell through the rise and fall of sleep
had settled up on the fence, the hedges, the line of trees –
a dissolution of boundaries,
the reconfiguration of a dream.