Late at night from four hundred miles up

(as seen in this NASA light pollution map),

our native state becomes a sparse Rorschach:

star-pocked on black, stray photons issuing

south and west in diagonals down its taut

freeway wires, from the fiery white dwarf

of Chicago (extinguished along the curve

where it touches black lake water) toward

its lesser stars, Springfield, LaSalle, Peoria,

East St. Louis, and distant points beyond –

Tulsa, Sioux Falls – the lights diminishing

as they track its tainted rivers and sanitary

canals, routes engineered to suck sewage

from the city’s asses into the unlit heart

of downstate. The consistency of nowhere

is, and is not, an illusion: there are towns

in the dark counties,

known to hold human

spirits; each sends its fractional lumen out

as far as it will reach – projecting it from

the weariness of floodlit metal bleachers

behind the local consolidated high school

where, mid-October, Friday night, it’s third

and long (it’s always third and long); faint

fluorescence wafting up from the split-level

basement window as we do what we must,

registered sex offenders, part-time clowns

jazzed out on God and methamphetamine,

Junior Rotarian anarchists. It blinds, this

residuum of lives, cupped by the mirrors

of soybean leaves in unrepentant furrows

and as quickly reabsorbed, the afterglow

from all these lights too dim to register.

Nothing happens. (It is still happening.)



Originally published in Crab Orchard Review