Navigating in the Dark

Papua, Indonesia

In this mining town in Papua the electricity
Has a habit of giving up at night, and this

Is a miracle of modern stasis, a secular Shabbat,
Reminding us of what is expendable, of how so few

Of us ever truly experience the dark. We are amazed,
My wife and I, with the heavy darkness

Of the no moon jungle, insect sounds lacerating
All illusions of silent places. “It’s so absolute,”

My wife says, and I like to think she means
More than the darkness; the naked places

Of ourselves we dress in sunlight, lamps,
And recorded music like antithetical

Blanche DeBois’s fearing a different sort
Of scrutiny. “We could pretend it’s 1940,”

I say, “put a Jack Benny tape on the short wave
And drink coffee, light candles.” She suggests

A walk outside instead, where there are dozens
Of others already out on paths bounded by jungle,

Stepping small and laughing loudly through various
Uncertainties; flashlights as eyes, ears like animals’.

Soon we are trying only to remember not to disappear
Altogether; everything is so absolutely, so darkly possible.

"Navigating in the Dark" by Erik Campbell from Arguments for Stillness, Curbstone Press / Rattle Edition, 2006. Distributed by Consortium Book Sales & Dist. Reprinted with permission of Curbstone Press.