portion of the artwork for Mary Kane's stories

Mary Kane

We have taken to walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods during these winter evenings. We walk in the evening not so that we may press our faces to the glass of strange houses and spy on the inhabitants, nor because we like to see garish displays of holiday lights (though we do enjoy those), but because, in some houses, we catch sight of single lamps and their elegant, glowing skirt-like light. We find the lamps comforting, especially if they are floor lamps and there’s a chair near the lamp, or a bookcase in view, beside or behind the chair. The lamps are in full possession of their soundlessness; their light lacks clumsiness or aggression. They don’t flicker. They don’t attempt to fill entire spaces, don’t pour over all the furniture like a swimming pool turned upside down, don’t, like TVs, rage one moment and collapse the next, filling rooms with the herky-jerky light of plot and action and crime drama. They almost seem to practice silent prayer, to have cultivated the stillness of yogis, these lone lamps. And we are looking to them to solve a design issue that has recently arisen in our home. For, recently, we moved a lamp, a midcentury modern floor lamp, from one room, the kitchen, to another, the living room, and while we are very pleased with the lamp in its new spot, we are experiencing a thunderous absence in the space where the lamp formerly stood. We have been searching in home stores, in consignment shops, in online marketplaces, but thus far nothing has called out to us. Meanwhile, with each day that passes, the space where the lamp no longer stands in the kitchen grows louder and louder; it’s downright deafening in the dark of early morning, when we tend to sit in silence at the kitchen table and sip coffee and read or write. When the lamp was there, its light filled only that corner, and the kitchen felt quiet and calm, the surrounding darkness cocoon-like and fertile. The lamp cast a mellow light, a light one might be tempted to associate with Chet Baker played softly through a speaker in the next room, but even that would be inaccurate since the mellow light was absolutely silent, more like the warmth and joy and love Antonio Machado described in his poem of sleeping and dreams and the marvelous error of discovering springs and bees and suns inside his heart. Evenings, we rarely turned on the lamp when it stood in the kitchen, but its presence bespoke security, solidity. It said to us that if ever age robbed us of the ability to eat our lentils by the sometimes steady and other times flickering light of the candles we so regularly depend on at dinner, it, the lamp, would be there for us, at the ready, stalwart, a mighty friend. We have discussed moving the lamp back, of restoring the old order and peace to our home, but we agree that it seems so happy in the living room, by the reading chair, where it gets more use and, though it never complained in its former location, one can see that in its new spot it is less crowded. And so we walk, and look into the homes of strangers, believing a solution will present itself, and at the same time training ourselves to grow more and more comfortable with the dark, which is after all where we all must reside eventually.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 57 | Spring/Summer 2021