Sunrise, William Dolben

Dale Champlin, Red Car Driving Through Badlands, Collage, 2021



            Light moves fast.
            We forget darkness came.
            Spiders and birds
            eat, fish, fly.

            You promise you’ll remember.

William Dolben

Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

O Nature courteous!
These are thy boons to us,
These the delights to mortals given!
Escape from pain, best gift of heaven! (Giacomo Leopardi, Calm After Storm)

Intentionally or unconsciously, genetically or incidentally, we forget darkness came, which might just be our blessing in disguise. In that act of forgetfulness, we can summarise the whole human experience, actions and motives: what we do, we do it in part because we forget darkness came. Don’t take my word for it, several academic studies are out there on the adaptive role of forgetfulness.

Light moves fast in a reality of darkness: darkness came, we come from darkness. Darkness will come again – this time for good. Who could live, engage and function reliably under the constant reminder of this? What are the choices?

A life in the arms of Lethe river-goddess of obliviousness running in Hades.

A life of constantly looking over our shoulder, running from spotlight to spotlight, or freezing in fright in an ever-shrinking cone of light.

There is a third way, and it is the one this poem invites us to follow: to join the natural world and its cadence, attributing meaning to the present moment where blackness, fear and sense of nullity are only temporarily suspended, in the circadian rhythms of eat, fish, fly.

The invite, as I read it, is to remember that every I is part of a greater system, affected by the same laws. Relief as another sunrise approaches.


Review by Jared Pearce

I like how this poem twists on forgetting and remembering—how we all, perhaps, distort ourselves along this axis so as to survive into the next struggle: moving light, like spiders and birds.


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