Susan Settlemyre Williams


Back-lit, the shot-up window blizzards out
like a freeze-frame of first light hurtling
to make the universe.
Beautiful as the fireworks a bullet
might set off in the brain, so the instant
of dying is the instant of suns
bursting open. Beautiful as, in some lights,
your scan may be beautiful, dark and starred
with bright particles. Even my migraine
pyrotechnics, the dancing light etched
on my retina through a sleepless night
while I tossed and pictured you, pale
and silenced in the radiology room—glitter
triggered again by the shattered glass
at the church where I have gone
tonight to light candles for your body
slowly being eaten by its stars.
My eyes burn and blur in the dazzle
of so much breaking apart.


Because I am subject to chronic, severe migraines, I find myself using light in my poetry as a cruel and somewhat sinister phenomenon. In "Constellations," blinding light is used to link an act of violence, physical pain, and my friend's imminent death. This poem was written for and is now in memory of Gretchen Rogers.