William C. Olsen

Green Flash

(September 15, 2010)
As the sun sets it dims to a stage-light brightness you can gawk at, but the crinkled light on crinkled lake is the greater miracle. With such slick watercolor you actually feel kinship. The orange of sunset on water is a deluge of fire. The sun could be a sphere of flesh. Then the glimpse I’d waited many dusks out for. Contingencies: clean air, mirage, refraction. Just so. Reaching the observer without being shredded or scattered. It isn’t much more than the afterimage would be if the gaze at a green flame turns were suddenly to turn to a white wall, or if we simply closed our eyes. Which is to say this green flash isn’t how dusk works at all. Dusk dilates the most open eyes.  What this one instant of a day hospitable to memory amounts to is a miniscule crescent on a pinhead. You don’t have to strain to see it, but it isn’t going to lead to an expansive consciousness. The sun sets first, then its jeweled special effect is something you know you are seeing for the first time and the last time. As a surprise. As a goodbye. And such a precious goodbye has to happen within the instant before the disappearance that sponsors the goodbye. That’s it. The sun having set, every stone sets, every pebble, the narrow beach, verge milkweed, west facing house sides, straggler skateboard kids high fiving and reaching above their heads to heaven to do so, a tortoise ride on springs, the rusting space rocket with the rusting spiral staircase, the parking spaces where cars were, empty green benches, any memory of who was sitting on them, even the absences that have been invented out of some desire that life be otherwise.

William Olsen‘s most recent collection of poetry is Sand Theory (Northwestern, 2011). He teaches at Vermont College and Western Michigan University. He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.