Leave Me Two Lights

Leave me two lights
To cut through the morning fog
In the darkest night,
So that I may safely navigate
Through the crowded city streets
As I make my way
To where I need to go.

Leave me two lights,
So that the obstructions in my path
May not suddenly arise
And so that I may not crash
Into the hazards that I find
As I rush into the darkness
So that I may eventually see
Some bright and glorious day.

I will not panic
As long as I can see
A way out of the chaos
That passes for my life.
I will not worry
As long as I know I will
Reach my goals ‘ere I die.

Leave me two lights
To cut through the fog and the dark
Like a knife cuts through butter
To spread it on a corn muffin,
Even if for the moment
It seems like we are standing still.

*

The inspiration for this poem of mine, like many other poems and reflections [1] of mine, was inspired by driving. As I went to work in my own morning mental fog, born from yet another night of fitful sleep, my headlights cut through the dark and fog of a chilly winter morning. Although the traffic is usually quite clear, today it was not, as there was a major slowdown on the right lanes of OR-217 going north to US-26, the highways I take to work. As I zipped along in the fast lane, the cars directly to my right were at a standstill, and I anxiously drove, hoping that none of them would sideswipe me or cut in front of me, as I passed them and the slow and large trucks in front of that stationary line. I made it to work safely, but at the same time it inspired me to think about the poetry and personal relevance of making one’s way through dark and fog among dangerous obstacles in one’s own private and personal quests of life, in a state of peril along the way. It is not, after all, as if driving is the only perilous activity of my life.

Much of the form and language of the poem, though, was inspired by a set of three interrelated songs. The title, “Leave Me Two Lights,” comes from the chorus of the title track to a hit album by Five For Fighting, “Two Lights” that happens to be in my Florida music collection. The song expresses the melancholy longing to be left with the two headlights of one’s car to leave after a bad relationship that is headed south. Last night I was listening to an online album review of the seminal “Hounds of Love” album by Kate Bush [2], the second half of which (an account of a particularly tormented sleep) is closed by the abruptly closing song “The Morning Fog” that tries to capture that feeling of waking up in a bit of a haze after a difficult night of sleep. The third song is “Standing Still,” my favorite song by Jewel, is a song about the frustration of feeling that one is not moving in life, cutting through the darkest night with one’s two headlight and navigating the dilemmas and tensions of life but not feeling any progress. Needless to say, it is a sentiment I can relate to well. The fact that these songs intersect with concerns of the fog, the night, and driving makes it (I hope) a particularly fertile area for reflection and poetic musing.

As is often the case, my writing is highly symbolic. The headlights of the songs by Five For Fighting and Jewel appear to be just that, two headlights, without any other meaning intended. Of course, being a person who works in deeper layers than that, there are at least three other meanings I intend by my own reference. One of them, of course, is my two eyes (as dim as those lights may sometimes be), those lights that cut through the darkness of life (if not always very well) and upon which I depend to help me see what I am supposed to do in life. I tend to feel most panicky when I cannot see a way out (which is why traffic is so stressful, and situations in life that seem impossible to escape or overcome). To be sure, such situations are an opportunity to learn to walk by faith and not by sight, but I suppose I am a slow learner in believing that God wishes to bring good times into my life. Not unrelated is the fact that two lights can refer to the two major divisions of scripture (what are commonly called the Old and New Testament) as well as the two lights of reason and revelation that guide a godly intellectual. Alternatively, one can use this expression to mean the sun and the moon, the greater light to rule the day and the lesser to rule the night. Given the haunting beauty of the moon last night that I saw through the light haze, I suppose that meaning could have been meant as well. Considering that is the depth of symbolism that is meant and intended by just one of the symbols of the poem, it is unsurprising that my writing as a whole is very dense with meanings even where it is simple and somewhat straightforward in its language.

The other aspect of this poem that I would like to discuss is the emotional layering of this song. There are a lot of different tensions that can be found in this poem. One tension is that between the motif of driving and two headlights, which would seem to imply escape, and the fact that the quests and longings of my life are essentially longings for a settled and honorable place in life, loving relationships, the comforts of home and marriage and family (pictured by image of butter being spread on a corn muffin), and implied at least in my statement of my life goals, which would be fairly obvious to those who know me well, I would hope. There are other tensions here as well. One is the expectation that the lights that illuminate one’s path will necessarily make life less anxious and worrisome, and while knowledge can do this, it can also bring worry about things which cannot be changed. Another tension, at least, is worthy of some comment because of its implications outside the poem to the life that inspired it, and that is the tension between the desire for having a means of escape and the strong possibility that escape may not be an option [3]. Fortunately, I was able to escape the hazards of my drive unscathed; we are not always so lucky in life.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/this-is-not-where-i-parked-my-car/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/you-can-drive-all-night-looking-for-answers-in-the-pouring-rain/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/the-lonely-hour/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/its-not-the-years-its-the-miles/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/life-is-an-open-road/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/while-the-world-sleeps-under-lead-gray-skies/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/a-cenotaph-of-fog/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-kate-bush/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/the-only-way-out-is-through/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/here-i-stand/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, History, Love & Marriage, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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