Astronomer by Candlelight, Gerrit Dou, 1650
He emerges from the utter dark as half an arm, an eager face, and
slender scholar's fingers gripping northern edges of the globe.
Our eyes assemble unseen parts of him, disembodied
hands and arms, so one whole man grasps one thin candle. It lights
a folio he's peering over, throws a beam on hourglass (yes, yes, momento
mori), shades gold a hemisphere of globe, the folio's pages curling at their edges
from all his nights unraveling the stars. Above his head, the frame's
a domed proscenium, the height of which the candle seems to measure.
But lurking in the dark behind his back, the Middle Ages, where Northern Europe's clerics
sought by other light, a genus of illumination dispensed to mystics and to pagans. Light
that's thinning now, like water mixing into paint, monk's polyphonic
minor chants reverberate in empty canvas space. He leans a little
closer to the book, as chiaroscuro shadows seem to stretch beyond the frame
to where we're huddled 'round this feeble light, about to turn the page.
Jen Stewart Fueston
Jen Stewart Fueston lives in Longmont, Colorado. Her work has appeared recently in Ruminate, Mom Egg Review and Pilgrimage, and is forthcoming in The Windhover, Whale Road Review, and others. Her first chapbook, Visitations, was published in 2015. She has taught writing at the University of Colorado, Boulder, as well as internationally in Hungary, Turkey, and Lithuania. You can find her online at www.jenstewartfueston.com and on twitter @jenniferfueston
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