Phosphor Reading By His Own Light
It is difficult to read. The page is dark.
Yet he knows what it is that he expects.
The page is blank or a frame without a glass
Or a glass that is empty when he looks.
The greenness of night lies on the page and goes
Down deeply in the empty glass…
Look, realist, not knowing what you expect.
The green falls on you as you look,
Falls on and makes and gives, even a speech.
And you think that that is what you expect,
That elemental parent, the green night,
Teaching a fusky alphabet.
– Wallace Stevens
Stevens is not easy, but he repays the effort with his remarkable word choice and fierce cognitive engagement. Of particular interest to the scientifically inclined, his poems are often about the intersection between our minds and reality – clearly a theme in this poem. (Maybe this poem is also about you, trying to read this poem.) As he once wrote, “Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.”