Seeing Haloes For Anne

by John Shea

Even at Christmas,
when haloes
are pre-tested by focus groups
for inclusion in mass market campaigns,
they are hard to see.

Annie Dillard was scrutinizing
the forest floor at Pilgrim’s Creek
when she looked up
and saw a tree haloed in light.

She had caught the tree at prayer,
in a moment so receptive and full
the boundaries of bark burst
and its inner fire
became available for awe.

But seeing haloes
is more than a lucky sighting.
It entails the advent skill
of sustaining attention,
the simple act,
as Dillard found out,
of looking up.

That is how haloes are seen,
by looking up into largeness,
by tucking smallness
into the folds of infinity.

I do not know this
by contemplating
shimmering trees.
Rather there was woman,
busy at Christmas table,
and I looked up
to catch a rim of radiance
etching her face,
to notice curves of light
sliding along her shape.

She out-glowed the candles.
All the noise of the room left my ears
and silence sharpened my sight.

When this happens,
I do not get overly excited.
I merely allow love to be renewed,
for that is the mission of haloes,
the reason they are given to us.

Nor do I try to freeze the frame.
Haloes suffer time,
even as they show us
what is beyond time.

But when haloes fade,
they do not abruptly vanish,
abandoning us
to the sorrow of lesser light.

They recede,
as Gabriel departed Mary,
leaving us pregnant.