Rocket’s roar subsides:
cascades of smoke and light,
glowing sparks
against the dark.
Sound becomes sight.

Harmony of light and night,
roiling mist and distant haze
float forward through
waterfalls of golden fire
that may scorch a sleeve, or eye.

Gunpowder incense
perfumes the night air,
rhythmic rocking water
darkly reproduces
gardens of night blooms.


Again that sinful thrill!
Another rocket
shakes the London air,
the pleasure park


An orgasm of color
in the black light,
falling fires of desire
the bluey-greeny peacock night.

Of course, Ruskin didn’t get it,
seeing the sensuous
sparks as
mere random
splashes of paint.
On a canvas.
With a price tag.

No, JR could not get it,
claiming an artist had no right
to charge good guineas
for a few
casual, cheap
off-hand, albeit
harmonious, splatters.

No, Ruskin was literally
“in the dark”
not knowing
that secret discipline, how
a well-practiced craft
with calligraphic brush,
could compose

 what the Japanese sensei call
“A Controlled Accident.”


Nocturne in Black and Gold–The Falling Rocket (c1875) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Source: Wikipedia. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.

Alison Armstrong has published short fiction, poetry, essays, and art and literary criticism since the 1970s. She has also published two books, The Joyce of Cooking (1986) and a volume of textual scholarship (1993) in the Cornell Mss of WB Yeats series. She teaches in the Humanities Department at SVA. Her short story, “Driving,” was published in the Spring 2014 issue of The Match Factory, and her poem, “Bringing the Mules Up Into the Light” was published in the Fall 2014 issue.