Umbra, Penumbra, Antumbra

Our science teachers told us to find and bring
old rolls of undeveloped film— then showed us

how to pull the strips out. They made a somehow
satisfyingly crisp sound as they cleared

the revolving sprockets. Each of us snipped
two squares from the reel, which we separated

with scissors and taped to cardboard windows
we then could hold before our eyes to shield them.

We’d go into the playground to witness how
the moon slid into position directly between

the earth and the sun. We were warned: the sky
would go dark even in broad daylight. The dogs

would howl, the roosters in their cages crow
in confusion. We were not to look directly

at the sun, or its concentrated rays could damage
our eyes. Another teacher said, if we filled a pail

or basin with water and set it on the ground,
we could look into it as into a mirror to see

this heavenly passage that would not come again
for maybe fifty years, or a hundred. We learned

the names for those cone-shaped shadows and the one
that superimposes its dark body upon an aura edged

with light: how it’s darkest at the center
where the source of light is completely occluded,

how the area released in passage shades off into
an almost or nearly dark. How in the old days,

the people beat their drums and gongs in a frenzy,
believing the god of light had been eaten by a beast.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.