To Find The Light You Carry

Jared Povanda

You look into the fog and imagine something looking back. A balm for loneliness. A great white owl from Britain. But there is no owl, and there is no second set of eyes hidden somewhere between the pines. There is only you. Your hands curled around a chipped cup of lukewarm cocoa. The TV droning. Dull candle flame that cannot do enough to pierce the day.

You have no gleaming sword. You have yourself, and you cannot be enough.

So, you stand. So, you stand and you open the door, feel the needling moisture on your bare arms, and you close your eyes for a time and wish for any number of things. Someone to love. A hunting dog like the one you had when you were a child. Your grandmother, alive. Her cold cookies with the sugar crust. A way to stop the tears when they start. An elegant way. You know you are clumsy, and you know you are awkward, and you know you are shy, but you also know that you would have the right kind of value if the world valued the rabbiting galaxies in your mind. That sheen of stars you see whenever you sit and create. But the world is unfair, and you are here, somewhere in New York but a sea away from the people in the city. And as you breathe in the mist and the earth, the growing spooling under your feet, you get stubborn and make a decision.

You step inside and shut the door, and then you dress in layers. Plaid over cotton. You take a backpack, the same one from middle school, sling it over your shoulder, and open the door in a way that bespeaks finality. You feel the metal knob under your hand. You feel what a mouse feels as it is swallowed by a snake. When you walk, you walk into the woods.

There is no owl, but there are squirrels and small, fluting birds. You hear how they crash and trill around you. You hear because you listen. You always listen when the leaves green silent on the trees. Your fingers trace the ringed history on a stump. Your hands almost disappear in the fog.

In stories, fairy tales, a wizard would come with three quests to complete, and you imagine yourself as the ground crushes beneath your boots gaining fire, then water, then air. No knight to kiss your hand. No king to knight you himself. No one but you and an old man in a cloak the color of sand swept under turquoise. Even with power, though, with light haloing your head, you know you wouldn’t fix what needed to be fixed. Magic alone, without something inside to guide it, to direct it, to funnel it out into the heavens, does not guarantee friends. It does not guarantee family. Nor love. It does not take sadness, the ugly lump, and turn it sweet.

So, you stand under the canopy for what could be a million years. Roots replace your laces. Vines hold your ankles. And then you kneel. Your grandmother, as Catholic as they came, would have deemed it praying, but you name it calling—spreading yourself thin and brave, molecules between molecules. Reaching.

When the fox presses a wet nose to your face, his pelt hot and burning in the brush, you feel something open. And when you look up to see a white owl lighted on the branch, when you see its noble confidence, you feel something enter, and when you at last look at your own beating heart within the bowl of your hands—the muscle weak but growing stronger—you rise. Glowing wild enough to finally bring the light you’ve always had to bear against the dim.

Jared Povanda is a writer and freelance editor from upstate New York. His story "Clawing" was recently longlisted for Pidgeonholes's THE BODY contest, and other work of his has been published both domestically and internationally in a variety of journals such as CHEAP POP, Maudlin House, and Riggwelter Press, among others. Find him online @JaredPovanda and