For Preserves

You should only harvest sunlight
on days when the clouds are heaviest,
and the air is damp with chill.
Otherwise the harvest will burn the palms
of your hands, leaving the skin
red and blistered. 

Bring the sunlight inside and
shatter it into fragments
like the stained light that 
lies broken on the floors of cathedrals.
To preserve, pack the fragments
with salt and spices—cinnamon, cloves,
coriander are traditional—in a sealed jar.
Set in a dark cool place and forget about it.

This is key.

Forgetting is like the yeast in
your loaves of bread, the baking powder in
your cakes. Without forgetting, the sunlight
will not cure, 
only spoil
and rot.

Wait for many years, 
through childbirth and divorces,
love affairs and hopelessness,
though finding God and losing god,
through deaths and stolen moments.
All this makes the forgetting easy.

Decades later, you will open the door to your pantry
or cellar, or whatever cool dry place you found
in your home. You will be on your way to fetch
something else: a can of fig jam, a bottle of
sweet wine. And you will catch something on
the farthest edge of your vision, a bright patch that
you will think, for one paralyzing second, is the
cataracts settling in. 

But no.

It will be your jars of sunlight, waiting for you,
orbited by near-microscopic planetary bodies.
Worlds the size of dust motes
spinning in heliocentric arcs
around the sun you preserved
with salt and cinnamon
on a dreary day in your youth.

If you followed my instructions exactly
(and if you are lucky)
one of those worlds will blossom
with oceans and oxygen.
Life will crawl from the water
and evolve into something unimaginable
until you see it through the lens of an
electron microscope

An entire civilization
born because you went out in the rain and the cold
and plucked sunlight with your bare hands.

—Cassandra Rose Clarke