On the island made of glass
“Lambda” began right off Route 95 Southbound in Wilmington, DE, on an island made of glass. The term “rest stop” really doesn’t cover it, as the rest stops I’m used to in the Midwest are brick buildings with outdoor drinking fountains and picnic tables. This was nothing but windows, as if its walls had lost all opacity. Inside there was light everywhere; people everywhere; fast food restaurants everywhere. It was a blur, as most places like this are, but from the momentary visit I recall how striking the visibility of the building’s interior was, and how invisible and/or oblivious its brief inhabitants were.
Of course the contrast of the interior vs. the exterior spawned tension, and that tension (hopefully) found its way into the poem. In considering all of the disparate parts of the place, and how to reconcile them, it’s the notion of symbols that I keep coming back to. Removed from its original context and language, lambda, a single, solitary thing, could define wavelength, or radioactive decay, or even the gravitational deflection we might end up calling a planet (which itself would be named as a series of symbols). You could also find the same symbol on any number of vases pulled from the banked loess of some Greek island.
So the question at hand is: what, if any, is the inherent value of the symbol itself? If, in fact, there could be such distance between possible meanings, does that inevitably render the thing itself inert? This creates a rabbit’s hole of questions about the meaning of language itself, but I attempt to steer (mostly) clear of those. Instead I keep returning to the light, and glass, and brief patrons that did their very best to look away from all of it.
In the end, I decided the one thing that couldn’t be entirely encapsulated in this; the one thing that couldn’t be symbolized, was a reflection of the people themselves. Thus, the final observation of the janitor is that this unavoidable and personal moment often has violent results.
Matthew Minicucci’s chapbook Reliquary is forthcoming in January 2013 from Accents Publishing. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from numerous journals, including The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, The Literary Review, Cream City Review, West Branch, and Crazyhorse, among others. He has also been featured on Verse Daily. He currently teaches writing at Millikin University in Decatur, IL.