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There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses

-Emily Dickinson, There’s a certain Slant of light


I read this poem at some point during my schooling as a child. Eighth grade? High school? And it has stuck with me ever since. Now, at 36 years old, I think of it at 2pm when I notice the sun rays cutting through the window in that ugly yellow way, hanging on the dust floating through the room. A certain slant of light. I think of it almost daily when my mood inevitably plummets in the early afternoon – it has happened for as long as I can remember – and I’m waiting for the late afternoon hours when I will suddenly feel myself again. I think of it as we’re trudging wearily into the month of March, with seemingly no spring or summer in sight. A certain slant of light.

Light is often – or even usually – a symbol of hope, a symbol of happiness. The city where I live seems to suddenly awaken on sunshiny days, with everyone living loudly and fiercely and beautifully. At the end of a long journey or a difficult task or a painful portion of our lives, we say that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even our physical bodies are attuned to the light, naturally tending toward sleeping when there is no light and awakening, refreshed, when the light returns. What I like about Emily Dickinson’s poem is that she flips the tables. Her light is dirty, it’s hopeless and bleak. It’s her own.

I love Darkness and Light as an expression of art because in some sense, I think we all feel darkness and light in a similar way. We can all understand the endless days when we are consumed in darkness, the highest highs when we are gliding on the sun rays. In another, perhaps more satisfying sense, though, darkness and light are highly personal and unique for each of us, like Emily’s slant of light. Our authors this quarter have done such a beautiful job of taking us on journeys through both the relatable and the unpredictable, through both the universal human emotions and the uniquely personal ones. I felt connected, often in more ways than one, to each adventure. I hope that you all do, too.


Carrie Bachler is a fiction editor at Halfway Down the Stairs.

© 2019, Carrie Bachler

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