Mother Magpie leads me
past sere cornfields and buried bones
to the place where people say their goodbyes. 
There we eulogize the man
whose fireplace we huddled by,
who shone light in our dark corners,
and we leave that place with light in our pockets
to bring to others.

Writing from the Dark Side

I stood face to face with my dark side last night. I felt a sense of panic, as I always do when facing that mirror, clutching my hair and chanting “this is not me”.

My dark side deals in visions of obsessive seduction, sticky strands of need and betrayal in silent midnight rooms bled of color. It revels in its story: my inevitable fall, my contemplation of suicide. 

All of us have a dark side which stands counter to who we believe we are. If we deny it, if we romanticize it, we may fall to it because it demands that we pay attention to it. What we need to do is to accept our dark side because it’s part of us. 

I accept my dark side, the sulky drama queen in the mirror, but I do not let it run my life. I have built a satisfying life in the golden light of autumn, with a humorous husband and five cats. 

Me, coffee, and cat. This is a good life.

Sometimes I write from my dark side — half-elven children who want to kill their elven fathers, succubi with a pang of conscience, a young man who can kill by touch. I write these with my light side, though, framing these characters in dilemma, in conflict. 

Darkness must contrast with light to be appreciated. If the writing contains nothing but darkness, it ceases to be dark and is merely mechanical, a factory of death and gore. The light must be there to be taken away, so that we grieve for the individual trapped in their circumstances. 

I look at my dark reflection, the person I most fear, because she has the capacity to ruin my life. I nod, knowing that if I try to annihilate her, I become her. She leans over my shoulder as I write, helping me to add her darkness to my bright words.


This time of year depresses me — literally — with its dark mornings and uniform bleakness of the terrain. It’s not the deep despair of my bipolar depression, but a constant sense of flatness, of anhedonia, of just wanting to stay in bed. The festivities of Christmas that buoyed up my spirits have long passed; all now is grey.

My psychiatrist has prescribed 1 hour a day in my grow room for light therapy. There’s plenty of light in the small basement room, supplied by eight fluorescent light fixtures. And, although it’s a small room, there’s a table and chair where I can sit and even an old iPad I use to maintain my plant records.

And then there’s the plants. Right now, I have starts of herbs like hyssop and calamint, celery leaf and Asian celery, and my tomatoes and peppers popping out of the ground. For the most part, they’re tiny seedlings with their seed leaves no bigger than a baby mouse’s ear. But they’re alive, and I almost believe I can feel the light of their lives brightening my day.

In the gloom of this season, I will take all the light I can get.