Whatever Measure of Light

By Bernadette McBride

Kelsay Books. 90 pp. $17 nolead ends

Music sings out from the very first page of Whatever Measure of Light. Bernadette McBride, who lives near Doylestown, is a poet, musician, lover of Irish culture, and searcher. Her language is charged, light-shot, as in "Savoring the Cold in a Light Sweater," in which the speaker reaches a pitch of "All awareness turned up like// out-decibeled song, out-beautied dark, trees'/ topmost crinoline jig-sawing the full moon's encore." This music empowers the meaning she discovers in loss of mother and husband, love and hurts of children, traffic jams, the opening clarinet gliss of Rhapsody in Blue.

Among the gems strewn through these pages are vivid set-pieces such as "Letting Go," in which mother holds child in her arms and knows that even now

                                              leaving is the reason

you've come, you trust me to show you how —

cheer your leading part, let go of the bike

as you coast away on your own.

Mother stands with her heart "an open sanctum." This book is a dialogue with faith and belief, an address to the Beloved (Isaiah's name for the divine, yedidi), searched for, discovered by surprise here, not as expected there. In "Hope, Beloved," she writes

                Beloved, you glissade under closed doors,

            skirr through the interstices of cratered walls,

render yourself, dawn-like, through

                the fear-lined crannies of belief's remains.

Much is lost, much destroyed, but much is beyond us, much astounds. Like the birth of a cicada on the lid of a Coleman stove in "Cicada." The teneral struggles free:

first translucent, made white

by the new day's light. Then, its pale greenness.

. . . Now a sit-up to right itself, legs hardened enough

to reach forward, cling to the molt surface as it unfurls

its wings, holds them against its body, waits for the final

hardening, darkening; readies to fly off.

Not just show-offy music, this orients us to an ineffable miracle illuminating what you and I are,

    we who persist for seasons before shedding that

for which we've lost need, souls elating into light.

McBride finds bittersweet light everywhere; this book adds to the measure of light.