Reuben Gelley Newman

The Clapping Lights


Sometimes I think about the people who introduced me to the music,
how they never know what the music means to me, and there I am
visiting the college and there is the boy also visiting, the boy who said
If you’re gay and you play cello, you should listen to Arthur Russell,
the boy with turquoise nails and the sparkling red hair of a fox, the boy
I didn’t kiss, I don’t know why, because I was shy and he was, too,
or the timing wasn’t right, or there wasn’t enough between us,
and now the music tethers, the sound of white caps and deer
in the forest, rabbit’s ears and lucky clouds, kaleidoscope of synth
and drum and cello strain, Arthur’s voice looping, tripping over itself,
the song on repeat.


When Arthur sings the name of the next song is and the song exceeds itself,
restless chords accelerating escape California here I come from the cornfields
of Iowa, and after the fog of San Francisco, the Buddhist commune and the Golden
Gate Bridge, after cello fugues and ragas had merged in Arthur’s ears, he flew
to Manhattan, where the streets glimmered like guitar frets, where he orbited
Ginsberg in ’73, where they had the briefest fling, where they sang a ballad
about a man searching for profundity in the lights across the Hudson,
a man who thinks the lights are talking to each other before someone sets him
straight, and when I was a kid and we were driving back from the beach I’d spy
the glittering trash heap of suburbia and say Look! The clapping lights!
This was in California, and I’m flying to the west coast soon,
and Arthur’s alien voice repeats, This is how we walk on the moon.


I walk on the moon. All the boys who’ve never loved me back
come cratering into my arms.



Reuben Gelley Newman (he/him) is a writer and musician from New York City. His work is available or forthcoming in perhappened, DIALOGIST, and Hobart, among others. A recent graduate of Swarthmore College, he was a Fall 2020 intern at Copper Canyon Press. Check out his website or Twitter @joustingsnail