Light Pressure

The sun is gentler than you think, its touch
A mere ten thousandth of the finest gauze
Against your skin. A raindrop weighs as much
As twenty-five Apollos. It gives pause:

Should a princess demand a golden sheet
To clothe her from the pressure of the sun,
Her smiths would work in vain, though they could beat
One atom's width. The thing cannot be done.

Think of the lightest things: a fish's scale,
The feather of a bird, a single hair,
Silk stockings, spiders' webs, even the frail
Breath of a dying man. Even the air.

The sun may burn your eyes and bake you brown,
But its caress is less than thistledown.

© Peter Howard

first published in Envoi 1996