Kay Ryan, “Pinhole”

Pinhole (from Poetry Magazine)
Kay Ryan

We say
A pin hole
of light. We
can’t imagine
how bright
more of it
could be,
the way
this much
defeats night.
It almost
isn’t fair,
poked this,
with such
a small act
to vanquish


“We say pinhole:” we (all of us? humanity? A specific group?) declare (establish? or just name?) the space where light breaks through, where visibility is achieved. “A pin hole of light:” the naming is a bringing together, an establishing through naming. The “pin” and the “hole” separately do not bring light. A “hole” can be nothing but a descent into darkness. The “pin” isn’t just size, but a break, cause, potential weaving.

But “we”also recognize the significance of the compound’s latter half. “Pin” describes “hole.” We understand the night sky as pinpricks of light. Things can’t get much brighter for us, since night would be defeated by just one pinhole.

One has to wonder whether there is always hope. Those who trust in Providence do so as a matter of belief, not as fact. “Much” and “small” make me wonder about the measure of all things. “Almost isn’t fair” and “whoever” don’t necessarily point at God beyond the void. We’re pointing at ourselves. We said, imagined, acted (“poked”). One has to wonder whether there is always hope.


  1. Ashok – I’ m so glad your doing more Kay Ryan!

    (to me) This piece seems hopeful…suggesting something about darkness being overcome the smallest of (good) read light. Though there is tension between that light – its source is unresolved – and stubbornly so.

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