On Light Bulbs

Stacked like logs in the supermarket, next to the paper towels and the laundry detergent, they await burning. Nestled like eggs, each in its own cardboard box, they clasp tiny brittle buds inside fragile translucent shells. Patient and inconspicuous, these wildest of creatures have been easily domesticated. In homes and offices, they take root on desktops, sprout from bedside tables, thriving in the darkest corners. Hanging from ceilings, they are flowering stalactites—one flick of a switch drives the sap through their veins, through pistil and stamen, and they burst into flame. Then there is no controlling them. They immediately speed away, leaving a trail of fire in their wakes. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, one appears above your head. It glows there in the air for a moment, like some startled bird, before splitting open, spilling its brightness everywhere.

A version of this abbreviated essay appeared in the June issue of Ode, on newsstands now.