Degrees of Twilight

Twilight is defined according to the sun’s angle below the horizon:

6º below -  civil twilight
12º below -nautical twilight
18 º below - astronomical twilight

Civil Twilight

The shrill of the park-keeper’s whistle
summons night. Abandoning our game
we dash for the gates, watched from every bush
and shadow, a hundred eyes glinting.
If the gates are shut will we attempt to climb
(the slip of bars, the spikes on top, the dizzy fall),
or try to find that fox-hole in the fence
behind the big oak tree? Any way to flee
the gnarled hobgoblins of the dark.

Nautical Twilight

On land, white flowers vibrate with urgency,
insist their white upon the eye; trees and houses
blacken to silhouette against an ultraviolet sky.
Out here, a blueing of light across the sea
and sky, curved with the curvature of earth.
These moments with both horizon and stars in view,
before a gradual losing; light ebbs away
like energy, like memory, till more is gone than left.

Astronomical Twilight

One by one, the stars reveal themselves
in slow strip-tease, as if they were not always there
beneath the brilliance.  Glimmers of small
compensations, way finders, hints of a populated
vastness, a depth of understanding hidden
by the glare of day; reminders of our smallness,
of the length of time it takes their spark to reach us,
dimming across distances, of the shortness
of twilight, the closeness of night.

Maggie Butt

If you have any comments on this poem,  Maggie Butt would be pleased to hear from you.