Linda Parsons Marion

Lighting Candles

Perhaps it’s just January, tin cup held out
to the coming of sugar maple and wheat,
that draws me to this bowl of light.
In my forty-fifth year I’m lighting candles:
ivory spires on the mantel, frosted glass
by my chair. Not to scatter the dark, but to
welcome it a hundredfold, pooling under
the bright ribs, breathing its slow dance
on the walls. I beg cold comfort in the metal clink
of my winter cup, pleasure of wick and beeswax,
shot of phosphorus to the nose. Perhaps all women
my age seek the flame, hoard it like dry kindling,
summon its smoke to ward off fever, the annual
lament of barren ground. We bring it indoors
like one of our own gone wayward and wild
in the bottomless night. This warmth is brief
as Mojave rain, large as remembrance
of my grandmother’s house: exhale of the small
heater, the gas slightly sweet, the march of shadow
animals across the ceiling, her talc in a cloud
over the bed. I strike together these flintrocks
of the past, rub their oils and salve for the long
cold, the ache that flares up more and more.
There’s enough now to drink; I offer you some:
You will know the true shape of your name
when you answer its call in the dark. My hair
shows silver in this meager fire. The halo of memory
is sewn to my heels, lighting the way as I go.