Once in the sweet dark of an empty house,
All alone while the others slept upstairs,
I knelt before a memorial candle
And cupping it in my hands began to stare.
It was a chance to be close to fire, to hold
Its heat and power, for I was drawn to it,
Young enough to lose myself in light,
Old enough to know that what I did
Was unusual though simple for a child.
Someone must have died in late autumn
On the day lit by the candle, and perhaps
Long ago, on that day too, shadows
Of branches swayed on this gray wall,
But death did not concern me then
Or life as I know it now.
In a few years
The dearest light to me would be a face
Floating in the dark above the stairs,
But I was still a stranger to desire
And love an undiscovered hemisphere.
What I found that night I always carry
With me, its meaning inscrutable yet clear.
I followed the flame before my eyes,
Knowing I could not blink, not knowing
What would follow, and then I stood up
And slowly started moving about the house,
The flame before me, although the candle
Was on the table. How did I carry it?
In my eyes, which were bright and burning.