The Votive Candle
Someone lights a candle on a still day in the woods
and it burns down to start a forest fire
which sweeps everything away. When someone else’s father died
she went through his pockets for trinkets or treasures,
she spent days digging through his laundry and holding
his tools to feel his grip, to sense the weight
of her own loss. But he’d never been handy,
his tools had been used only when absolutely necessary,
so there was no response. Forest fires rage
when underbrush and tinder have moldered, and flare
from years of suppression. And when it is over,
no matter what’s been lost, the forest comes alive
more vividly, often, than it has done for years.
So these days I make sure to keep presents in the pockets
of the clothes I don’t wear much, snapshots and cryptic
messages, interesting pebbles and twigs.
When I look out the window and see myself out there.
When my breaths and heartbeats have reached the magic number
they are always counting toward. Burn the underbrush away.
Michael Hettich | Mudlark No. 40 (2010)
Contents | The Small Birds