V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




On the night we knew you were dying,
I lit a tall three-wicked candle
and set it down beside your photograph,
the oldest one we have—sepia, colored by hand. 
You, androgynous in your little frilled coat,
your brass-buckled shoes, your toddler’s half-smile.

We had left the storm door propped open,
as if it would be unlucky to bar any way out or in,
though none of us said the word: zjawa, ghost.
I sat at the table while the black summer wind
sifted through the trees sleeping in the yard,
and the candle burned three lakes of wax
like some ancient Celtic ritual site
shrunken, re-imagined in a glass bowl.

Does death feel like insomnia settling
in a room whose ceilings are too low?
If so, death visited me that restless night
as I watched the candle swallowing itself
and you faded silently in your last faraway bed,
strange and elegant as Keats dying in Rome.
I kept the vigil until dawn, when the hours
were broken apart by a sheet of new light,
which drew into itself the three twitching flames
like our quick, warm hands folding into yours.

*Polish for “grandpa”

© by Molly Mellinger



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