NaPoWriMo, Day 16: Paris Edition

16 Apr

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I, like most people, am completely heartbroken over the fire that ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday. I’ve spent many hours thinking, crying, and praying about its loss to the people of France, and the the world. I don’t feel that I need to add anything here that hasn’t already been said on the news, social media, or in private conversations, but it is the basis of today’s poem for National Poetry Month. I typically don’t write poems about major events or if I do, I don’t write them immediately after because I like to sit with it and let the thoughts and emotions marinate for a while. I’m breaking my cardinal rule today because I was so struck by the fact that the prayer candles kept burning during the fire. These prayer candles are such a special place for me as they hold the sorrows, the meditations, the histories of people’s loves and losses. It’s a holy place, I think.

 

Candles

Paris, 2019

 
A drift of smoke. A woman bent in prayer
Her black veil, her mourning. A candle lit

and another. Each candle a desire—a child
to return, a husband newly dead, a sick dog.

Each candle a bone of the body alight. A cry
that rose through the spire and rose and rose

and rose until the ceiling could not hold
its sorrow. The mouth of the sky opened

to lick the forest, the lead roof, the glass
roses in the confusion of evening light.

The candles remained. A drift of smoke.
The ruin chiseled onto the tongue, the hands

that crossed the body and held the sooted
tears. A field of timber, stone. The candles

remained. The light in a small charred
darkness. A day named by fire. A burnt

elegy rising into the nave before
dissolving into the night’s dark ash.

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