House of Candlelight
~a contemporary cento
Like a vagrant I wander empty ruins.
Deserted, nothing in sight but a small opening
near dry brush. With a torch
dripping amber, I step inside. The air,
unbelievably dense, darker than midnight.
In an alcove, most of the stucco sloughs away,
except for a dozen saints in russet and blue.
In sunlight, a small gap releases dust particles,
brings energy and fills earthen jars
with spring water, wakes the images to a deeper listening.
They speak in a foreign tongue, yet clear in meaning.
“We get so tired in winter.
We lay down to stay awake. We do not
hear the flute or tambourine. We cannot
smell the burning aloes wood.”
Rumi reminds them, “Stars and planets are moving
to bring grace, clarity through the cold night.”
Jesus slips into a house escapes enemies
and opens the door to another world, an old story.
I say, “Saints, you are sweet beyond telling,
your cathedral there, so deeply tall.
Night comes so people can sleep like fish in black water.
Underground streams as sky,
even on dry land a fish
needs to be wrapped in something.
There is a seed grain inside. Saints, you are
the mirrors, the faces in it.
Believe me, you are not forgotten.
I know your souls want to walk into the clearing
and not come back.
(I may never find this hidden grotto again,
so I’ve collaged your photo with ceramic crustaceans,
rose etched beads and weathered bells.)
When I stop speaking this poem will close,
then open its silent wings.
The moth is building a house of candlelight.