Lighting candles

by t t

St Joseph’s church, Glasthule, 2019

(for Ailbhe)

The first time in this church was on our way
to the playground and we lit two candles,
so now you ask if we can do it again.
A Mass is on and though I’m not a believer

and at three you don’t yet know who you are,
you sense the holy hush and you whisper
as the organist plays a Bach chorale.
You take the candles, one for yourself,

you say, and one for your sister, and then two
for your parents, and you make sure
they’re neatly in a row before I light them,
your eyes widening as they flicker into flame.

For two decades, each time I visited Paris,
I always lit a candle for your mother
at a little side altar in Saint-Sulpice,
praying her life would turn out for the best.

Now she has you and Sisi and all the wonder
you bring to our strange world. So watching you
absorbed in this solemn ritual, I may not believe
what churches teach, but I believe in you.

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