Nights of a Thousand Candles

By EMMA AYLOR

tree

Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

There are probably more candles than that, in fact,
but only half glow; the rest float dumbly, arranged
in their circular pools, rain specked inside the glass.

An unlit candle at night smacks of abandon. Some things,
here, are most notable for their labor: I see lights,
yes, hung in curtains like long wet hair

from live oaks’ sturdy and contorted limbs,
and the tracks of the people who hung them
follow gray alongside, skittish as cats

that disappear on looking, just past the known instant.
They’re there. They’re not. They were
sore in the morning with the arms’ work

of placement. Imprints of ladders truss the humid air.
At times like this, the sky isn’t black or starred, but dreamy
with winter vapor. The forms of the statuary are hardly lit

(no one seems here to view them, bundled along
the paths bricked and mossed): at the centers
of water, in tucked plinths, past swaths of grass

placed to provide smooth surfaces a look can slip
over—I think there’s Diana, for the bow and dog; Samson,
surely, but the lion a blur; a coiled jaguar bent toward

the viewer, an intent more intuited than seen;
Don Quixote on his ruined horse, knowable
by his staff, which spears the squint—all

frustrated dimension, the occasional solid, a texture
accidental. Suddenly, looming, a sculpted nose, shoulder, or hip,
intimate and unfamiliar as my partner in the room

at night—warm and close and remote into sleep,
the body I know lapped and folded into dark.
There are figures beyond ekphrasis. We can’t help but see.

 

Emma Aylor’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, New Ohio Review, Pleiades, Colorado Review, and the Cincinnati Review, among other journals, and she received Shenandoah’s 2020 Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets. She lives in Lubbock, Texas. 

Nights of a Thousand Candles

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