Our little lives extinguish themselves
like lit matches – ephemeral brilliance –
then darkness that can’t be helped.
The match is not meant to burn long,
just a moment in order to ignite
something else – a camp fire,
a cigarette, to sterilize a needle
before the splinter is removed.
We flame up, create our colors,
burn briefly, with just enough time,
maybe to start something.
Another life, a movement, a poem,
a garden, a body of work,
a connection with a network
of family, friends, our momentary mark.
Before Jim died, an arbitrary sequence of events,
his son, our daughter, the threat of fire –
led to their family evacuating
to our big, rambling adobe home,
created a chance to connect,
to get to know his silent ways,
his wry grin, his shaggy, black dog.
Just a guy and his family,
a daughter, young and moody,
whose tears brought him to her borrowed room,
where she let him know she wanted
no part of our hospitality, just wanted
to go home. He listened,
and later she groomed our big, friendly horse.
Her father is dead now; only a couple of days ago
he was alive. Suddenly, his match lost its fire,
whatever he was able to touch with his light
done. A son who wants to fly,
the last ignition of a father who made the connection
real. The fire will continue,
in ways no one knows.
Fathers die. Fathers die unexpectedly,
commonly, on the floor sprawled, unaccountably breathless.
The match was lit, and sputtered to its ashen end,
but everyone else he illuminated continues to inhale,
embrace the connection to keep our flames alive.
resist the breath that will extinguish.
Michelle Holland lives and writes in Chimayo, New Mexico. Her books include the New Mexico Book Award winning collection, The Sound a Raven Makes, Tres Chicas Press; and Chaos Theory, Sin Fronteras Press.