Light the light that will unblind us

 
Ritual
  
  
 Each night at dinner, in lieu of grace,
 my mother lit the center candle
 on the table. We children 
 were allowed two fingers of wine  
 from the icy jug that was kept cold
 out on the front porch. The seven of us 
 shared bread and casserole on our full plates
 and the light filled the room with luster.
 Each of us had a task: clear the dishes,
 wipe the table, snuff out
 the half-melted candle,
 its smoky trail reaching to the ceiling 
 like fingers folding into prayer. 
  
 When the washer was full,
 we’d stand by the sink, my mother and I,
 her hands plunged into the soapy water,
 mine holding a dish towel,  
 removing the dripping pans from the drainer,
 and wiping the water away, to expose the shine.
 We’d stand there in the evening hour 
 quietly perfecting every keepsake minute.
  
 Later in life, I stand in class, by the desk
 in front of students as we discuss short fiction, 
 plunging into emerging themes.
 A daughter and mother in one story
 bathe together in a tub infused
 with herbs and bark.
 The same characters travel to market
 to gather bread, butter, and fish
 to prepare together later.
 The mother preserves the daughter’s childhood
 in a trunk:  plaid dresses and yellowed blankets,
 mementos aired out and refolded again.
  
 In capital letters, I write ritual,
 chalk powdering the folds of my slacks. Together
 we learn that these acts are connective tissue that bind
 our muscle to bone.  Though pages away, 
 miles, or even years, we, as characters
 break bread, fold hands into each other’s,
 light the light that will unblind us.    

from Four Blue Eggs
   

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