She lights candles in every church she passes,
doesn’t know the difference between wish
and prayer but thinks good thoughts anyway.
A donation and hope for the mothers
who’ve lost sons, the wives who’ve lost husbands,
at war or at sea, battle or squall it does not matter.
A few small coins for the church itself, innate kindness
that welcomes all. From the searing heat of summer
to the black frozen dark of winter, there is warmth,
maybe a meal, a kind hand on the shoulder.
And on those nights when even the moon
leaves footprints in the snow, perhaps a bed.
She is a lucky young woman, and she knows.
Her red hair is tumbled fire, like the votives she lights.
Then one day. One church. A sight that would change her
Row upon row of crosses, so straight,
place-marking bodies from war, or humble unknowns,
families too poor for proper headstones,
brilliantly lit with votive candles at each edge
of the crossbar, the top of each staff.
An older priest moves slowly down each row,
Lights the lights, lips moving in silent prayer.
She sees the result, as do many who stop to watch,
remember what they choose. No one says a word.
Winter nightfall deepens.
Cold quiet air breathes over their faces.
The Priest welcomes the old souls home.
Tobi Alfier (Cogswell) is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her chapbook Down Anstruther Way (Scotland poems) was published by FutureCycle Press. Her full-length collection Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where is recently out from Kelsay Books. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review www.bluehorsepress.com.