Stewart Moss

Holiday Candle
May 22, 2019 Moss Stewart

Holiday Candle
Thank you for your kind gift
of a red candle in a glass holder.
I put it on the side table
between the heavy Tibetan prayer bells
that summon the mindful,
and the black Japanese box fragrant
with riverbanks and stillness.
I will light it if Christmas neglects to come,
or if February is too much,
each day a dank shaft
with its dead canary. Maybe
I will even roast a chestnut
over the little flame
and eat the sweet flesh shaped
like the brain of a robin
and scatter the bits of shell
in memory of all the dreams I once had
that flew away from me.
Or perhaps I will hide it
in the deep oak drawer,
beneath my father’s frayed sweater
with the felt letter and the big shoulders
that made the moths delirious,
and his rumpled prayer shawl
still smelling of hair oil and Luckies,
and his leather phylacteries
balled tightly like fists
inside their battered green pouch,
and it will be a memorial, a yahrzeit,
amid the faint davening, the musty pews,
and it will show me the way
when I search for him
one more time but can’t find him,
and then when I stumble
past the objects
to join him.

As a former Executive Director of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Stewart Moss helped establish creative writing programs for adult immigrants and members of the military being treated for neurological and psychological trauma. He has taught literature and creative writing in both the USA and abroad; Scotland, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Nepal are among the countries where he has lived and worked. Moss has essays included in Retire the Colors: Veterans & Civilians on Iraq & Afghanistan, ed. Dario DiBattista (Hudson Whitman/Excelsior College Press, 2016) and Plume Poetry, and poetry in Plume, Goss 183 and Origins Literary Review. His chapbook of poems, For Those Whose Lives Have Seen Themselves, was published in 2021 by Finishing Line Press, and his collection Arrivals & Departures: Poems will be released (also by Finishing Line Press) in 2023. Moss has been awarded an Independent Artist Grant by the Maryland States Arts Council; he has also been featured in “The Poet and the Poem” podcasts at The Library of Congress. A native of Boston, MA, he resides in Annapolis, MD.