On a Clear, Moonless Night

The stars are silent,
The house is dark,
The stone floor cold to the touch.
Before him on the table sits a lone candle,
Slender flame dancing and swaying
In the draft creeping through the window.

Something holds him there,
Sitting, staring at the flame:
Restless thoughts,
Spirits hovering in the shadows around him,
But the candle keeps them at bay.

Night yawns around him,
Pressing in close like a curtain of dusky lace,
Concealing doorways in shadow,
Shrouding corners in webs of fine-spun silk.
Everywhere, darkness,
Everywhere but here,
In the frail light of the flame.

He watches in mute fascination
As hot wax slowly trickles down the side
Into the cold iron basin.
Born in strife,
Struggling in a dance with destiny
Winding slowly around its fixed axis
Sinking ever lower
Like a figure-skater in a death-spiral

The wick is spent
And the light fades,
Swallowed by a sea of infinite stillness.

As dawn's timid beams
Gently brush away the veil,
The day regards a sleeping figure,
Head cradled in arms,
Lying upon the table.
Before him, a barren candlestick
Now filled with formless wax.

George Chadderdon © 1993