All the Unburnt Candles

Submitted by JimWaters on Tue, 03/26/2019 - 16:12

A dragon trapped me in the walls
Of fortress worlds away
My hope: one day a knight would come,
Bring me from dark to day

I took a candle, every night
And with a falt’ring tread
I set its tiny flame upon
The sill close by my bed

One day, I said, someone will see
My silent, wretched cry
My plea to search within my walls
To grab my hand and fly

But unlike that which Psyche saw
My candle showed no face
Just blackness, not a star above,
A plane of empty space

Noises, calls of passersby
I heard from time to time
A swift hello, a mumbled “oh,
That tow’r’s too tall to climb.”

And once or twice in those long years
I heard a warrior near
But terror froze my heart like ice,
I doused the flame in fear

What if, I said, they see my face,
Disheveled by the years?
What if, once come, they laugh at me
Ignoring joyful tears?

Back then I’d face the dragon
‘Fore I let myself be saved
My test became recoil, and soon
The flame ritual waived

And so I aged, my hair grew long
I named near every stone
That built the walls of dragon’s keep,
Ashamed, angry, alone

But then one day a trumpet sound
Called far beyond the slopes
Encircling my prison there
Yet still I raised no hopes

Soon far away, with squinted eyes
A banner I saw waved
Morn’s sun it bore, beneath a knight
Toward me his own way paved

With speed I made to duck aside
To shutter windows, door
No knight shall look me o’er and leave
Agrin, “Never!” I swore

I heard the ping of iron then
Or rather, scaling rods
The knight, it seemed, was still there, no!
Was climbing, ‘gainst all odds

“I saw your candle, burning bright
Upon your sill,” he cried.
“Trapped by dragon until now,
But now with me you’ll ride.”

I shook inside, clasped hands o’er ears
“I know not what you claim,
I lit no candle,” I replied.
“I saw it all the same.”

A pounding at the window then,
Persistence made me start
To wonder if, perhaps this time,
I could at last take heart

My fingers shook, my knees collapsed,
Somehow I made to stand
And open shutters, warped and dry
And took the young knight’s hand

I saw his smile, meek and kind,
No laughter in his thought,
But care for me, and sadness too,
The pain the dragon wrought

I took his hand, no glance I took
To stare back in the cell
O’er back, down tow’r, on horse, then off
No more alone to dwell

And still I thought from time to time
On prison and the sight
Of all the unburnt candles I
Was too afraid to light.

Then I remember how the knight
had heard my unvoiced plea.
A rare thing that, a precious one
Wondrous it came to me.



I love this so much. This is definitely my favorite poem of yours so far, Jim, and probably my favorite all-time poem, too. There is nothing about this poem NOT to love, most especially since I know what prompted you to write it. :) “I saw it all the same” is my favorite line. So comforting, so perfect, and so true. Thank you for seeing and for being seen. :)

I don’t thrive off of chaos: chaos thrives off of me.