These Little Lights
Norma Gay Prewett
In these scratched and snaky bulbs,
discovered this morning from their hidey hole,
marked X-mas in your hand, half-capitals,
half not, I can see way back.
Past cotton fields where you grew round
until you were laid up with a bad back
or lay down with child.
By these little lights, I am led
to the eventual textile mill, the plant
that, as a child, I mistook for a living thing.
In my mind, Mama, these memories are mixed,
tangled worse than closet haunts can do
with the Bible song you had me sing,
trembling, before the Baptist congregation.
“This little light of mine …”
This milky blue has a bum eye
like the mule you said Dad rode
to court you. It now fetches you again.
Each year we tried them, a child at
every third connection to keep them off the floor.
As they snarl on my carpet, with only me now
to hold up my corner of tradition, I hear your angry litany:
This string won’t make it another year, resolved
as one loose red or green would short the set;
that found, another.
Despite your murderous threats, Mother,
none of us was scared.
Even then, we knew you didn’t curse X-mas.
And I know this year I’ll find
the loose connection.
For by these little lights
I finally see your heart.
And by the light of your failing heart, I live.
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