Campbell Corner Poetry Prize

Distinguished Entries 2001

Debra Marquart: The Way of Fire

The Way of Fire

Every year you give your mother
candles for Christmas. You buy her
brass nightlamps, pewter votives,

marble hurricane lamps. Every year
you watch her pick through the package,
lift the thing into the air. Lovely,

she says and finds a place on one of her
cool, clean surfaces. How to explain
this distance you have come

so far from the tow of her waters.
How to introduce this other mother
who has left you disinherited, licked you

clean with her violent tongue. Every year
you return to unlit wicks, still white,
pressed neatly into the smooth tips

of tapers. Even on these holidays
of eggnog and sitting in circles,
all your gifts unused. She's worried

about wax drippings, and burn holes
and whether or not the drapery
will catch. Besides, what is it good for,

she asks, when we have light already?