Light A Candle


Luci Tapahonso

for Hector Torres

The other night thunder shook the house
and lightning slashed brilliant blue across the bed.
I slept in bits, my heart raced with each explosion of noise and rain.
And though he held me, my breathing was ragged and exhausted.
I may never sleep through these storms.

Hector, light a candle for me.

Last week we returned to our birthplace,
and as we drove through southern Colorado,
we were stunned by the beauty of autumn leaves,
the deep cool mountain canyons,
and twice, deer stood beside the road.
They watched as we passed through their land.
Their eyes glistened black softness.
Misty said, "Isn't it neat that we saw them on our way home?""

Hector, light a candle for her.

In a small reservation town, a little boy shakes his mother.
She has passed out on the floor and he is hungry.
"Mama," he says, "can you make some potatoes?"
She stirs, "Leave me alone, damn it!"
He climbs up on the counter, takes down a box of Cheerios
and sits back down to watch tv.
The noise he makes eating dry cereal is steady and quiet.

Hector, light a candle for him.

Some evenings Leona just wants to sit with her sisters and mother
around the kitchen table and talk of everything and nothing.
Instead, she sits in the quiet kitchen, and outside
leaves blow against the window -- the wind is cold and damp.
In front of Leona, the table stretches out clean and shiny.

Hector, light a candle for her.

North of here, the Kaw rushes westward, a wide muted roar.
The trees alongside sway and brush against each other,
dry, thin leaves swirl in the cold wind.
The river smell and heavy wind settle in my hair,
absorbing the dull thundering water,

the rolling wave of prairie wind.
This time I have walked among the holy people:
the river, the wind, the air swirling down from the hills,
the exhilaration of the biggest catch,
the smooth grace of eagles as they snatch their prey,
the silent pleas of those who drowned here.

Hector, light a candle for me.

Light a candle for me.

From Sáanii Dahataal The Women Are Singing by Luci Tapahonso, University of Arizona Press.
© 1993 Luci Tapahonso

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