The Way it Has to Be
by John Calvin Hughes
The yellow candle, lit now by windowlight, stands
amid hardened drippings on the sill.
I alone must scare the jays whose
shrill cries thrill my spine in an unpleasant way,
their blues royal glinting knots of noise.
she lit the wick and watched
a hot yellow lake
lick and lap the candletop,
the flame reflected perfectly in her retina.
Crossed her legs and they
were white and fine and folded as egg shells,
her voice the noise of ice and knives.
She held her body steady in the rocker
and spoke of gentle partitioning:
chocolates in boxes,
quiet paper rooms in paper houses,
chambers of the heart,
dry meat in bitter pecan shells.
When she was gone
a windowbreeze nudged the empty rocker,
and the candleflame dodged and leaned away
but persisted until I, with stronger breath,
blew it out.
John Calvin Hughes has published poems, stories, and criticism in numerous magazines and journals. He is the author of The Novels and Short Stories of Frederick Barthelme, a critical study from the Edwin Mellen Press. He lives and works in Florida.
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