We brought useless things: casseroles, flowers, a chocolate pie.
We unloaded them from the backseat, gloved hands
Slipping on the dishes. The morning was bright on the white house and the snow.
It sharpened the edges of things, made the pine trees brutal.
In the kitchen, we left our pots and bowls among the candles,
Grateful for something to do with our hands.
Your sister was thirteen that winter.
For weeks she burned a white candle each night, a project for the science fair.
When the call came, she was measuring the flame,
Testing the wick and the wax. She had her watch and notebook on the table,
And she was writing that the tall tapers took hours to melt, stooping at the end.
The small candles hollowed out in minutes, becoming liquid pools
With the fire floating in the center.
When you got home, she sat for hours at the kitchen table.
For a while, the shadows seemed to be breathing with her,
But the sunrise flattened them away.
There’s something about the light in New England
That teaches loneliness in every season.
I didn’t see you that day—
You and your sister stayed upstairs, curled in the same bed.
In the morning, the light picked out the gold in your eyelashes,
And your hair against the pillow.
When evening came, it settled pink and blue across your cheekbones.
When you woke up, it would all be strange:
The books on the desk, the dolls against the headboard,
The prism spinning slowly in the window,
Throwing broken flecks across the floor.