By Eli Parker
Artwork by Alli Rowe
I’ve seen Christmas by candlelight
on a twinkling cotton night in North Carolina.
December air brings me there, years ago now.
It will always bring me home again.
Just North of the Bull Durham factory,
there resides a remnant of a lost time;
a catacomb of colors:
The tobacco gold storehouse, bounded by
the lichen green of the slack fence.
The orange cedar logs, stacked against
the pale white of the old homestead.
I once knew every nook and cranny.
It was here, underneath the silvery moon, that I saw it.
Dotted candles on the pathways,
leading to a backyard field by the well house.
The edge of the forest was not far.
Our fire roasted chestnuts and popcorn,
and cracked the cold air’s grip.
Sugar cookies and warm cider were being served
to pleasant people in conversation enamored,
as the glow coming from the kitchen
bounced off of our woolen jackets.
You could still always feel the quiet dark of the forest
if you looked away from the little fire
and took a step back into chilled air’s embrace.
The poplars provided a cooling presence,
their branches arching over our heads and mingling with the stars.
I liked to sit by the fire, let my back brace the cold,
and teach younger children to make popcorn and whittle kindling.
My, how I loved those little embers as they drifted onto my clothing,
burning for just a second or two before going out.
But I suppose a light stays lit as long as someone remembers it.
Oh, to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
Oh, to be in this humble history as it stands,
watching the tree branches darken into the night sky.
I returned to this place recently,
even though the years have blunted my simplicity.
I saw the tobacco field, the old storehouse, and the slack fence,
and I saw the backyard field where once I belonged.
To this day, the place is a flickering beauty.
Its wood is not without rot and its iron not without rust,
but what a gracious age the little homestead has become.
Surely, its light shall never fade from me.