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Image by Marc Ignacio

Candlelight Service

Some men a forward motion love,
But I by backward steps would move.
          Henry Vaughan, “The Retreat”

Beneath the chorus that soars
in ecstasies beyond my range
consider the solitary candle:

breeze rises from the left;
flame blows right, flapping
briskly as a flag; shadow

slides left, soundlessly,
underneath, into the wind
from which it came.  Above

rafters swim in thickening air,
neither shadow, nor light,
but trembling blur of song.

I move, like shadow of breeze,
shadow of flame, sliding
soundlessly into where it came.

Duende at Dawn

May the Spirit move once more
with these cacophonous birds,
crows, jays, grackles roosting
the ragged willow, grim birds
casting dark shadows, stalking
gables and gutters, remorse-
less cries sharp as pterodactyls
knifing between volcanos,
one wisping grey smoke,
one spewing crimson fire.

Old House

Year by year we give away
swing sets, bikes, pianos

the girls left behind,
and the ashes of dogs

scattered in backyards
so quiet you can hear

the afternoon tick
and shadows grow long.

John Savoie teaches great books at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Best New Poets, and Poetry in Motion. His first collection Sehnsucht has recently won the Prize Americana.


  1. Tad Tuleja

    What a lovely example of observance in your “Candlelight Service.” The precision reminds me somehow of Donne, that close careful tracking of a material moment which lifts us unawares (I mean us who are unawares) into the mundane transcendent. I will not watch a candle and its shadow waver again without thinking of your poem. Bravo!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Tad. Yes, though the poem quotes Vaughn,
      Donne is an equal influence, both Metaphysical poets–
      and it recounts a true story, listening to a girl’s choir,
      a Christmas concert in a drafty chapel in Japan.

      • Anonymous



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