Safety Matches

by Yiskah Rosenfeld

Silver cylinder.
Made in Hong Kong.

For soldiers or scouts.
Six matches sealed inside.

I keep my spirit for safekeeping,
drawn to the small, the locked, the secret.

I wish I could be held in one hand.

What if these matches were lit?
Sacrificed to a candle or cigarette,

a quick speck of light on the dark?
What is so sacred about safety?

A legacy of events that did not happen,
were not ignited:

The six times you were not
lost, the six times you did not

find yourself alone in need of light.
Passed down:

Here, take these.
Do not burn.

Hidden, my soul waits to be struck.

One for love,
to catch suddenly.

One for clarity,
to see myself and my way.

One for change,
the proof of change.

One for destiny,
follow wood to flame and leap.

One for faith in the after-light.
One to leave no trace.

What, then, is seven?
Darkness, the empty vessel

resting place
for a tiny scroll of good,

the hair of a loved one,
a cache of sand and stones.

If I burn them, who will open me?

Remember the head of the match,
red against crisscrosses of silver:

hiss, snap, flame,
blue heart of twisting ghost-fire,

the burning, the dying out,
spark, ember, memory,

the birth of a different kind of darkness:
the kind in which there once was light.

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