Music Box

A girl in Odessa is holding a candle,
one of those showy candles
topped with a brass carousel
from which hang
a ring of brass stars.
It’s my favorite candle, she says,
because when the heat rises,
the metal spins, the stars dance.
See? It’s already half gone, the
glass cup of candle half empty.

She is trying to remember
the English words for a music box,
but she only knows the Russian.
It’s all she speaks well.
A Russian Ukrainian, waiting for
the bombs.

She blows against the carousel,
unwilling to light it.
She is trying to distract herself,
trying to distract us.
Музыкальная шкатулка, she repeats,
frustrated, and the words
come out of her mouth like silk.
Muzykal’naya shkatulka
A casket? she guesses.
They are caskets that sing a melody.
Caskets that sing a melody.

She fingers the candle.
One day we will light it together,
she says. For now, though.
The present isn’t worth much:
distraction, the need to connect,
so you can drop fear off,
like a child at daycare.
But the future!
when we can light the candle,
and spin the stars on ribbons of heat,
each circus breath a memory:
a casket,
rows of caskets,
each with a melody.