by Matt Hollrah


The light from our candles
makes coronas in the mist
as a breeze threatens to blow
them out. He bought them at
the Catholic store not
telling them what they were for,
another “don’t ask; don’t tell.”

But in the circle we do tell
and listen to the variety
of ways we struggle to be ourselves.

The wax runs down the candle,
thickens, resolidifies.
I keep one hand up as if
half-praying to shield the flame—
to keep it going. I don’t

have a story like the others.
I’m not there to remember
the day I declared, This is me. Deal with it,
to people who would cry
or beat me or tell me that I am
an embarrassment to the family.

It is getting cold. The mist drips
off the brim of his fedora.
He is completely at ease.
My candle goes out and he relights it.
I return the favor in time,

and I think of the day
I stared into my own eyes
in the mirror in the blue bathroom
on Eleventh Street. I was nine.
I said, That is me. That person in there
is me. I move those lips. I turn that head.
I blink and breathe.

Matt Hollrah is an assistant professor of English and Director of First-Year Composition at the University of Central Oklahoma. He was a finalist for the in 2005, and his poetry has appeared most recently in the anthology Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me: New Oklahoma Writing. Hollrah lives in Edmond, Oklahoma.