Candles (A Response to the Connecticut School Shooting)

Grief has stolen the words
from my throat: and I want to burn
candles in their places. Little white tapers
to take the place of every word purloined
from my voice box, white candles
to stand as silent sentries for every
morpheme that refuses to march up
my tongue and out of my lips. Those words instead
want to pull my tongue backwards and
curl up inside its rug for warmth and
safety. They want to duck behind my
stained and crooked molars, out of sight
from the open air and the wind that passes
in and out of my mouth.

And because there is no sound
from the dead, I want to burn candles
not just for every word, but for every
child. White votives for every
little one who was no match for a
bullet. Little tongues of flame to
speak for them, to ask the questions of
why and how because those little voices
cut silent at their sources cannot
ask them anymore. Little white, rotund
children of wax to stand and burn for
each boy, each girl, because
those children cannot stand anymore.

And we cannot stand anymore.
We sit, because at the fulcrums of our bodies
where soul and solar plexus intersect, there
is disbelief that has pummeled itself fist first
into our drum-tight viscera and
sailor-knotted stomachs. We grab
our stomachs and our hearts because they
ache like slow burning pyres that
were lit inside us while we glanced away, too
distracted to notice the young man with the gun. And when
sitting fails us, we kneel. We pray. We
keen and wail. We embrace each other
and ask questions between tears. For some of us,
the questions linger in our wordless breath,
in staccato exhales ripping the air apart
or punctuating it because we cannot tolerate
holding the disbelief inside our stomachs.

In time, the interrogatives
and angry demands thrown up in the air
and borne aloft upon our grief
will fall back to Earth: some with
answers, some not. Why did he choose
to shoot innocent people? What was
wrong with his mind?
The questions
will drive fists into our minds and hearts
like the disbelief that jackhammers
at our abdominal walls now. But right now,
all I can think about is missing words,
little boys and girls, and
candles. I shut my eyes and watch
two dozen little flames dispel
the void and empty black – and pray
that no one decides that
his or her anger is worth fistfuls of bullets
ever again. Selah.

Written 12/14/12
© 2012 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

This poem was written after I’d learned the news about the Connecticut school shooting. It is my sincere hope that the victims and their families find comfort in the wake of this tragedy, but that whatever solution we find for this problem is tempered with clear, logical thinking as well as strives to preserve civil liberties. To understand why I say this, please watch my video below:


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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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8 Responses to Candles (A Response to the Connecticut School Shooting)

  1. neil reid says:

    Thank you Nicole, thank you. There are more words, but like your candles here, some of them await a brighter day. The sentiment you here express is beautifully, clearly said, as well heartfelt, both said and received.

    I am I’d suppose “an older man”, well past any age of having children of my own blood, and have long felt some isolated from that experience of parenthood. Of these recent days I no longer feel that way, and now can say, these are my children too, who are no more. In that light I don’t want any false comfort of looking away or allowing this to pass unspoken now. I am pleased and encouraged by the growing number of writers, here like you, who are demonstrating their measure of care.

    I would like to ask your permission Nicole to reprint your poem/posting at We Write Poems as well. Sharing such sentiment is good and right I think, and if WWP can reach yet some few more ears, then that is what I want to do. Precisely how as yet I’m unsure – but soon. If that is alright with you please let me know, either here in response or email me, neilre (at)

    Thank you Nicole.

  2. 1sojournal says:

    If we allow it, every word becomes a candle burning bright. Thank you, Nicole for your words, your passion, and your person.


  3. Hello Neil and Elizabeth:

    Thank you very much for your responses to this poem. I feel that in the wake of these dark events, we need all the light we can muster. I don’t want this being broomed under the carpet either, but I believe we should still burn like candles…letting our lights so shine, as Jesus put it.

    Neil, you definitely have my permission to reprint this poem on WWP.


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  6. Nicole:

    “Little tongues of flame to
    speak for them, to ask the questions of
    why and how because those little voices
    cut silent at their sources cannot
    ask them anymore. Little white, rotund
    children of wax to stand and burn for
    each boy, each girl, because
    those children cannot stand anymore.”

    Cuts me to my core. The entirety of your piece is heart-spoken and beautiful.

    I’m so honored to be in print aside such a heart-rendered piece…such a wonderful poet as you, Nicole! Smiles and peace to you….thank you for the reminder/ mention of our responsibility to shine with Jesus’ light.

  7. sondra maude says:

    I am sending My Condolences to The Families of The Children that was taken from Us in Connecticut to let U All know That God had a Different purpose for those Children cause The World as We know it is full of Hatred and Pain and It will be coming to an End Soon. I am a Grandmother raising My Grandchildren and I know that if anything would ever happen to Them it would crush me. So My Heart pours out TEARS TO THOSE AND IM HERE FOR YOU TO LISTEN TO WHATEVER PLEASE DONT HESITATE TO CALL UPON ME. PLEASE STAND STRONG AND THANK YOU FOR THE POEM IT WAS BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!

  8. Pingback: “A Zealot” Wins First Place in Adult Category in Worthington Libraries Poetry Contest | Raven's Wing Poetry

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