Ancient starlight dots the elder darkness.

In unlit rooms, we light the tall, tapered candles

passed down from our grandmothers –

mementoes, perhaps, of corsaged occasions,

wrapped in yellowed tissue paper

and warped by untold summers.

We lie down, preoccupied,

among the tremble-cast shadows,

and hold one another,

or else ourselves,

in the moth-eaten blankets of our birthright.

Dawn seems inevitable.

It is not.

The forecasted first-light is still raw hydrogen in the sun,

and we have some fraction of a radian yet to turn

before the horizon can be overrun.

To some celestial witness,

I am now four years old.

Or I am twenty-six.

Or my parents are young and perhaps even beautiful,

smiling nervously at one another

because they think they are in love.

My mother thinks so, at least.

Or my grandmother is attending a community dance

with a young man she believes she will marry.

He pins a yellow carnation on her black dress.

They pose for a photograph together.

My grandfather is shivering in the tail turret of a PB4Y-2

somewhere over Newfoundland or Nova Scotia.

Or my great-grandmother is fitfully sleeping,

confined to a nursing home bed with late-stage Alzheimer’s

as a caretaker steals her wedding ring from her finger.

The caretaker, too, is four years old somewhere.

To the universe,

that great, vacuous megacosm outside of ourselves,

we are not

what we are,

but rather,

all that we could be

or could have been.

We are some raw, un-inevitable mystery yet unrevealed to the stars.

May the meager light of our candles overrun their horizons.