Poem: “The Candle Critic”

Been too long.  I owe you folks one.  Yes, I’ve been quite prolific here, btw.

The Candle Critic

I used to collect candles
all shapes, all sizes
it didn’t matter
as long as they were beautiful

I would take them home
arrange them just so
on the polished pine shelves
lining my private study

One day
a graybeard spied me
my arms full
with their accustomed load
of wrapped brown packages

Looking me up and down
he spat at my feet
grabbed my expensive purchases
and threw them into the gutter

"You fool," said he
A candle unburnt
is worse than useless
for they give you nothing
in exchange
for the space they occupy"

"But they are beautiful,"
I protested.  "See the colors,
the lovely shapes
the cunning craftsmanship
of the candlemaker’s art."

"Burn your candles, I say
but burn them well
for otherwise one day
your study will be full
of frozen waxworks
and you will have
become just like them

"Burn those candles," he abjured
"Keep the wicks well-trimmed
and the fresh breeze neither too much
nor too little

"If the wax tends to run
consider the discipline
of a brass ring
but the best candles
do not need such

"Most candles still
drown themselves eventually
in their own spilled wax

"Rare and sublime it is
to experience the candle
that achieves the perfection
the flame consuming
wax and wick
in equal measure
so that both run out
in precisely the same instant
leaving for a single eyeblink
nothing but the flame
and then it too is gone
            pfft!"

The graybeard kissed his fingers
and made a gesture of dismissal
nodding to my now
gutter-dampened heap
of wrapped candles
some now undoubtedly broken
"Take those home, put them
with the rest of your collection
and light them all
See what happens."

– Becca Morn, September 2006

About Becca

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10 Responses to Poem: “The Candle Critic”

  1. Racer says:

    Would not it be nice, if the guy looked carefully each of the candle, taken out the bad ones and replaced with better quality longer burning candles?

    I would like to think that life is like ‘an oil lamp’ where you burn with the same flame and you or other loved ones can add more oil to it every few hours.

    As I heard somewhere, there will be 9 critics for every supporter, listen to the critics, correct if you can but never be dependent on them… we can depend on that one supporter… right?

    We have no control over time, age, health, parents, the birthplace etc. …

    Cheers

  2. Becca says:

    Ah, but there are no ‘bad’ candles my friend.

    It’s all in how they are used. Or not used, as was the point here.

    Look to the deeper meanings…and know that we poets love our metaphors.

    cheers,
    Becca

  3. Racer says:

    I meant’bad’ candles from the graybeard man point of view…

    I did not quite get the message but the poem does bring a vivid picture when I read it..

    It seems like the graybeard (some senior fellow) did not like your new purchase, threw it in gutter, dismised your idea of beautiful candles and left you with some broken candles… he criticized you for wasteful purchase and you are sorry that he did not see your point of view… but she did not fight back… she just took the critic but tried to live the life like
    “Rare and sublime it is
    to experience the candle
    that achieves the perfection
    the flame consuming
    wax and wick
    in equal measure
    so that both run out
    in precisely the same instant”

    Is the message she is trying to say is that “Live your life like a perfect candle where both wax and wick run out at the same time”?

    Let me know,
    Thanks.

  4. Racer says:

    I meant’bad’ candles from the graybeard man point of view…

    I did not quite get the message but the poem does bring a vivid picture when I read it..

    It seems like the graybeard (some senior fellow) did not like her new purchase, threw it in gutter, dismised her idea of beautiful candles and left her with some broken candles… he criticized her for wasteful purchase and she is sorry that he did not see your point of view… but she did not fight back… she just took the critic but tried to live the life like
    “Rare and sublime it is
    to experience the candle
    that achieves the perfection
    the flame consuming
    wax and wick
    in equal measure
    so that both run out
    in precisely the same instant”

    Is the message she is trying to say is
    “Live your life like a perfect candle where both wax and wick run out at the same time”?

    Let me know,
    Thanks.

  5. Becca says:

    You’re still thinking too literally, dear Racer.

    The whole thing is a metaphor. Ignore the context — they are merely pretty words, like pretty paper in which the real treasure-gift is wrapped.

    I will offer two hints that basically give it all away:
    Wax = time
    Flame = consciousness/spirit

    -Becca

  6. Racer says:

    OK.. Let me read the poem again and again (twice).

    Assume that the graybeard man is not a bad guy but a priest like figure..

    Then the message I hear is “Even though how beautifully you take care of yourself and your life, it will be a waste unless you burn your body through some constant struggles and Karma and let your spirit high. Do your Karma like a perfect lighted candle, keep your both body and spirit in sync and high and see where life takes you. Sometime you might get drowned, but sometime you could just leave a flame behind…”

    The ‘brass ring’ refers to some kind of commitment but it is not needed if you live your life in good spirit…”

    I like the metaphors and the way you play with the words. Initially I was looking for some kind of anger and complain in your poetry, then some message but the more often I read the poem, the more I see sweetness…

    On the right track, now? :)
    Thanks,
    Racer

  7. Becca says:

    I’d say you pretty much nailed it.

    Think of an unburned candle as a human life unlived, the wax as time. The flame is our consciousness/soul.

    The brass ring? A stricture of discipline. (In other words, some souls need extra discipline — like living in a monastery — to keep from wasting wax (time); many do not.)

    But you got the fragrance of it. I’m glad you see the sweetness.

  8. Racer says:

    Yaaahhh… finally!

    Beautiful poem… keep them coming please. I heard, the poet’s mind thinks about a new poetry for a long-time, keeps thinking about the words and feelings for a while and also is careful how to express not just the message but the feelings, punchline and ‘alankaar’. Just wondering when did u start thinking about it and what inspired you.

    With thanks and best regards,
    Racer

  9. thepoetryman says:

    Racer,
    “We have no control over time, age, health, parents, the birthplace etc.”

    I will have to disagree.

    We can have control over the end, not if we die of old age, even then, however, we factor in largley our demise, but I mean we may choose to end our life or someone elses. Sad, but true.

    I do however get your point.

    Birthplace certainly is correct which is why I find patriotism to be so repugnant.

    Peace.

    Becca, hope all is well, my friend.

  10. Racer says:

    Hi thePoetryman,

    You mean to say we have control over the age? Ya, we could take care of our physical health and wish to extend out lifespan; the environment and lifestyle could extend our life but I would still think that in general we do not have control over the aging of our body. The message I was trying to send was “Do not worry about the things we do not have control over.” I know it is easy to say but hard to do.

    Peace.