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Saint Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal.
Between the crypt and dark magmatic rock
of the mountain’s flank, along a blue-domed hall
one hundred four feet long, I slowly walk.
Ex-votos hanging on the chapel wall—
canes and crutches—testify en bloc
to gratitude and grace. This same motif
repeats in eight imposing bas-reliefs.

Although I’ve come here many times to pray
for family and friends, to make a deal
with God—through Blessèd, Sainted, Frère André
Bessette—to write intentions down, to kneel
and kiss the relic, I am here today,
amid ten thousand candles, this surreal
disorienting ambience of grief
and hope, to test my limits of belief:

a candle for each of the twenty-six
gunned down at Sandy Hook. Each nascent flame,
fragile yet deadly, flickers on the wicks,
irresolute as doubt, yet hot as shame.
So as I watch the self-sustaining mix
burn down, I mourn, yet curse the waiting game
in Washington, the sad misguided thief
of time, the dates unbearable and brief.

—Catherine Chandler

Photo by Mathias Erhart via Creative Commons. Image cropped.