Principle 2: Catch & Store Energy

by Nicole Hatfield


A man in my family once threw a litter of kittens
into a burning fire. I imagine the kittens 
mewling for milk—
for something else this man could not give. 

The prayer candle in my house only burns 
on the days that mark someone’s death. 
The dry smell sticks to the throat 
like soot to cheap wax. 
It’s usually my mother who lights it, she’s good 
at reminding us of our mortality. 
A faded icon wraps itself around the candle’s face, 
who was once the Virgin Mary 
and sometimes I can make out the smudged blue 
of a woman born from purity and sky.   

When I was young enough to still wear white tights
but old enough to know what hell is,
I used to blow out the candles 
in our church because it felt good. 
To lean over their small flames and believe 
my breath could anger the heavens,
I felt godly, like I was tasting 
the flame of something stolen.

back to University & College Poetry Prizes