Kayla Czaga

Harvest Moon Lantern Festival

We got lost by the salmon-shaped lantern school
watching roe bulbs hatch into tadpole matches
and arrive in a field of lantern wheat transfixed
by how they lit candles so small. A lantern
thought bubble above your head says maybe
we could hold hands inside your jacket pocket.

We follow the crowd following directions
on their lantern phones. Great horned owl lantern.
Lantern Hamlet lecturing his unlit skull. A bouquet
of carnations in lantern colours. A lantern your niece
made out of a soup can, three nails, and her feelings.

A lantern I just wrote. A woman plucks a harp
behind an illuminated nativity scene—which half
is the lantern? Two tweenage lanterns kissing.

An electric lantern shaped like nothing in itself
emits silhouettes of geese and sighs of mothers
disapproving recent piercings. Their lantern book
club has just uncorked another Malbec.

A man drizzling food colouring on a projector
is a sort of lonely man lantern growing cold
in a field of impatient children. Impatient
children in neon windbreakers are excellent
lanterns and continue burning past bedtime.

Lantern shaped like that ugly thing I said
at breakfast, quit looking at it. Lantern lime
as a hangover, crying into the garburator.
A lantern says, it’s your turn to do the dishes.
Another says, let’s leave them ‘til tomorrow.

Historical lantern figures we’ve looked up
at since childhood. You photograph me between
Gertrude and a flying pig. Little boat who brought
my dad to Canada—float on that ocean of light
a while longer, ferrying souls to safer shores.

Click-bait lantern and us crowded around waiting
for kittens and life-hacks to load. It’s too shiny
and aimed at us. I just want to carve a face
onto an orange vegetable with you, a big
crooked grin with three teeth, but I know
we’ll leave it to rot on the stoop until February.

There’s nothing like a lantern to make us guilty
for our many moods. There’s nothing like a lantern.
Even in the hail it sits in its same face. Even
when I say, you’re a real asshole, it glows.

It’s ok, you say, we’re just lanterns waiting
for a volunteer’s hands to place candles inside
then the crowd might huddle in our light.
Though we’re half-collapsed by the rain we’ll look
more human for it, our faces clumsily papered—
even though you’re a real asshole, you’ll glow.

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