A Comparison of A Candlelight to a Child's LIfe

The austerity of slavery is shown in this captivating take on black America through subtle components of symbolism.


1. A Comparison of a Candlelight to a Child's Life

Warmth radiates from the small, illuminating candle that rests inches from my pale face. My eyes focus on the large bud of light, watching the fire fluctuate from one side to another with no recognizable order. I control my breathing as to not accidentally put out the sole source of light. My attempts to limit the airflow through my excitable lungs prove to be unsuccessful. In retrospect, I should have known taking the reins on a bodily aspect that excels on its own would be nearly impossible. The candlelight is diminished, almost to extinction. The fire of the candle is now much smaller, but dances faster than it had before. The meager fire continuously shifts without rest, as a child would throughout the hours of even the longest of days. The light grows significantly weaker as the wick of the candle deteriorates at an intemperate pace.  

Before my merciless breath can extinguish the still wavering fire, I hear the faint, yet recognizable cough of my youngest child. My moderately separated lips close together without pause, without the slightest interruption. My ears extend, as if poised to listen for any indication of more air expelled from the child’s lungs. And when my child coughs again, I hear it. I coerce my unwilling legs to rise from the ground, giving break to my hardened knees. Rising slowly, I train my tired eyes on the candlelight, still not prepared to watch it extinguish. My child is only feet away. He is asleep, yet disturbed by the unidentified invader of his body. I turn from the candle, and turn from my responsibility to keep it lit. Without me, it does continue to flourish.

My callused feet drag me across the splintered floor, carefully and eagerly. One foot, perhaps the least dominant of the two, grabs onto an indentation on the floor, hurling me forward. A sharp, resonant sound comes from the floor below me. My faithful hands catch me, and I am now in a position of vulnerability. I am not permanently injured from this endeavor, but my knees again do not appreciate the impact. A man whose name I do not know mumbles for me to be quiet. He is not completely awake, only using his mind to shut off the sounds that may eventually wake him. I hear the man resituate in his bed, giving me the cue to continue moving. My arms push off the hard ground, sending me into an upright position. I now allow my knees rest from the floor as I stand. My nimble legs adjust, and I continue my venture across the scarcely lit room.

Reaching a point of almost complete darkness, I kneel. The candle from across the room is keeping a steady size, although not large enough to give light to the area I now find myself in. My hands take the job that my eyes constantly struggle with, guiding me. I feel across from me a bed, low to the ground. I know from routine that this is the bed where I sleep with my children. On the end lay a boy who was the last of them to be born. A boy whose father is almost of a different species of my own. Continuing to kneel on the floor, ignoring the pain in my legs that never ceases, I place my hand on the bed. Thick strands of straw intertwine with my used fingers.

Closing my eyes and accepting darkness, I am able to recall vivid memories of the origin of the makeup of these beds. Created by my own hand, but not of my own will. Opening my eyes, I realize how little light enters my pupils, and strain to take in what little of it there is. The bud of the candle is so small it could have been mistaken for completely diminished. My hand pulls away from the straw and finds the brow of my child. The chill resonating in the skin of my hand is extinguished as warmth welcomes itself from his febrile head. I slide my hand to his bare back, feeling the marks left by the devil dressed in white. My cheeks dampen as I hold my youngest child. I feel as if I am protecting him in this time, but I am not. It is not easy to shield a young boy from the exterior perils in life and from circumstances such as enslavement.

His breaths are prolonged, but never without breakage. This is only supplemented by the bouts of shivering caused by the environment he wishes to escape; he cannot escape. I hold him the best a mother can, hoping to prove to him the love I hold in my soul and in my heart. I sing to him without pause or forgetfulness of a single refrain. The words become tangible and relevant to every aspect of my life, and in that sense, every aspect of my child’s. I desire to gaze upon his face, now that he seems innocent with shut eyes. Awake, my young child reflects maturity and pain in the two eyes that rest in the structure of his face. Looking away from the darkness that envelops my boy, I notice the fire can now not even be considered a fire. It is but a small ember, struggling to keep alive in the wax that forces it down with every attempt at rekindling. As this candle sends me into a complete state of darkness, I sing to my boy once more, sending him into the kingdom of God. 

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