December, 1938

and my grandparents

give their yearly party

at the church where

my grandfather is janitor.

Everyone comes to honor

Lucia, strange saint

for Swedes, virgin & martyr

of Syracuse, whose fiancé

denounced her

when she became a Christian

ordered boiling oil

and burning pitch

poured over her

stubborn head,

but on this night

I am 10,

know nothing

of that other Lucia,

know only I

get to put on the long white choir robe

tied with red satin sash,

get to wear the crown of candles

that remind everyone

of the light she brought

when she appeared

to Swedish peasants

during a famine.

I am afraid

as Grandma lights

the candles

in the crown on my head,

that the flames

will catch my hair on fire,

but I walk in slowly

head held straight,

carrying a tray of lussekatter

and deliver pieces of the bread

to all the Swedes

gathered in Gloria Dei Lutheran Church

that long-ago December night

just before the world

burst into flames.