poetry, prose, and everything in-between

Letter to Chandelier


Dear Right-Side Chapel Chandelier,

Six floating balls of light. My eyes adjust to your muted brilliance and a slender body suspended by a thick chain comes into focus. A soft shadow hugs the underside of each sturdy branch unfurled from your rounded and simply adorned body. The lip of an erect blossom securely holds your floating candelabra to its chain.

You were here the first moment I came into the chapel. Red new flats. Step. pain. Step. pain. I was nervous. It was the night of matriculation of my prep year. I was new but you, this chapel, these grounds were not.

We filed into chapel pews with faded blue velvet cushions. Faces I did not know flocked the sides, chattering, cheering, at ease in this space. Drum. Drum. My foot steadily beats against the hardwood floor, a nervous habit I have still not yet broken. Your branches seem slender in comparison to your chain. A strong hand clasps my knee, settling my thumping foot. Embarrassed and grateful, I turned with a small smile to my peer. Each of your candles are thick, sturdy and dependable. You hold an air of practicality. Four years later, this peer and I are still friends. His large hands are still calm and steady. Applause. Another round of cheers explode around me. Another row of young preps stand up to take their place in line. My heart beats faster.  Are your candle stems wax? I cannot tell. They seem warmed by a yellow-brown glow. A wave of fear and excitement threatens to sweep me away. I look up to escape the swelling tide of the crowd’s energy. My glimpse of you calms me. Your shadow on the ceiling forms a faint X. An invisible plane perhaps just three feet below your almond-like point cuts off the swirling emotions rising off the crowd like late August heat. You exist suspended in a quivering silence, beyond the frenzied cheers and stamping of young men and women. You exist in a space where your dull brass has observed so much past, but is still present. I can only guess the history you hold.

Lightning flashes behind the window pane and the soft rumble of thunder breaks the enveloping silence in which I contemplate you.

It is odd what we notice. Although, I have looked at you many times, only recently havedid I come to see you. Senior induction night, I find myself in the same right-hand front pew I sat in during matriculation, and my class presidents stand before me. “Leadership” echoes off the suspended space of air you inhabit. My gaze floats upwards to rest on your six distinctive bulbs. Each branch that holds up one of your steady candles is ordained with expressive thorns.  A singular cobweb finds home in between your branch and body. A realization jarrs me: you have witnessed me here in this same place four years ago. Our headmasters sagely voice escapes into my conscious, “le trimestre est presque terminé.” In a blur my, four years slip out before me:, my favorite classes, conversations with peers, long walks in the woods, and the slow transforming of my soul into something beautiful and complicated. Even in this space, the chapel, which has always seemed so inconsequential to me, has housed my Hotchkiss memories: signing my name into the matriculation book, cheering on peers doing the same, listening to my friends and teachers’ share wisdom in chapel talks, singing at lessons and carols, and passing my flame on in one of the most mesmerizing holiday rituals I have experienced.

You have witnessed this whole transformation and appear just as you did the night of matriculation, dutifully suspended. Light catches you, and you appear to be made of different metals: gold flake and the charcoal bottom of a burnt pan. Your dim reflections catch the blur of my many Hotchkiss experiences, distorting them into both minutes and eternity.

However, I am not the only one whose dust coats your branch tips and fills your wax plates. I know you have been here long before me and you will endure past me. I can’t help but hope though that you believe me to have grown. My time in this sacred place is dwindling down, and I wonder if you will remember me. How will this place remember me? My dust may not have altered your outward appearance, but my tremulations have contributed to your ether.

I have added to your intricate and expansive interval of time. However, in you, I have not included anything of my legacy, that will be remembered elsewhere by those who did not really see me. In you, I hope to add my experience of living. The shifting blurs of so many reflected lives are what give you the tranquility, beauty, and mystery which will guide the next curious prep. May you house these loved, raw memories and lead well.

With affection,
Alisa Ghura ‘19
The Hotchkiss School