Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What Light Fell Then Burned After (Poem)

Gerhard Richter, Candle, 1982
Oil on Canvas, 100 cm x 100 cm
Catalogue Raisonne 511-3
Collection Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany
© Gerhard Richter

What Light Fell Then Burned After

Dust is not illuminated
in a single candle's light.

So you who see
the ghosts light four

till there is light
enough in your absence

for your children
and your children's children

to light their own, one
candle more in answer

to the shofar, breath
bound with perfect faith,

those six million looking
up before eastward to Zion.

What light fell then
burned long after their star

was gone. Our hearts bend,
stilled, and He is silent.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas

I was privileged to attend on Sunday, April 22, Yom Ha'Shoah, Northern Virginia's 2012 Holocaust Observance. Much about the event stays with me. . . the sounding of the shofar, the voice of the cantor and choir singing "Yesh Kochavim" ("There Are Stars")* and "Even When God Is Silent", the reading of stories of those forced into slave labor and of the acts of the Righteous. What moved me especially was the presence of 17 Holocaust survivors who participated in the lighting of candles (each candle representing one million Jews who died in the Holocaust). After lighting candles one through four, the children of other survivors or survivors' grandchildren lit the fifth candle, while honored guests gathered to light the sixth. My poem comes from watching that ceremony of remembrance, the heavy rain that afternoon like so many continually falling tears.

* My lines "What light fell then / burned long after their star / was gone" are a variation on these lines from "Yes Kochavim": "There are stars up above so far away we only see their light / Long, long after the start itself is gone."

Audio Recording of My Poem


Glynn said...

Beautiful, Maureen - and it's soemthing to create beauty from an evil event in an evil time. And that Richter painting - like a photograph.

Cindy Brown said...

Well, nice to hear your voice, Maureen! Also, I'm sure the event was something you will never forget. My children are learning about the Holocaust in school right now and my youngest comes home with such sad concern in her eyes when she shares the stories. "Did that really happen?" she asks. Yes, unfortunately, it did.

S. Etole said...

Powerfully moving. And yes, I thought the painting was a photograph when I first saw it.

Louise Gallagher said...

Stunning and heartbraking and inspiring.

You are amazing.

Jenne' R. Andrews said...

The compassion and empathy at the heart of your work drives such beautiful imagery, Maureen, and elevates your lines to song. Lovely, saddening, important...xxxj

Kathleen said...

The poem and your account are very moving. Thank you.

the sad red earth said...


"What light fell then
burned long after their star

was gone."

Beautiful. I hear Emily Dickinson.

I, too, first took the painting for a photo.

Cindy Brown, a child asking "Did that really happen" is about as poignant and powerful a statement as can be made.

Joe Hesch said...

Stunning, Maureen, stark yet full of heart and spirit. The painting is a good match for the poetry. Thank you! ~ j

Brian Miller said...

wow. i bet that was a powerful ceremony...having gone to the holocaust museum this year it carries a startling clarity...and even when god is silent a heavy back beat...

KatieC said...

Maureen, your poetry is always so nice to read!

Anonymous said...

Poignant and unforgettable.I enjoyed this tribute so much.I read :Exodus" when I was about 16 years old, and was forever changed.Terrific.

hedgewitch said...

Simply beautiful, Maureen. One feels the candle is alive, shining as well as burning for all who need the light.

Patricia said...

We are dust, but these will not be forgotten... their light will shine. It must have been an amazing ceremony. I am deeply moved by this and thank you for reading it to us. A gift.

Anonymous said...

You have certainly conveyed the spirit of the occasion and its weight. I love your formatting, allowing each word enough space.

Maureen said...

The SoundCloud site is down this morning (Wednesday) so please come back to hear the audio. Thank you!

Mystic_Mom said...

Maureen you've captured this so well...very moving.

Beachanny said...

The painting and your poem illuminates how precious life is, how terrible life can be treated, and the dangers of living in the dark. THe answer is to know, learn, rid the world of prejudice - each of us should light "one little candle" in remembrance. An emotional experience for me, Maureen.

Unknown said...

This is really beautiful, a hauntingly beautiful tribute to those who died and to the tradition that never forgets their suffering. This is so powerful on numerous levels, for me the clarity with which you say such words, like light cutting through so much darkness.

Semaphore said...

We nust take care never to forget, or we will be doomed to repeat history again. This is most especially true now, as the numbers of those who have survived the horror, or those who have firsthand memories of the Holocaust, begin to dwindle. Your words are one more brick in that edifice of remembrance.

Lyla Lindquist said...

Beautiful, Maureen.