In the Light of the Candles

candle flames melt down in a hanukkah menorah
In the light of the Hanukkah candles,
I see myself at age seven
holding the shamash with a shaky hand,
my turn to ignite the little flames
in our brass Hanukkiah.
I stay by the candles 
watching their rainbow colors
dancing in the front window’s reflection.
In my memory, there was always snow outside.
 
In the light of the candles,
I see my mother
inviting our school friends
to come over for latkes,
wrapping extra presents for everyone,
sending them home with little net bags of chocolate coins.
I see her hands,
younger and softer than my own are now,
scraping the wax off the menorah each night.
 
In the purple blue center of the flames,
I see my grandmothers,
their stories once again animated, alive–
their love for me pulsing,
their guidance, that I desperately need,
flows to me easily.
They say: We are here, darling, not far away.
 
In the light of the candles,
I may find my great-grandmothers, too:
Sara, who came to this country with her sisters and made a life;
Molly, who feared the Klan that marched through her town and died young;
Ethel, whose name was not that but a Yiddish version of it that no one knows,
who died in childbirth in the old country;
Olga, my heart, killed in Sobibor at the age that I am now.
I listen quietly to what they may say–
Love, whispers, pain.
In the light of the candles,
I catch their words in my hands,
transform them into this poem.
 
The Shekhinah dances, too,
in the candle flames.
the Great Mother,
holding us all–
mothers going back and forth in time.
Thank you for this portal, I say to her.
Thank you for this light,
for my blessings, for my life.
I tell her my hopes and wishes–
for my own dear children,
for the children suffering across this world.
 
In the light of the candles, I wait and listen.
The flames melt down to wax.
I scrape it away
with the hands of my mothers 
and theirs and theirs going back.
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