Because One Hundred and Thirteen Generations

Music: Fugue in F Minor.
By Dimitri Shostakovich. Sequenced by J. Marques.


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Because one hundred and thirteen generations
Of Jews lit candles for eight days and prayed
(No doubt a miracle--flames in earthen jars),
Nor could they, spangled abroad like lonely stars,
Inter their music, or cull their recitations,
Each cantillated word is death delayed.

Some memories are miracles: the jars
Empty yet dancing with light, the generations
Touched also by fire, burning like distant stars,
History twinkling with their recitations
Lest words be forgotten and the future die. They prayed
On their way naked to the ovens; they prayed
Resting by Babylon's stagnant waters; they delayed
Reeling into memory's end, the earthen jars
Aflame with words, afire with recitations,
In words their mountains, their rivers, deserts, stars;
Nations flowing towards silence, the generations
Ebbing into darkness, with candles they delayed ...

Granted they seem strange. Their recitations
Are as alien as Aztec chants. The empty jars
Burning in the temple, the scattered stars
Returning eagerly each night. Whose prayers delayed
Interment in darkness? Which sunless soul prayed
Earnestly enough to light the stars?
Long has this love been borne by their generations.

Memories need candles. The recitations
Of children are like black meadows of fragrant stars
Mirroring the eyes of generations.

Eventually memories end: the sightless stars
Like coal dust blown across the darkness, the jars
Like unattended stones. God once delayed
Eight days the death of light. The people prayed.
Now night awaits the last of their recitations.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



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