It Kept Burning

A silver menorah in the shape of a tree sits in a darkened room with all the holders filled with lit candles that are nearly burned to the end.

A Chanukah poem

It doesn’t in the end matter
what the Maccabees were fighting
What matters is that
when they took
war-weary backs
and shoulders
to the task of cleaning
the temple
scrubbing at the stains
and flushing out the filth
because it kept their
eyes off the ghosts
in the corners
and dulled the buzzing of the
gnat cloud of death cries
in their hair,
keeping hands busy so
they would not speak
to each other of their
memories of parting flesh
from bone,
they got to the sacred light
and there wasn’t enough
oil to keep it burning
and that was almost
too much.
No, it was too much.
And I don’t know from
fighting a guerrilla war
from the hills
but I know the special
way that gravity
pulls on that last straw
like a half-mad lover
until it weighs twice the
camel itself and
tell me
who doesn’t fall to
their knees
under that?
And the miracle
should have been
that someone put their arm
around them and said it doesn’t
matter if the light goes out
for a while
because, see, windows
and sky and starting again
and divine kindness
and besides, look, an extra bottle
of oil hidden behind a
secret loose stone
But this story is realistic
not a fairy tale
and so the miracle
was that it kept burning
just like you
finding fuel where there wasn’t any
because there were children
because symbolism mattered
because it only needed to be
and after all the impossible that
came before
you could hardly quit now

copyright 2013

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