It’s important we
Every day a tree lives its dying.
Inside its vast shell, its cells transform
in the same moment its leaves are drinking up sun.
It doesn’t matter what form the season.
A firestorm can come along and even that cannot damage seed.
The trees may burn, the leaves curled to black ash,
while on the ground the husk will open by the air’s weight of storm
and the sky’s sulphuring heat.
A fire rages with fangs of an asp.
The ground is pulled, the trunk slab scored to charred form,
a generational dining table dug out,
the identifying marks of age torn and splintered,
the limbs of forest people ravaged like a helpless crying and reaching
to the blue pockets of clean space behind a black lined sky.
The seeds will spread, and, like a love-made blanket,
impregnate the dry smolder of silent fields.
The heat of fire bursts the husk and spreads out all the seed.
The fire comes. It rages. It storms. And still,
it cannot burn out a tree’s identity.
A fire cannot take a tree’s identity away.
It may take one hundred years for the forest to resuscitate to its original state,
and even then, a forest knows the subtle changes
of moving with its wandering exodus
Even in the rage of heat and drummed down trees,
the heat of life is never extinguished.
Memory is hardy spirit indivisible, and one with each cell.
A hardy shrub will stay rooted, another fly with the air
and take root in the memory of a piece of land somewhere else,
another incubate and flower into slow healing
in a different trajectory of time.
And so the books got burned an evil man-made night
and pages upon pages of a people’s culture and sanctimony in living
went up into flames.
The windows shattered,
the glass spread into the air
at the faces of people standing.
The haunting of the image stilled, and for all bearing witness
the liturgy of a people’s knowing would not char in the hollow swirl
of broken panes of spitting glass.
Any man-made silence cannot silence nor sever a soul.
A people’s alone-loneliness
became a resistant forest of togetherness in watch of the rising lamentation.
On that very night of muting and madness, in a distant headquarter,
the brute path to the Final Solution was chosen.
And yet, against the ravagers,
the fiery exterminatory of breaking glass
working to will all remnant, all memory,
willed itself instead
into a full-blown chorus of chosen witness,
thereby sealing the illimitability of life
over the brutality of fate.
With lightning speed, a shock bolted through the wave of the gathered people.
How does a forest know itself in the fire of unspeakable stillness?
Know thyself, and so they stood.
They stood as one desisting the taunts hurtling.
In countless years of blessed memory, the ash-blown pages sprouting
from a burning tree of knowledge
furled to unspoken heights above the lip of hellish-bent circles.
Each gathered memory as shards of unseemly sight, unseemly, smell, unseemly sound.
The gathering stood but not in a silence you can think.
They stood watch like a wiser herd listening for the memory
of the blueprint irrefutable carrying the way back home.
A fire remembers. A fire, some say, is hate gone mad.
A fire, another cultural life knows, is inverse love.
A fire is as much emotion as it is an event.
A forest fire cannot take the identity of that which is burned away.
A soul is life, and so is fire.
The silence forced upon a learned people that stormed night, it is said,
blew upwards into the open fields of sky like a trajectory of stars.
The glass cut, the air thickened,
the flames burst like ten thousand falls.
A fire can never stamp out the forest memory of reclamation.
The stars burning atop the flames
of all of a people’s gathered life, gathered knowledge,
onto the earth
in glitters of broken light,
and continued to do so over the course of many unspeakable days.
With renewed promise, a new language
making shape of raw crystals of collected memory
will slowly find its way back home.
A forest is a harbor of the secret of promise.
It understands intuitively what it means to plant a life beyond the dark,
above the ashes, and save all souls.
The bleat of togetherness called
in those millions upon millions of broken stars an anthem
and the many,
before a timeless outstretching,
became one soul.
The glass cut, the books blackened,
the hearts rose with the flames.
The glass cut, the mouths that give speech
splintered, the books in rising chimneys
blackened to bare traces of indecipherable bone
and this you will not remember,
but remember it we forest will.
A simple video of Holocaust survivors singing a song about “Life”
קולולם עושים את יום השואה עם השיר “חי” של עופרה חזה– YouTube
…The pillar of fire still rises
and I’ll sing on and on / I’ll reach out / To friends across the sea…
Photography by Marina Mashaal
This poem was previously published as a prose piece in the Passover Literary Edition of The Canadian Jewish News.