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THIS CANDLE

Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day. I did not want to let it pass without some kind of acknowledgement from me. So in the early hours of yesterday morning I wrote a new poem. Here it is.

THIS CANDLE

This candle I light because we are without power. I nurse our new born son in the dark. 

This candle I light because it is a birthday. Make a secret wish. Don’t tell a soul or else it won’t come true. 

This candle I light just for fun. And because I like its fragrance.

This candle I light for romance. Candlelight is flattering in the dark. 

This candle I light in a student bedsit and listen to the gravelly voice of Bob Dylan for the very first time.

This candle I light in a village church asking for prayers for someone gravely ill. I’ve never done this before. 

This candle I light is a centre piece at our first born’s wedding feast.

This candle I light at the opera in Verona. A giant amphitheatre lit by a thousand candles glowing in the dark. 

This candle I light to light all the other candles on the eight branched Chanukah menorah that belonged to my mother.

This candle I light to welcome in the Sabbath. We break bread, drink wine and count our blessings.

This candle I light in memory of a loved one on the anniversary of their passing.

This candle I light for the dead souls of Ukraine. May their memory be a blessing.

This candle I light is a symbol of love and peace and hope and grief and remembrance.

This candle I light as a Memorial for the 6 million men, women and children who were murdered in the Holocaust just for being Jewish. This candle I light tonight. 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

© Photo – StandWithUs

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51 YEARS

Sadly, not my age but the number of years OH (other half) and I have been married. Today is our wedding anniversary.

We met on the day of the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race in 1969. Ever romantic, we became engaged on Valentine’s Day, 1970 and wed on the 25th April, 1971. A lifetime ago.

Some months before my wedding my mother showed me the headband she had worn when she had married my dad, way back on 15th June, 1936. She had kept it all those years hoping that, in the future, her daughter would wear it on her wedding day.

The headband looked stunning in my mother’s wedding photo. As did she. But now, sadly, it had rusted and could no longer be worn. Instead, my mother contacted her niece, Irene, in Chicago and recounted the story. Irene was going to be coming to my wedding and brought with her the headband her daughter (also called Andrea) had worn for her wedding day. My cousin Andrea (hello Andi!) and I have been in touch through airmail and email since we were thirteen. She is like the sister I never had – albeit nearly 4000 miles away.

Our wedding, true to Jewish tradition, was held under a Chuppah (a wedding canopy) in a London Synagogue. Afterwards, my dad, so happy and excited, rushed to be the first to kiss the bride. And, in so doing, dislodged my headband so it became wonky!

Last week my writers’ group (watfordwriters.org) held a poetry competition. The idea was to write a poem on the theme of The Ornament. After some thought, I came up with the idea of writing about that day when my mother had showed me the headband she had worn at her wedding.

Here is the poem. Do let me know what you think of it in the comment box below.

The bridal headband    

My mum unwrapped
the yellowed tissue paper
Here it is, she said
I kept it for you 
There it was
A band of pearls
and silken flowers
with a hint of gold
She picked it up
Oh so gently
in her careworn hands
and held it out to me
Pearls dropped on to the carpet
one by one
and rolled away.
I kept it for you, she said
For your wedding day
I was crying softly
Mum, it’s broken
I know, she said sadly
But keep it as a token. 

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

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WHO REMEMBERS BRIAN JONES?

The 1960s was a fabulous time to be growing up. Student revolution, flower power, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Spurs winning the ‘Double’.

And with the death of  President Kennedy, his brother Robert, Martin Luther King, Marilyn Monroe and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, a time ripe for poetry.

This poem, written shortly after the death of Brian Jones, was published in the poetry magazine, Enigma. I also sent it to the radio  DJ John Peel. I still have the postcard he sent me with his reply.

To Brian Jones

I dreamed your death

before it was conceived

Acid on your mind

Held your hand

limp and flaccid

skin upon skin

whites of eyes staring.

Acid on your mind

stopped your ears with chlorine

feet twitching

in a mad dance of death.

The watcher turns his back

A generation weeps

And I who never wept or cried

I will not dream again.

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

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THE POWER OF POETRY

With everything else going on in the world, I somehow managed to miss International Poetry Day on 21st March.

I feel I should be saying or writing something profound.

I don’t have a new poem to offer you. But some interesting news.

It seems that people who have dementia respond to poetry – sometimes with just a smile or a flicker of recognition. Sometimes even joining in with the words.

This does not surprise me. Those of us who learned poems as kids can often still recite them – even when we can’t remember the title of the book we last read – or even what we had for dinner the night before!

I  remember how at our daughter’s wedding ceremony we were all moved to tears when my son-in-law’s grandfather, who had dementia, seemed to respond to the familiar words and melodies. I had also seen it when prayers were said in the synagogue at his nursing home. Elderly people – many of them with dementia – joining in with the songs and the familiar prayers. Sometimes mouthing the words or even saying them out loud.  It was amazing to see.

So yes, there is power in poetry, prayer and music. To these things that we all hold inside us.

When it’s my turn, I want Robert Louis Stevenson,  Wilfred Owen, Leonard Cohen and also to hear the cherished voices of my own children and grandchildren.

So, to celebrate National Poetry Day, let’s all learn a poem by heart today – and tell it to our children tomorrow.

Here’s an easy one to remember from Robert Louis Stevenson:

The world is so full of a number of things

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Or how about this one – from me.

Poems are very hard to write

I think about them in the night

I wish that I had time to play

Then I’d write poems in the day!

Happy National Poetry Day everyone!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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HAS OUR WORLD CHANGED?

“It’s a Wonderful World”, sang Louis Armstrong. I’m not so sure that’s true any more.

Yesterday I came across this poem. I wrote it just over two years ago, at the start of the pandemic.

Reading it again, I felt that this poem could equally well have been written about Ukraine.

What do you think?

Empty

The birds are still singing

No one has told them

No one has told them

Our world has changed.

The sky is still blue

The sun is still shining

But where are the people

Our world’s rearranged.

The flowers are budding

The willows are weeping

Weeping for us

And a world that has gone.

 Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST 243# – SAFE

I wrote this poem just a few days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It is what is known as a specular or mirror poem. You will see what I mean when you reach the last line.

SAFE

I am safe

I am in the bath

Outside it is not safe

Fierce winds are tearing down the trees

People must not drive

They say

Stay indoors

There is a red weather warning

A storm is raging outside

A pandemic is surging throughout the world

Putin might invade Ukraine

At any moment

I am in the bath

I am safe

Now read the poem again from the bottom line to the top.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems