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POST #254 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Tiny Israel (seen marked in red on the map below), the only democracy in the Middle East, is 74 today.

I wrote this poem, The Wailing Wall, on my very first visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. 

The Wailing Wall

A wall like any other wall

you might say.

Way above us in the cracks

the doves of peace are sleeping.

Look down and you will see

the scraps of paper,

messages left for God.

For this is no ordinary wall

and these are no ordinary people.

When you put your face

close to the wall,

it is warm

and smells of all those

who have stood here before

and done as you are doing.

For this is no ordinary wall

and these are no ordinary people.

By my side

a woman sobs and prays,

caressing the wall with her hands

like someone blind.

I stand a little lost.

How do you pray

if you’ve never prayed before?

The air is sweet

and scented and warm

and filled with the sound

of singing and sobbing.

Suddenly

I find myself crying.

For this is no ordinary wall

and these are no ordinary people.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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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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POST #249: FREEDOM

This evening – Friday 15th April – will be the beginning of Passover, when Jewish families all over the world will be sitting down to the Passover Seder.  Every year, the Passover story is told.   How we, the Jewish people, were once slaves in Egypt and are now free.

Jesus, who of course was Jewish – as were his disciples – was celebrating the Passover meal (Seder) at The Last Supper.

PASSOVER DITTY

When you’re celebrating Easter,

it’s Passover for me,

no bread or cake or biscuits,

just matzos for our tea!

We have to eat unleavened bread

that’s matzo don’t you know,

they’re rather tasty crackers

but for eight days it’s a blow.

We cannot bake with flour

so use substitutes instead,

coconut and ground almonds

because there isn’t any bread.

It’s the festival of freedom

when we fled Egypt long ago

but just as relevant today

with what’s going on you know!

If you would like to know about Passover, here’s an excellent link from the British Library: https://www.bl.uk/learning/cult/inside/goldhaggadahstories/goldenhagg.html

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

© Photo by Andrea Neidle

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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