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  4. Hanukkah by Hilda Morley

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This season for us, the Jews—
a season of candles,
                                      one more
on the seven-branched candlestick for
the seven days of the week,
                                                  but let it be seven
in the sense of luck in dice,
                                          seven of the stars in
the constellations:
                                  Orion, Aldebaran in the sky
over Jerusalem
                               Let the fuel
last the besieged       such as we are,
                                                             to nourish
        Let the oil continue
for heat, for illumination,
                                                flame crouching
in the lamp,
                      the glass smoky
                                                   (December upon us)
the light not fail.
                               The air has been mild
for days—
                  & the 7 rings through my life
despite the 8 of this week—
in the doorway of 7 Charles where I lived, 51,
crackle with dryness,
                                         are bare still.
That house with the lucky
number brought me luck & misluck, both,
                                                                        like the other
that added to 7, out of 4 & 3,
                                                    that seven
underlying the eight of this week,
the 8 just over, the 7 just under
a third of the years with Stefan:
                                                          I praise them
both today—
                        the lasting oil
in the seven-branched candlestick:
of all fear—the smallest
drop of fuel enough to leap from.

new york, 1973

Hilda Morley, "Hanukkah " from To Hold in My Hand: Selected Poems, 1955-1983. Copyright © 1983 by Hilda Morley.  Reprinted by permission of The Sheep Meadow Press.
Source: To Hold in My Hand: Selected Poems, 1955-1983 (The Sheep Meadow Press, 1983)
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  • "It is a shameful comment on our present-day literary situation that Hilda Morley's work has been largely neglected, that a great deal of it has gone unpublished, in spite of the author's productivity and her wide circle of acquaintance," declared Ralph J. Mills, Jr., in an issue of the literary journal Ironwood dedicated to Morley. Recognition for her poetic accomplishments came relatively late in life for Morley, according to Mills, although the poet had been penning verse since childhood. Until the 1970s, Morley's poetry could be found only in literary journals. More than one critic has lauded Morley's consistent body of work over the decades while questioning why her poems remained undiscovered for so long. "Morley manages to speak clearly and sparely of what is least sayable: the sense that we inhabit a living web, not as separate beings but as molecules of a larger and elastic whole," asserted Village...

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