Saturday, 11 January 2014

A again - Answering that of God - Anne Frank's House (poem)

Anne Frank’s House

When he came back from the camp, he asked
that the rooms remain bare, for lives
cannot be recreated, though the eye
searches for familiar patterns,
though the heart would remain heavy
at the final incompleteness
of it all. And she, the daughter,
learning to live behind drawn curtains,
would, no doubt, have wondered
why so many people from so many countries
would come to see how she and her family
almost lived here, fearful, not knowing.

In the cool of a November morning,
early to beat the crowds, we entered,
dutifully read the exhibition notices,
the reconstruction of diary excerpts,
the half-bidden, half-hidden comments
of one slowly learning what the world can offer:
emptiness and echoing stairs,
false partitions and curtains closed.
The bells of the Westerkerk still beat out the night,
like drums at a funeral procession along the canals.

And so, according to instructions, the rooms
are kept clear and the curtains kept drawn.

It is the visitor who brings the light and the darkness,
the hopes, seasons, moonlight and sunlight,
to this hidden place, this closed up sanctuary,
where, in an untrammelled mind, a god
takes the shape of trees, blossoming with silence,
takes the form of continents still to discover.

Now we can draw the curtains. Light pours in.
We can open the doors. We can watch the leaves falling.
We can witness to years. We can greet
the bells tolling, tolling. We can hear,
without cowering, the prayer for the dead,
for those who returned, for the many who visit,
for those of us who bear in our hearts
the leaves, fallen, falling and yet to fall,
those hiding still behind the  curtains of the mind,
drawn against the dawn, afraid of the sunlight.

Harvey Gillman


Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Another Quaker commitment?

Will you join the Quaker alphabet blog project? she asked. A hesitation in my mind.  What does this mean? As I get older I get more possessive of my time.  I have already refused to join one of the many of Brighton's philosophical/cultural/arty talk shops, because I have spent too much of my life talking and going round in circles and ending up further back on the circumference than when I began. So another project?  I sit lightly nowadays with labels and here I am with a Quaker label.  When I was young I had to wear a hat to keep my head covered - that's what orthodox Jews did.  Now I hate wearing hats. And I have no desire to wear the Quaker broad-brim. Still I'll give it a try. Keep the mind open - old men should remain explorers. What on earth will begin with A. Activism? Apathy? Antediluvian speculation on the nature of divinity.  Well, let's see.