Winning Writers subscriber Helen Leslie Sokolsky has just released a new poetry collection, When We Had Orchards When We Had Moonbeams. I favorably reviewed her earlier book Two Sides of a Ticket on this blog a few years ago. Helen has kindly allowed me to share a poem from her new book below. She says, “It was written for a dear friend of mine, an Auschwitz survivor. She and her two sisters were in the camps and her love of life for all the years I knew her was an inspiration to so many of us. Regina loved literature and poetry. That poem was on her night table when she died in her apartment a year ago last June. I was told by her neighbor next door that she had asked to hear it read shortly before she passed away.”
In the Company of Books
I sit on the other side of the table reading to her
she grasping the pages in a long good-bye
she who for so long has struggled to hold back an endless night.
Now with light beginning to abandon her as shadows move into her lens
she reaches for my hands to guide her back to a familiar landscape
that hallowed place she has created
a pyramid of nested books, many of them shelved in weathered jackets.
I look at myself in the lens of her glasses, featureless
trying to imagine what it is like in that sea of darkness
and continue reading to her believing in the power of language
letting the music of words flow into her hands
which she cups as if they were scattered butterflies.
Outside the window birdsong trill their scales across the field
the wind chases in and out of sycamore branches
like a cloud reshaping itself sounds become the new vista.
I pause for a moment, let that moment rest on my lap
nothing moves but my hand across the page.
Here in the company of books we share I keep turning the pages
applaud a smile that slides across her face
when she tilts her head to listen and inhale
the crickets just beginning their nightly crescendo
a welcome background chorus.
Sounds continue to magnify within her lens
leaving behind a filtered beam of light
as if someone had just lit a candle for her.
I have read this heart-rending beautiful poem several times and just love it. Thank you so much for creating a poem with its underlying theme of we must never forget. I knew several refugees in Hampstead who had fled the Nazis – painters and writers and photographers – all had to recreate themselves and their lives, thereby contributing so much to British culture.