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Nicola Nathan: a poem

Nicola Nathan writes:

"Channuka", a Jewish festival which often falls in December, means "rededication". In 160 BC, the Jews, led by the Priest Mattathias and then Judah Maccabee, rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors, reclaiming the Second Temple. Legend has it that, though there was only enough oil to keep the candles on the menorah burning in the Temple for one day, by some miracle, they continued to burn for eight. Sometimes called "The Festival of Light" Channukah is celebrated by lighting the eight candles of the Channukiah, eating oily food, playing games and storytelling.

This year, Channuka begins on the evening of the 10th December, which is also Human Rights Day.

Prayer for Channuka 2020/5780

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home –

so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. [...]

Eleanor Roosevelt

That the sentimental audience leaves.

That Channuka's muted otherness

(soft voices in a candle-lit room)

is heard under the siege and surge of tinsel-Christmas.

That it comes not as secret fear or rage

but as the mid-winter song of a woman,

whose children have gone, turning back

to the sudden fierceness of a maiden self.

Nicola Nathan has a degree in English Literature from Oxford University and is both a qualified solicitor and English teacher. Her poems have been published in magazines including Poetry London, The Edinburgh Review, Ambit, Agenda, Wild Court and The High Window. Her pamphlet, Tiny, was published by The Next Review in 2016. Original monologues (co-written with David Harsent) were performed at Chancellors Hall, Senate House, in February 2020, for an event celebrating the musical commissions of patron of the arts, Winaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac. (1865 –1943.) Poems from her sequence, Hekate, were broadcast as part of the Bitesize Prom series in August 2020.

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