Poem for a Tuesday — “Rushing at Times Like Flames” by Nelly Sachs
“Rushing at times
like flames through our bodies —
as if they were still woven with the beginning
of the stars.
How slowly we flash up in clarity —
Oh, after how many lightyears have our hands
folded in supplication —
our knees bent —
and our souls opened
— in Women in Praise of the Sacred, ed. Jane Hirshfield. New York: Harper Collins, 1994, p. 222.
Nelly Sachs was born to a secular Jewish family in Berlin in 1891. With the rise of the National Socialist Party, she became aware of her Jewish heritage and faith. She narrowly escaped deportation to a concentration camp in 1940 by fleeing to Sweden through the intercession of the royal family. For the rest of her life, the Holocaust was a central theme of her work. She shared the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature with Israeli novelist S.I. Agnon. Sachs wrote of forgiveness, deliverance, peace, and a God who is present in terror, suffering, absence, and death.