Rushing at Times Like Flames

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 thanks?”

— 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.

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