St. Martin's Day
by Norbert Krapf

In damp dark, we parents and children
line up in groups behind teachers
in the Pausenhof of the Grundschule

to walk in procession to the park
behind the baroque palace. As we
move forward in unison, we sing songs

to celebrate the legend of a knight on horseback
who cut his cloak in half with his sword
to comfort a beggar on foot. The children

carry tiny flames through the dark
in lanterns they have made in school
and hooked to the end of sticks.

"Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne,"
they sing. In Elizabeth's blue box burns
a candle illuminating a paper angel, an apple,

a moon, and a star cut out in construction
paper she glued together. Before the arched
Orangerie in the park, the children stand

in semicircles to sing. Some play recorders,
some play violins, some tap rhythm
on tambourines. Behind them, facing

us parents, is a big illuminated sheet,
before which silhouetted children
actors mime the action of Martin

and his beggar as classmates narrate their
lines. At the end, all sing the round
"Hebet die Laterne / Lift the lanterns,"

repeat the refrain "Licht zu bringen
in dieser Welt
/ To bring light into this
world," and follow a rider on horseback

into the dark. As they wind along geometric
walkways in the Schlosspark, stringing
beads of light through the dark with their

handmade lanterns, I remember the first question
Elizabeth asked after we arrived in Erlangen:
"Daddy, do they celebrate Chanukah here?"

Fifty years after the Kristallnacht, I see
burning beads of light along looping walkways
merge into the menorah held in uplifted hands.

From Blue-Eyed Grass: Poems of Germany.

Reprinted with permission of Time Being Books

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