Friday, December 18, 2009

Eight flames

Another way of measuring time, the mysterious shortening of eight candles in the menorah. They all started more or less together, and they are ending at eight different heights, like a calliope. But you don't see them shorten, any more than you see the minute hand move. It's the last night of Chanukah, the prayer spoken as the lead candle, number eight, lent its flame to the other seven. And the number two candle, the purple, is very low. No wax left, Just a filament glow. There's the plume of smoke. Number three will be next. Someone should have bet on the red one, number six. Shoulders above the rest. There went number three with a wet sputter. The one I chose, green seven, will go next. But wait, a surprise. Number four took a leap into the abyss. It's gone. And wow, seven and eight just sputtered in tandem, but number five beat seven. Then number one just went, Seven is hanging in there! Just six and seven now. Wait. There it goes. A beautiful straight plume of smoke. A nice death. Number six, the red one, is alone. Looking very brave and vigilant. Still with a generous collar of wax. Why so much fitter than the others? But it too is looking low and tiring fast. It could linger or take the sudden plunge. Impossible to guess. It's going. Now it brightens, rallies, strengthens. Suddenly gutters and is out. But the filament glows a second longer. Now it's gone too. And so are the eight days and nights of Hanukkah, which I think of as the female spelling. Only the smell of candlewax remains, a sleek, opaque, not unpleasant smell, like a Russian salesman pausing to remember his roots.

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