Jane Hirshfield, 'Let Them Not Say'

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Holocaust survivor Josiane Traum lights a memorial candle during an International Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)


Let them not say:   we did not see it.
We saw.

Let them not say:   we did not hear it.
We heard.

Let them not say:   they did not taste it.
We ate, we trembled.

Let them not say:   it was not spoken, not written.
We spoke,
we witnessed with voices and hands.


Let them not say:   they did nothing.
We did not-enough.

Let them say, as they must say something:

A kerosene beauty.
It burned.

Let them say we warmed ourselves by it,
read by its light, praised,
and it burned.


Jane Hirshfield’s most recent book is 'The Beauty' (Knopf, 2015). She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She appeared on KQED's Forum in 2015.

Copyright © 2016 by Jane Hirshfield. All rights reserved. This poem is being shared by Poem-a-Day; for more, please visit www.poets.org.