Poetry Sunday: Chanukah Lights Tonight by Steven Schneider

We are in the midst of the eight days of Hanukkah and so it seems appropriate to feature a poem about the holiday. 

This may not be the first image that comes to mind when thinking of the holiday but Steven Schneider writes of Hanukkah on the prairie with "the wind howling over the crushed corn stalks."  Wherever it is observed, the Hanukkah, or Chanukah, lights drive away the darkness and offer hope.

Chanukah Lights Tonight

by Steven Schneider

Our annual prairie Chanukah party—
latkes, kugel, cherry blintzes.
Friends arrive from nearby towns
and dance the twist to “Chanukah Lights Tonight,”
spin like a dreidel to a klezmer hit.

The candles flicker in the window.
Outside, ponderosa pines are tied in red bows.
If you squint,
the neighbors’ Christmas lights
look like the Omaha skyline.

The smell of oil is in the air.
We drift off to childhood
where we spent our gelt
on baseball cards and matinees,
cream sodas and potato knishes.

No delis in our neighborhood,
only the wind howling over the crushed corn stalks.
Inside, we try to sweep the darkness out,
waiting for the Messiah to knock,
wanting to know if he can join the party.


  1. The celebration of the festival of light must have been a real highlight for those isolated Jewish settlements. Better to give up waiting for that knock on the door though!

    1. All of the religious holidays occurring at this time of year seem to emphasize light. Not surprising, I guess, since it's the darkest time of year.

  2. Beautiful. This poet has a degree from Syracuse University, which is about an hour from where I live, and I can't seem to find where he grew up, but there is a definite New York City flavor in this poem.

    1. It's interesting that you see that. I think you are probably referring to the third stanza that talks about his childhood.

  3. The imagery here is beautiful. One of my favorite things about this time of year is teaching my students about so many different cultures and the holiday celebrations associated with them.

    1. I always find it interesting that all of the celebrations at this time of year seem to have so much in common.

  4. The beautiful focus on bringing light to the world is a message I particularly need to hear today.


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