Kaddish for Chantal

Elissa Rashkin

Art begets art
as sorrow begets sorrow

If there had been no Godard
If we had never sat in darkness
suddenly dazzled
by luminous oceans
and the thin air
of motionless

If Karina and Belmondo
had never set foot
on that imagined island
if Jean-Paul’s thumb had never
swept across
his lips
to brush away the dust of cinema
to build anew

If there had been no Auschwitz
no six million flames extinguished;
what other memories would our blood carry
like hidden poison

if the mother’s tasks had been undertaken
in utter silence
without the camera’s caress
would we understand love
without its absence

if each object
reproduced itself in miniature to enter the eye
if there were no camera obscura
if a woman had never dared
to gaze upon another
retaining the imprint on the retina
her gestures
not forced
to look away
if we had never received this gift
of light and shadow

Sorrow begets sorrow
the kitchen, the bed, the screen
the tenderness of orphans
the making and unmaking of graven images
then the last unmaking
turns out to be sacrosanct