Flame in Darkness

a kaddish for Tony Kennell


There is healing in the tide
and the energy beside the sea
yet I’m on short rations here
in the gray light of winter dawn.
The rain soaked streets
add to the melancholy
but self-pity is a waste,
so faithless to the many
who walked before.
So I go on lighting a fire
for all who despair,
one flame in the darkness
for those without friends
that none may perish alone.



photograph by Metin Ozer





















Reading of “Flame in Darkness” with music by Steely Dan


15 Responses to “Flame in Darkness”

  1. David Banner says:

    Don…I love this one! Be friends to those who despair alone………

  2. Juli Martin says:

    This one reached right into my heart, Don. I’ll be reaching out to some old friends. Thank you. Shared on my social channels as well.

  3. Thanks Don, a deep reminder that although we may at times seem to be alone it is never actually so, for we are the consciousness of all, and all likely feel from time to time that deep sense of being alone. Your reminder that it is we, each which carry the light for ourself and for each other is poignant and elegant. Thank you.

  4. thomas mcdermott says:

    Very sweet and so relevant in this era of Covid deaths when so many die apart from loved ones and sometimes totally alone. We are social animals in life as well as death. Thanks Don.

  5. This touches me deeply, Don, teaching me something of the power of bearing witness. The event I witness does not change, but I can illuminate the event with my flame. The burial still occurs, but the flame expands its meaning. That’s a generous and lasting gift to those perishing alone.

  6. This one, so far beyond words, Dear Don… ALL HEART — yours & mine.
    Only The Poet Knows… Please keep lighting The Fire!
    Honoring Your Powerful Work In The World.

  7. Tom Figel says:

    Don, this is not only a great poem but a great testament to the importance of your deceased friend. I don’t know the circumstances of Tony Kennell’s life but the poem brought to mind a recent David Brooks essay that centered on a question he heard from someone at one of his speech events: the gist was “What do you do when you don’t want to live?” Brooks admitted he didn’t really have an answer except for an effort to understand and appreciate the sad weight of such a daily pondering.

  8. Maria Frid says:

    Thank you for this poignant reminder that we are all, our brothers and sisters’ keepers.

  9. Marco Menato says:

    Your intent, and how it manifested – both beautiful! I sing Deacon Blues quite often; an anthem for melancholia. It is poignant to think of all those who may be dying quite alone. And … each one of us has to breach the veil ultimately alone.

  10. Pat Fitzsimmons says:

    I’m speechless, with tears, thank you Don

  11. Gary Materna - ND’69 says:

    As a classmate and friend of Tony’s at Notre Dame, I want to thank you Don.

    Tony’s light shined brightly in the day.

    His last decades of life were not kind ones.

    Cheers to Tony!


  12. Edward Haimes says:

    Beautiful Don. The Hebrew Mourner’s Kaddish does not mention death, nor make any reference to the deceased. It is directed, instead to the living, ending with a prayer for world peace and a time when suffering and death will be no more. All to the glory of God.

  13. Mike McCauley says:

    Beautiful poem, Don. I’ve always been captivated by Steely Dan’s song “Deacon Blues.” Connecting that song to this poem is inspirational. Dying slow and long and alone has got to be one of our worst nightmares. Be grateful to have loved ones around you as we age and face the inevitability of death. Blessed are they who light a fire for all those who despair. Thanks for sharing this. Mike

  14. Chris W Dalengas says:

    Well done, Don! Very powerful and true. Thank you!

  15. Rose Meeker says:

    Beautiful. You captured both the bleakness and loneliness of so many lives, and the warmth of the flame of witnessing and care.

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