Golem on Fire (poem)

Congratulations to Miguel Coronado, first place winner of the NYU Creative Writing Program’s 2019 Gallery Prize competition, and honorable mentions Lily Dolin and Joey Solomon, all students in NYU’s Creative Writing Program. The Prizes were awarded for the best poem by an NYU undergraduate in response to the exhibition Fritz Ascher: Expressionist, which was on view at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, from January 6 to April 9, 2019. Contest judge was Geoffrey Nutter, Clinical Professor of Creative Writing, NYU.

Fritz Ascher, Male Nude (Study for Golem), 1916. Graphite on ochre paper, 17 1/4 x 12 1/4 in. Private collection











Golem on Fire

What dampens fire better than clay?
Lashing red flames quieted
by deposits of


Once there was a man of clay
built to protect others
in the face of


Steadfast and unblinking,
mute in his duty
he watched over
his creators.


But those who wield flames adapt,
and cunning and cutting as ever,
find new ways
to kindle pain.


First they stole the clay man’s arms
and remolded each ligament
with knotted hands
and ten sharp talons.


Next to go were the eyes
stolen in the night,
twisted and perverted
into something new.


Is it a man, a woman?
Gentile or Jew?
A protector?
Or a vile villain?


Without definition
and scattered around the world
the clay man
is unfamiliar.


Broken up and
shaped anew
lost over time
to stories in different tongues.


What is left of him?
A once proud creature
without a purpose
or a home?


Today, men with fire
are everywhere,
they creep and convene
in not-so-secret circles.


They come once more
to scorch the earth
and roll around in the ashes
of rocks and trees.


And the clay man,
torn and tattered and reduced
to myth
watches helplessly,


Unable to protect.


Written by Lily Dolin, student in Creative Writing, NYU


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