Jacob Glatstein (1896-1971)
Without Jews

Irving Howe, Ruth R. Wisse and Khome Shmeruk (eds.): «The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse», Penguin Books, 1988. Copyright © Irving Howe, Ruth Wisse, and Chone Shmeruk, 1987. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Without Jews, no Jewish God.
If, God forbid, we should quit
this world, Your poor tent's light
would out.
Abraham knew You in a cloud:
since then, You are the flame
of our face, the rays
our eyes blaze,
our likeness
whom we formed:
in every land and town
a stranger.
Shattered Jewish skulls,
shards of the divine,
smashed, shamed pots--
there were Your light-bearing vessels,
Your tangibles,
Your portents of miracle!
Now count these heads
by the millions of the dead.
Around You the stars go dark.
Our memory of You, obscured.
Soon Your reign will close.
Where Jews sowed,
a scorched waste.
Dews weep
on dead grass,
The dream raped,
reality raped,
both blotted out.
Whole congregations sleep,
the babies, the women,
the young, the old.
Even Your pillars, Your rocks,
the tribe of Your saints,
sleep their dead
eternal sleep.

Who will dream You?
Remember You?
Deny You?
Yearn after You?
Who will flee You,
only to return
over a bridge of longing?

No end to night
for an extinguished people.
Heaven and earth wiped out.
Your tent void of light.
Flicker of the Jews' last hour.
Soon, Jewish God,
Your eclipse.

(from the Yiddish by Cynthia Ozick)


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