Avrom Sutzkever (1913-)

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.

And when I go up as a pilgrim in winter, to recover
the place I was born, and the twin to self I am in my mind,
then I'll go in black snow as a pilgrim to find
the grave of my savior, Yanova.

She'll hear what I whisper, under my breath:
Thank you. You saved my tears from the flame.
Thank you. Children and grandchildren you rescued from death.
I planted a sapling (it doesn't suffice) in your name.

Time in its gyre spins back down the flue
faster than nightmares of nooses can ride,
quicker than nails. And you, my savior, in your cellar you'll hide
me, ascending in dreams as a pilgrim to you.

You'll come from the yard in your slippers, crunching the snow
so I'll know. Again I'm there in the cellar, degraded and low,
you're bringing me milk and bread sliced thick at the edge.
You're making the sign of the cross, I'm making my pencil its pledge.

(from the Yiddish by Cynthia Ozick)


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