Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Frozen Jews - Avrom Sutzkever

Did you ever see in fields of snow
Frozen Jews, in row upon row?

Breathless they lie, marbled and blue.
Of death in their bodies, no hint and no clue.

Somewhere their spirit is frozen and saved
Like a golden fish in a frozen wave.

Not speaking. Not silent. Just thinking bright.
The sun too lies frozen in snow at night.

On a rosy lip, in the freeze, still glows
A smile — will not move, not budge since it froze.

Near his mother, a baby starving, at rest.
How strange: she cannot give him her breast.

The fist of a naked old man in surprise:
He cannot release his force from the ice.

So far, I have tasted all kinds of death,
None will surprise me, will catch my breath.

But now, overcome in the mid-July heat
By a frost, like madness, right in the street:

They come toward me, blue bones in a row —
Frozen Jews over plains of snow.

My skin is covered with a marble veil.
My words slow down, my light that is frail.

My motions freeze, like the old man's surprise,
Who cannot release his force from the ice.

Moscow, July 10, 1944

Avrom Sutzkever (1913 - 2010) Belarus (moved to Israel)
Translated by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav
Source: A. Sutzkever, Selected Poetry and Prose. Translated from the Yiddish by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav, University of California Press, 1991 [UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004]

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