Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Ortamezar - Ivan Theofilov

The neighborhood
with its shady provincial courtyards
next to the hot watermelon fields,
the draw wells with circulating horses,
with drowsy shabby streets and
                                      its enchanted
autocratic
                                                              church.
The neighborhood with Turkish customs and a
synagogue.
Wonderful Palestine of the Jews
with small shops
                  that sell:
                          chewing gum,
                                  baked chickpea,
                                           nebet-sheker,
                                                   crunchy caramels.
The neighborhood with fear and suffering,
where stars were shining in broad daylight
(as in the lives of saints)
on the coats of poor Jews;
with the crow extermination project,
with the air raids and the bomb shelters,
with the big eyes of my childhood ...
They shot, on our tiled roof, Sami,
uncle Jacob's son, brother of Becca and Esther,
the red-haired twins. Later we heard
that he called himself Angel ...
And this blood-stained and meek angel
perched on the roof of our house. My grandmother
made the sign
of the cross. And I saw the crows that had survived the
cleansing operation.
The sunset was glorious! My father whispered:
– What a pity! In the Jacobs'
window a Hannukah with seven
versicolored candles was burning.
                      It was Passover.

To Vassil Urumov

Ivan Theofilov (born 1931) Bulgaria
Translated by Zdravka Mihaylova
Ortamezar is the old Jewish and Turkish neighborhood in the town of Plovdiv.

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