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Holocaust Poetry, Saved Again

New translations of three astonishing poems, which evoke the horror of the Lodz ghetto and its aftermath

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Chava’s first passport, from Belgium. (Courtesy Goldie Morgentaler)

Praise

Praise likewise the day
standing still as a water—
a mirror without a reflection.
Though hours that glide
through its hazy-pale surface
like breath-carried skaters
are shunning the lighted eye of awareness,
erasing their footprints
before they are falling—
Praise likewise that day
you will never remember.

Praise likewise that day
whose name is a riddle
and you are not sure,
is it now, is it later?
And all the accounts
with yourself and with others
are resting hidden
in white and gray sponges;
and words that you utter
and words that you ponder
resemble the minnows
that fall through ripped net-holes
deep into the silence …

Praise likewise that day
when you feel no discomfort
of soul or of body;
when moving your limbs
you don’t feel their burden
and you don’t hear the pulse
of time in your bosom;
and throughout your mind
reflections are swimming
like gossamer threads
without knots or connections—
not bound and not torn …

Praise likewise that day
when no letters are coming,
no tidings arriving,
not good ones, not bad ones—
when silent the bell at your door
and the telephone’s quiet;
and the loudest of echoes
that reaches your being
is that of a kiss
that your baby gives you
with lips sweet as honey …

When the light is down
and the end is approaching
and sudden at last
you find yourself standing
in a gate of deep darkness;
look once more behind you
to that bubble of being—
and praise it, that day
that drips out of existence,
dissolving unnoticed
in the night of oblivion.

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wishnitz says:

The identity card that graces the beginning of this article is Belgian,dated after 1946.The address of the holder (the poet herself) is in Schaerbeek (Brussels). She seems already to be married to “Morgentaler”.

Wishnitz, for more on Chava’s life after the war, please read her moving article on the Lodz ghetto poet Simkha-Bunim Shayevitch, published last year in Tablet: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/111880/the-last-poet-of-lodz

gemel says:

Based on the audio of the readings of the poems, the English translations may be poetic but they miss much of the flavor and nuance of the Yiddish originals.

how splendidly beautiful, these words..visual and mindful of small details.

I’m not clear about who made the translations, was it the poet herself or her daughter?

Very moving poetry. Thanks

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Holocaust Poetry, Saved Again

New translations of three astonishing poems, which evoke the horror of the Lodz ghetto and its aftermath