Anna Margolin — Drunk From The Bitter Truth The Poems Of Anna Margolin Suny Series, Women Writers in Translation


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TRANSLATED
AND WITH AN
DRUNK FROM THE BITTER TRUTH
Anna Margolin
DRUNK FROM THE BITTER TRUTH
SUNYseries, Women Writers in Translation
Marilyn Gaddis Rose, Editor
TRANSLATED
AND WITH AN
Shirley Kumove
State University of New York Press
Lider [Poems] by Anna Margolin (New York, 1929)
English translations © 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2005 by Shirley Kumove.
Introduction, notes, and biographical notes © 2005 by Shirley Kumove
Some ofthese translations “rst appeared in the following journals:
My Ancestors Speak,ŽBrisk (Brest-Litovsk),ŽDrunk from the Bitter Truth,Ž
Full ofNight and Weeping,ŽAmong the Chinese Lanterns,ŽMary Wants to Be a
Beggar Woman,ŽI Want Angry and Tender OneŽ:
Writ Magazine,
YouŽ:
Prism International,
Drunk On the Bitter Truth,ŽA Woman Says,ŽAll Mute Things Speak Today,Ž
Untitled (All Mute Things Speak Today):Ž
Two Lines,
What Do You Want, Mary?ŽHer Smile,ŽJust Like My Tearful Gaze,ŽThe Gangster,Ž
This work was undertaken following the
tragic death ofmy beloved granddaughter
Merav Sarah Kumove z"l
and it is lovingly dedicated to her memory
Cautiously I carry
your voices,smiles,grimaces
Acknowledgmentsxi
Introductionxiii
A Note on the Translationxxxv
ROOTS
Once I Was a Youth3
Mother Earth, Well-Worn, Sun-Washed5
Portrait7
Years9
Full ofNight and Weeping45
Hearing Your Step and AlarmedŽ47
All This Is Already Long GoneŽ49
Perhaps This Was My HappinessŽ51
Beautiful Words ofMarble and Gold111
SUN, ASPHALT, ROADS
Autumn117
Over Brown Roofs119
Evening121
Sun123
Autumn125
Rain127
Autumn131
Snow133
Brisk (Brest-Litovsk)135
Odessa141
Discontented145
At the Café147
Girls in Crotona Park151
Evening on Fifth Avenue153
Broadway Evening157
Gates159
Through Coloured Panes161
The Proud Song163
The Masquerade Is Over165
Reuben Ludwig169
Dead Tired from the Burden ofa Dream173
Just One Poem175
To Franz Werfel177
We Will Build a Wall179
MARY
What Do You Want, Mary?185
Marys Prayer189
Mary and the Priest191
Lonely Mary193
Mary and the Guests195
Mary Wants to Be a Beggar Woman201
Mary and Death205
IMAGES
A Human Being209
The Madwoman213
The Gangster217
In the Dark Room219
The Girl Declares221
The Song ofa Girl227
A Woman Says229
EntreActe231
On a Balcony233
My Venus Wears Silk Slippers235
Forgotten Gods237
Her Smile239
Among the Chinese Lanterns245
He Brings Sorrow251
The Bridge261
My Lovers Poem263
Dusk in the Park265
My Days Take Root in Stones269
Drunk from the Bitter Truth271
She ofthe Cold Marble Breasts273
I Want, Angry and Tender One275
Bibliography277
Index to First Lines in English281
Index to First Lines in Yiddish285
poems; his Yiddish edition ofthe poems ofAnna Margolin published by
Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1991, has been valuable to me.
To Dr. Alex Page, Professor Emeritus ofEnglish Literature, Uni-
My thanks to the editors ofthe following journals where earlier
versions ofpoems in this collection appeared:
Writ 27,Prism Interna-
well as suggestions for improvement.
The drawing on page xxxix courtesy ofToronto artist Gail Gelt-
ner, is taken from her book
What You See:Drawings by Gail Geltner,
lished by Second Story Press, Toronto, 1992.
My heartfelt thanks to my husband, Aryeh, for the depth ofhis Jew-
1.Reuven Ayzland,
Fun undzer friling
(From Our Springtime) (New York: Farlag
Inzl, 1954), pp. 129…172.
Most ofwhat we know about Anna Margolin comes from a memoir,
undzer friling
to her knees, large blue eyes, and a musical voice. She was well aware of
her sexual appeal and enjoyed youthful ”irtations and love affairs.
Rosa Lebensboym came to New York for the “rst time in 1906 at
the age ofeighteen to prepare herselffor university entrance. She had
been sent to America because her father wanted to break up his head-
strong daughters current love affair. However, instead ofenrolling in uni-
versity as planned, she quickly became immersed in the intellectual life of
the Lower East Side. Soon after, she began a tempestuous but short-lived
love affair with a man many years her senior, Chaim Zhitlowsky„a Yid-
4.Ruth R. Wisse,
A Little Love in Big Manhattan
(Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1988), p.4.
and journalism. But although Yiddish was the spoken language at
5.Chava Rosenfarb, Translators note on Lecture, University ofToronto, 1992.
were far more candid and outspoken than their male counter-
parts. They shed the “g leaves offalse modesty and cele-
brated their feminine sensuality.
Many ofthe literati were unable to deal with the new breed of
woman, who shared their interest in literature and politics and could
hold their own in an intellectual argument. In her youth, Anna Margolin
was an active member ofa socialist organization, but later she withdrew
from political action to devote herselfentirely to literature. Neverthe-
less, she remained well-informed about economic and political affairs.
The critics characterized women writers as emotional and sentimental,
compared them only to each other, and considered their work unworthy
ofexamination as part ofthe larger body ofmodern Yiddish literature.
6.Ayzland, p. 168.
7.Norma Fein Pratt, Culture and Radical Politics: Yiddish Women Writers, 1890…
1940,Žin
Female,Feminine and Feminist Images
, pp. 131…152.
Mani Leyb, and Itsik Manger. But many critics refused to believe that
these articles were written by a woman. Reuven Ayzland said ofher
fashion section in
DerTog
8.Ayzland, p.164.
9.S. Tenenboym,
Dikhters un doyres
(Writers and Generations) (New York, 1955),
p.166.
sought to transcend nationalistic and political themes and were in”u-
10.Sheva Zucker, Anna Margolin un di poezie funem geshpoltenem ikh,Ž
YIVO
Margolin includes three poems on the subject ofautumn in this
section. In these poems, she overturns the conventional notions ofthe
season as equivalent to decline and decay by conjuring up images such as
autumn shrieks,Žmy blood does not remember you,Žand see how a
naked branch ”owers from the asphalt.Ž
In the section titled Mary,ŽMargolin does what few Jewish writ-
ers ofthe time dared to do: she writes about a Christian “gure, the
mother ofJesus. Margolin tries to lift the burden imposed on this ordi-
nary Jewish woman who was elevated to the status ofMother ofChrist.
In What Do You Want, Mary?ŽMargolin attempts to reclaim Mary and
the supplement are based on the original volume of
published in
New York in 1929. A number ofpoems are untitled; in these cases, they
are identi“ed by an asterisk and by their “rst lines.
12.Itsik Manger,
Shriftn un proze
13.Norma Fein Pratt,
Video. Los Angeles: UCLA Educational
Media Center, 1988.
14.Avraham Novershtern, Who Would Believe That a Bronze Statue Can Weep:
18.Novershtern, Who Would Believe,Žp.445.
19.Tenenboym, p.166.
the “rst line with the colour ofa word, with a sound that is but
a shadow, a pale echo ofthe previously used sound.
From this standpoint,
zayd
toyt
21.Anna Margolin,
(Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1991).
It is dif“cult to imagine the despair, the guilt, the isolation, and the
Photograph of Anna Margolins gravestone, Brooklyn, New York
Translation is important for the work ofmost writers but is now espe-
cially so for Yiddish writers, whose situation is tragic because ofthe utter
break in continuity caused by the Shoah. Before World War II, a vibrant
Yiddish culture ”ourished in Eastern Europe in such cities as Warsaw,
Vilna, Odessa, Lemberg, and Bialystok. Everything that was connected
with that Yiddish world„art, literature, music, cafés, cinemas, educa-
tional and research centers, houses ofworship and ofstudy, newspapers,
familiar with this state. I know it as „
hislayves
in Yiddishor, as
it is pronounced in Hebrew,
Anna Margolin carefully molded her poems until they were as
close to perfection as she could make them. A translator ofher work
confronts several features that impose con”icting demands on the trans-
lation: spareness and exoticism, ambiguity and precision, explicit lan-
guage and implicit feeling. All these features are evident in the poem
Portrait,Žfrom the “rst section ofthe book, called RootsŽ:
Because mockery and sorrow in”amed her life,
she held her head proudly
Un kent ir zikh dermonen
alts dos, vos hot nit keyn nomen
un iz bloyz a duft un a sod?
un dem otem fun step,
un tsum zingendn yam hot di shtot,
vi mit a zaydenem shlep,
genidert fun toyznt mirmelne trep.
A literal translation would render this as follows:
And can you remember




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1.Lawrence Venuti, ed.
Translation Studies Reader
For instance, the Yiddish text rhymes dermonen / nomen,Žsod /
shtot,Žand step / shlep / trep.ŽIn my translation, I have tried at least to
echo some ofthis rhyming. Alliterative patterns create a texture of
sound in remember / no name,Žlowered / cord,Žand city / silken /
steps / singing sea,Žand the chain ofsyllables remem_ber / tar_/ low_
ered.ŽI chose to alter the syntax ofthe last three lines ofthe Yiddish,
both to avoid subject-verb inversion (which sounds stilted or archaic in
English) and to end on sea.ŽAnd I changed the line units to produce a
cadenced movement and to avoid ending up with one line that would
have been longer than any ofMargolins in this passage.
One common view oftranslation is that it should simultaneously
AnnaMargolin
ROOTS
Vortslen
ʯʲʬʶʸʕ
ʢʰʩʬʢʰʑ
ʢʰʩʬʢʰʑ
ʯʣʑ
ONCE I WAS A YOUTH
Once I was a youth,
heard Socrates in the porticoes,
my bosom friend, my lover,
in all Athens had the “nest torso.
I was Caesar. And a bright world
built ofmarble. I the last
chose for a bride
My proud sister.
Garlanded and drunk till late
in boisterous revelry, I heard the news

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MOTHER EARTH, WELL-WORN, SUN-WASHED
Mother earth, well-worn, sun-washed,
dusky slave and mistress
am I, beloved.
From me, humble and dejected
you arise„a mighty trunk.







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PORTRAIT
* To A. Leyeles
Because mockery and sorrow in”amed her life,
she held her head proudly



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MY ANCESTORS SPEAK
My ancestors:
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and in their faded, veiled eyes
lifeless desire.
broad-boned, strong and agile,
with their contemptuous, easy laughter,
with calm talk and uneasy silence.
At dusk, by the window ofthe humble house
they sprout like statues.
And coursing through their dusky eyes
cruel desire.
I am ashamed of.
All ofthem, my ancestors,
blood ofmy blood,
”ame ofmy ”ame,
ʸʲʢʰʑ
When was it? I cant remember.
It follows me like a forgotten refrain:
A city by the sea, Chopins nocturnes
and cast-iron lilies on the balconies.
Dusk. Two sisters, their slender “ngers
dreamily fondle the shadowy stream
ofmemories in an old-fashioned album.
Slowly, the old photographs grow younger.
Through the half-open door, among potted plants,
trancelike couples in a caressing waltz.
Oh, dead youth! Oh, last waltz!
The dancers waft by and vanish like phantoms
.... .
It was ... was ... I cant remember.








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Houses sway and ”oat in the light gray
I YOUR CALM AND
I YOUR SWORD
Ikh dayn ru un
ikh dayn shvert






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WE WENT THROUGH THE DAYSŽ
We went through the days as through storm-tossed gardens.
Blossoming, maturing; mastering the game oflife and death.
Clouds, vastness and dreams were in our words.
Among stubborn trees in a rustling summer garden
we fused into a single tree.
Evenings spread their deeply darkened blue,
with the aching desire ofwinds and falling stars,
with shifting, caressing glow of”uttering leaves and grasses,
we wove our
selves into the wind, merged with the blueness
like happy creatures and clever, playful gods.
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Sitting at the table in the gray hall,
lazy and restless, wrapped in my shawl,
am I looking at you?
Am I calling you?
My mouth is redder now,
my half-closed eyes
are veiled in smoke.
I see your face through fog and ”ame,
on my lips is the sharp taste
ofsun and wind.
I pull myselfup with sti”ed roar,
I grow frenzied, shivering
and this growth is pain.
Huddled in a corner ofthe gray hall,
in the long, ”aming folds ofmy shawl,
am I looking at you?
Am I calling you?
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SLOWLY AND BRIGHTLY
Slowly and brightly
you bent your heavy brow to mine,
and your black “re
sank into my blue “re.
My room was “lled with summer,
my room was “lled with night.
I closed my shining, weeping eyes,
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I HAVE WANDERED SO MUCHŽ
I have wandered so much, beloved,
through strange and dark lives,
through hearts like wastelands„
Known a thousand deaths, beloved.
My bad blood,
the iron rod ofdesire,








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YOU
I pass through you in barbarous splendour, as through a conquered city.
Four little pygmies carry my train, gold embroidered with peacocks and poppies.
Behind me march the warriors ”ashing their short swords, arms and knees bare.





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But in those silent, lonely corners I saw mocking eyes through the darkness.
I saw the glint ofa knife. When you embraced me as with a thousand hands
in the night, in all those thousand hands was destruction.
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DROWSE ON, MY BELOVEDŽ
Drowse on, my beloved, drowse on.
You are like new brown forest earth.
Your eyes are full ofsky.
I your peace and I your sword
now watch over heaven and earth.
Every star in amazement hears
what I whisper in your sleep.






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The blue dream ofviolins.
I and you,
such a revelation,
such a revelation,
and nobody knows,
that we circle
in golden rings
like butter”ies,
in the blue night ofviolins.
You, my peace,
the blue violins play
for me and for you.
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The kings face glows cool and clear
from copper and gold coins.
The world lies spellbound at our doorstep
by this distant re”ection ofthe king.
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ALL MUTE THINGS SPEAK TODAYŽ
All mute things speak today.
The blue murmuring ofa whispy cloud
falls like dew.
Lofty words from the great dreamers ofold
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With anxious hands I hold your precious head,
the large eyes heavy and dark
raise up your shadowed life toward me.
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A silence, sudden and deep
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HEARING YOUR STEP AND ALARMEDŽ
Hearing your step and alarmed„
I did not recognize my own voice.
Oh my beloved, my longed-for one,
in monstrous sorrow
why have eyes
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ALL THIS IS ALREADY LONG GONEŽ
All this is already long gone,
my gold, my gold, my gold,
like an enchanted shore
in a sunny haze, my gold.





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PERHAPS THIS WAS MY HAPPINESSŽ
Perhaps this was my happiness:
To feel how your eyes
bowed down before me.
No, rather this was my happiness:
To go silently back and forth
across the square with you.
No, not even that, but listen:
How over our joy
there hovered the smiling face ofdeath.
And all the days were purple,
and all were hard.
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I WALK IN THE SHADOWŽ
I walk in the shadow ofyour life
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Your thin pro“le,
your smile false and true.
The day is fragile and blue,
like porcelain.
Everything Id hoped for,
everything youve forgotten,
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Kissed my hand and looked around,
to see ifanyone had noticed.
Your voice quavered with passion
as you carefully moved
when someone came by.
My dear, the day was beautiful,
too beautiful, too pleasant to turn bac
k...Ž
And every word you uttered
was full ofcon“dence and desire.
When the “rst stars shone softly,
you straightened your hat, which sat awry,
bade an emotional and silent farewell
and slunk offwith pious grace
to your accursed home.
Id rather you were drunk
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NO, THERES NOTHING TO SAYŽ
No, theres nothing to say.
Only in radiance,
in sheer joy
to bow down
to the griefin your eyes,
to the guilt in your eyes
and say to you...
No, theres nothing to say.
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PRIMEVAL MURDERESS NIGHTŽ
Primeval murderess night, dark mother ofnecessity, help me!
Seduce him, ensnare him, swallow him, hound him to death!
whose drink was tears,
whose bread was shame,
will drink myselfsenseless,
greedily and long,
as on a love song,
on his wifes wailing,
the silence ofhis children,
the whispering ofhis friends
over his corpse.
I will arise like someone who was long ill,
a black spectre in the crimson dawn,
I will bow down to the four corners ofthe earth
a hymn to death.
**
ʯʷʑ
WHEN I WALK WITH MY BELOVEDŽ
When I walk with my beloved through the misty spring evening,
dont smirk, stranger, as ifyou knew
that my lover doesnt love me.
Because the night hangs heavy over my darkened eyes.
And the stony road extends
Full ofsympathy and full oflove,
unhappiness hovers
over me.
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A FRIEND PASSES USŽ
**
ʯʷʑ
DONT THINK THAT IVE CHANGEDŽ
Dont think that Ive changed.
Dont believe that serene smile.
I am a tiger with the look ofa dove,
I am a dagger among the ”owers„
Watch out!
The hour arrives and is soon gone„
With a smile, a knife, a rose.
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THE ROAD IS SO STILLŽ
The road is so still,
pearl-cool, pearl-gray,
and the sun spreads on high
bridges ofroses, bridges ofsmoke.
The heart is so still.
Your passionate gaze,
that drunken bliss
is not what I want.
The heart is so still,
kneeling in dark foreboding,
trembling and suffering
from knowing too much, feeling too much.
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I DID NOT KNOW, MY DEARŽ
I did not know, my dear,
that my slow, yearning “ngers
had engraved you into my poems.
Now they have the hard sheen
ofyour eyes, the sharp line
ofyour mouth, ofyour
stubborn hand.
The wonder:
that my own word
stirs me with your hand.
When near, oh near, you emerge
out ofthe harsh, musical notes.
The wonder...
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Just like my tearful gaze
the evening is blue and intimate.
Speak your cold words,
but with a gentle voice.
Your voice, here and there
will unexpectedly blossom
into a garden in the moonlight,
a face in the moonlight.
ofa guilty conscience.
I know it so well, my weary one,
oh, I dont want to know more.
But listen, just like this, until late
to the shadow oflove coming,
sadly, like river grasses,
gently, like the names of”owers.
**
ʸʲʷʑ
THE GOLDEN PEACOCK FLEW OFFŽ
The golden peacock ”ew offand
away,
and night opened its golden eye.
My radiant one, sleep on.
Night opened its golden eye,
I became the “ddle and you the bow.
My restless one, sleep on.
I became the “ddle and you the bow,
happiness arced fondly above us.
My gentle one, sleep on.
Happiness arced fondly above us,
left us alone, ”ew offand
away.
My mournful one, sleep on.
ʲʰʲʹʕ

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DEMONS WHISTLED SADLY
I went into the garden as into a wild cloud.
Demons whistled sadly.
As stars burst open, “erce and ripe.
Hordes ofmocking eyes ”ew past.
Slippery voices, snakelike, stripped me.
A small, ”aming mouth bent close to me, oh-so-slowly.
Demons whistled sadly.
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OUT OF MY DARKNESS
I stammer.
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Just as delicate wine is pressed
from trampled, bloody grapes,
so Ive sucked out my joy
from anguish,
to the blinding, savage radiance
ofGods eyes.
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This is the night, the sadness, the non-existence,
the treacherous glow ofdreams.
Unhappy one, what will be?
Be cold, be clever, turn
away from
the stars,
from childs play with shadows, dew and fragrance,
and with all your congealing blood you will hear,
how the earth opens
and the worm beckons.
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Slender ships drowse on swollen green water,
black shadows sleep on the cold heart ofwater.
All the winds are still.
Clouds shift like ghosts in the speechless night.
The earth, pale and calm, awaits thunder and lightning.
*
ʱʲʑ
ʩʥʥ
ʯʷʑ
ʩʥʸʢ
*






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OFTEN I WALK AS IF BEHIND A VEILŽ
Often, I walk as ifbehind a veil,
my steps mingling with yours
unseen travelers,
sadly beautiful, blood and ”owers
ofmy demented springtime.
Cautiously, I carry
your voices, smiles, grimaces
*
ʯʲʑ
They roll by
in the green rays ofthe hysterical moon
and grow dark,
their spindly legs underneath them,
in all the shadowy corners.
And they are good.
Their long, black, snakelike, twisted “ngers
pointing only at you,
*









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not seeing a single face.
Every night, whistling and banging,
and the tramp ofdisappearing steps.
I stand bloodied and dead weary
but will not, will not fall.
Every night thereafter, the broad, enveloping silence
as from many pipe organs and restless lights,
and above me,
smiling, hovering,
an immense, shadowy face.
*





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WEARY
I am weary today.
Wounded by the sharp voices
ofsomeones excessive gaze.
But I hear a word
that glows in me and glows.
So weary.
Darkness spreads over the room,
shadows ofthe night
on faded, evening red.
Today, I thought a long time
The silence in my room
*




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Dear monsters, be patient.
Its sober day, the world is over”owing
with light and sound to its farthest sunny shores.
I walk among people, along friendly roads
gratefully, wonderfully free ofyou.
You are distant,
*






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Ž
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NIGHT CAME INTO MY HOUSE
Night came into my house
with the roar ofstars, ”ood, wings,
with the glow ofswamps, dirt roads and mists.
I lay tense and miserable.
Trees came into my house,
looming gigantic with roots and trunks
and ancient deep glances from the leaves.
And huge, bizarre clouds
came with thunder and laughter,
like the dark heads ofpagan gods.
And all ofthem swirled, hard and wild and bleak.
Clamoring: You are, you are, you areŽ.
I lay tense and miserable.
*





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HARD HEART
Hard, contemptuous heart,
*




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EPITAPH
Tell him: she couldnt forgive herself
so she went through life
with self-effacing steps.
Say that until her death
she faithfully protected with bare hands
the ”ame entrusted to her
and in that same “re she burned.
And how in hours ofexultation
how her blood sang deeply
as dwarfs destroyed her.
*














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...
Ž


BEAUTIFUL WORDS OF MARBLE AND GOLD
Beautiful words ofmarble and gold,
it wasnt you, wasnt you I wanted.
In fact, I didnt want these poems.
But others„like “re and joyful storms
that swiftly shred the transparent forms.
Too late.
I wanted to be different to people.
But even now Im not ready
to love kin and kind.
But ifI could forgive
my tormented life
and approach this one and that one,
the bad ones, the good ones, those lit by dreams,
losers ofthe world, vagabonds,
and say: I want to give myselfto you.
I want to squander myself.
Like the holy saints oflegend,
may my goodness rise over you
glowing and ric
h...Ž
*



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Too late.
Often, I hear weird footsteps.
and I vow
by Elsa Lasker Schüler, Rilke, and Baudelaire,
I will tolerate with dignity the last insult ofthe ”esh.
In those hours I will perhaps dream, perhaps grow,
see worlds rotating on their axes,
my home in the red dawn, drowsing “elds,
as in a happy and blooming city
my sad child kneels down.
I will shrug these still beautiful shoulders,
I will, perhaps, still force these trembling lips
Smiling and breathless
SUN, ASPHALT, ROADS
Zun, asfalt, vegn









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AUTUMN
In the hot sharp glare ofthat dense wild garden,
where willows droop listlessly and pine trees darkly clouded








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OVER BROWN ROOFS
Crimson glows over the brown roofs.
The blinded panes are like pearls in wine.



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Oh, ”aming gardens at the edge ofthe sky,
disheveled irises, young lilacs and poppies,
and heavy, sad, darkly golden roses
and blue blossoms.



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I know that the sun is Gods golden mask.
Often, I become calm and agreeable
as madness and disgust rush through my blood„
God smiles at me from behind His mask.





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AUTUMN
The sorrow ofpassing,
my dear...
When we stroll down
the long and empty avenues,
and your hand, brown and autumnal,
autumnal and weary,
rests in my hand,
my blood does not ”ower,
my blood does not remember you...
My dear,


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In silvery rain the ”owers sway,
lulled and cradled by their own fragrance,
slowly, they bend
under the long, caressing “ngers ofthe rain.
Grasses bow to the earth.
In the silvery rain, trees burst into leaf,
every blossom a pale opal,
with airy crowns and cool trunks,
like spellbound, silvery, slender fountains,
like high-arcing song sung through tears.
'







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The heavens fell to earth today,
people are calmly strolling in the sky,
calmly, trembling in sorrow.


'








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AUTUMN
Autumn descends on the city and on me.
Dark heart, be silent and marvel:
See how a naked branch with a leaf
”owers from the asphalt, gentle as a lily.
Heavy autumn, heavy steps, I am old.
Dark heart ofmine, dont curse, believe in miracles:
Somewhere in the world, in a city
I am ”owering like a lily.
ʲʷʑ
SNOW
Snow blooms on all the trees today.
Why are you sad then, my snowy one,
my distant one, my absent one?
Whose slender hands are slack
the eyes, like mimosas, closed,
among rustling shadows,
like tiny white birds.
Like felled snowbirds,
the snow drops from all the trees today.


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BRISK (BREST-LITOVSK)
The old city, small and gray,
is dead now, like Athens and like Troy.
But lovingly, painfully, with soft breath

-
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As ifin tune with an invisible “ddler.
And over all this springlike sadness shimmers
the scent oflilacs.
Young women on the doorsteps in the evening
about their men in Germany,
Children stand a long time in the shadows,
that soon a gypsy will spirit them
away.
“fteen-year-old frauleins
with gloves and parasols
glide ornamentally along the avenues,
raising and lowering their veils,
listening to strong words that kiss
and carry offmy soul
to the bright distance.Ž*
Dazzling days.
Storekeepers drowsing.
Passersby drowsing.
ʲʹʩʣʑ



















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" "
"!

Do you remember, handsome knight,
that happy ”itter-”utter
ofveils, eyes and braids?
When you passed by the courtyard
unknown, slim and perfect,
young girls would lean trembling
over the edges ofthe balconies.
Oh, sad knight, do you remember
a bright slender oval
And a nostalgic, caressing,
half-forgotten waltz
at the youthful ball?
And a spinning on the boulevards
into the gleam ofelectric suns


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And can you remember
everything that has no name
is only a fragrance, a mystery?
and a breath ofthe steppe,
ofsun and oftar?
The city lowered,
as ifby a silken cord,
down a thousand marble steps
into the singing sea.
ʯʣʑ
... And people look at me strangely,
so, go have a good cry ...
Im not happy with my furnished room,
Im not happy with anything.
Swung back and forth today on the El strap
to the rhythm ofworn-out Jews.
The night was dark as the mood ofa slave,
And the days are holy and yellowed,
like the verses in an old prayer book.
Perhaps I would not be so disheartened
ifI didnt dream ofpoems.



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AT THE CAFÉ
Alone in the café now,
as voices hush and fade,
as lamps give offa pearly glow
and ”oat out ofthe café
3









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Here, all ofus wear cold, contemptuous masks.
We disguise the fever with clever irony
and a thousand smiles, shouts and grimaces.
Have I offended you, my dear?
In the frosty gleam ofthe lamps
in the glances, in the voices
my silence ”oats towards you„
*


















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GIRLS IN CROTONA PARK
On autumn evenings
girls weave themselves
as in a faded portrait.
Their eyes are cool, their smiles wild and thin.
Their dresses lavender, old rose and apple-green.
Dew ”ows through their veins.
Their talk is bright and empty.
Botticelli loved them in his dreams.
*

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EVENING ON FIFTH AVENUE
Its April
and the pure stroke ofa bell.
*







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like mysterious ships,
and the raw shriek ofsirens hangs
threateningly.
Carrying night in their eyes,
night and destruction and gold in their eyes,
like poems lulling themselves, young women stroll
and nervously spread their small wings
over the avenue
like demented butter”ies.
*





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BROADWAY EVENING
*






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GATES
I pass through a thousand high-vaulted gates
that resound with solemn bronze.
The sun spreads out like an organs song
through the glowing gates ”ung open,
with their engraved epics
oflove and despair and revolt,
everything that never happened
*















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THROUGH COLOURED PANES
Through tall, narrow, coloured panes
grey life wafts towards me.
Every person is a slender “re,
a cloud, a tower, a dream thats new.
Each one travels golden, crimson roads,
vast and silent, towards death.
*
















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THE PROUD SONG
On golden thrones
sit the queens oflife.
Their eyes hard diamonds.
Their lips ripe pomegranates.
With delicate white hands
they deal out among men
*











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THE MASQUERADE IS OVER
I too have seen titans in the clouds.
Elves wandering over the asphalt.
Stars blooming on steel trunks
and an alto trilling loudly
from behind a dark bush.
Tonight, a young black with a rose
bent over me, laughing.
Now I am old„
the masquerade is over.
I lie at the root ofthings.
Their pulse rushes heavily through my wondering heart.
It is a ferment, a growth, a noisy vigil,
an anguished climb to light through stone and dross.
The earth circles solemnly with all its dead,
with diseased, dreamy cities,
with mountains and forests and pale
shimmering belts ofwater.
And over it the solemn, obscure markings
*









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All lives are rich in sorrow and are alike,
and everything is immense and incomprehensible.
*







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REUBEN LUDWIG*
A hard day among the graves.
The sky is leaden, the sky is grey.
*






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We used to stroll among poems, as among poplars...
*
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DEAD TIRED FROM THE BURDEN OF A DREAM
WorldŽwe inscribed in the sand,
And dead tired from the burden ofa dream,
and with a little mockery
deep into the sand we carved:
*
ʹʥʠʑ
I have but one poem„
ofdespair and pride.
It darkens and glows
in bronze and in steel.
A crude chord.
Much silence, much shadow.
I shape the word
with my last breath.
with heavy memories,
I go through the poems
like a sword.
*







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Ž
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TO FRANZ WERFEL
How blissful we are
Who live in forms.Ž
Franz Werfel
Thats how it always was:
*




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* WE WILL BUILD A WALL
We will build a wall
*







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the black and dancing stars
the grey sound ofsorrow emerges from the depths
on the pale luminous lips ofa weary woman.
MARY
Mari


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WHAT DO YOU WANT, MARY?
What do you want, Mary?
Perhaps a child brightly drowsing in my lap.
Deeply silent evenings in the stern house
alone, wandering slowly.
Constantly waiting, waiting.
May my love be for him who loves me not,



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,
?

Am I a person, a spark, the mischiefofthe roads,
or the black, moaning earth?
I no longer know. With tearful eyes
I give myselfup to the sun, the wind, the rain.
But what do you want, Mary?



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MARYS PRAYER
God, meek and silent are the ways.
Through the ”ames ofsin and tears
all roads lead to You.
I built You a nest oflove
and from silence, a temple.
I am Your guardian, servant and lover,





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MARY AND THE PRIEST











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LONELY MARY
as ifin the desert,
murmuring her name
to herself: Mary.
And there was Mary
and also her beloved man:
Mary,
as through a hot mist,
I hear your voice
and see your shadow,Ž
ʹʥʠʑ
ʬʢʰʑ
MARY AND THE GUESTS
Mary goes from room to room, in and out,
arranges the fruit, the wine, the slender ”owers,
bows, smiles in agitated joy,
the house is empty,
though everyone came.
Should she now mind that long ago when young
,

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You, and you, and you„a long chain.
And the child is here.
It arrived at mothers door from a great distance.
Crawled into a corner, small, suffused with sadness.
This child, sunken into itself, silent and pale.
Eyes, dont reproach me, eyes, dont turn
away.



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fade in the lamplight.
Eyes, dont reproach me, eyes, dont turn
away.








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MARY WANTS TO BE A BEGGAR WOMAN
To be a beggar woman.
To throw all treasures to the wind,
as from a sinking ship„
the burden ofyour love, the burden ofhappiness„
so that I could no longer recognize
my good or my bad name.
To be a beggar woman.
To shuf”e mutely over grey sidewalks
like the dark shadow ofall bright lives,
and with the pennies I am given









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Become a prayer, become a ”ame.
To give myself
away,
tender, burning, cruel.
And be alone,
as only kings and beggars are alone.
And unhappy.
And walk thus, with wondering eyes
through great, mysterious days and nights
toward the high court,
toward the painful light,
toward myself.
ʢʰʩʬʢʰʑ
MARY AND DEATH
Mary said goodbye to the bright house,
nodded to the walls, bowed, and left.
Departed in the night, as into a forest,
where Gods breath is near and every shape is feared.
The night lay gently on her pain,
lay like black, caressing snow.
And following her happily and jauntily„
beggar and drunkard and vagabond.
Cripples hobbled along behind
like sorrowful birds sick with love.
And the mangy ones drew near, shamefaced,
covering their wounds with their hands.
And out in front, full ofyearning,
went death, the youth with a dark ”ute.
IMAGES

ʨʱ˒ʥʥʲʢ
ʨʩʰ
ʨʩʰ
ʡʬˋʤ
He knew
with a real though affected passion,





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
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.

as I am a Jew...Ž
It isnt the smallest ofheroics
to drink black coffee
in the blink ofan eye



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THE MADWOMAN
Stones were laid like grass and dew
under the womans ragged hem,
she went out into the rain.
Children came running unexpectedly,
stalking her, whistling and crowing,
and she thought to herself
that their screaming was insane.
Like a chorus ofbirds
they dissolved and lost themselves in
imaginary, dreamy music.


















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In the tenement doorway, down the steps,
the eye ofa lamp rends the darkness,
his head rises as in a halo.
ʲʷʑ
IN THE DARK ROOM
In the dark room objects stand watch like hounds.
Hear again the quiver ofthe forest, the chop ofthe wind,
ʬʢʰʑ
IfI were a queen
and you my page„
a youth, feminine and slender,
false but beautiful„
both you and my monkey
would stif”y and grandly carry
through silvery avenues
my pearl-embroidered train.
You must then be my protector,
he arrives„my eagle and my knight„
and I would elegantly bend toward him
my gold-dusted head
my pursed lips, soft and red,
and through half-closed eyes
I would see how death
quivers in your glance, sharp and green
on your pale and ashen lips„





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ifI were a queen,
and you my page.
Your words are stones.
Your words are whips.
Blood streams.
I will close my eyes.















.

But I only have one dress„
ʲʰٷʣ
That time, that excitement, I will always remember,
like a song without words, like a poem by Verlaine.
Im so afraid that ifI stop yearning„
where would you be then?
Faces ”uttered like blossoms in the wind,
with quivering lips like ”aming wounds.















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A WOMAN SAYS
Didnt you see it in his glance and his ways?
He is huge and cruel.
He is fashioned by the storm.
Beneath his emphatic tread, the world
is an overcrowded house.
ofhis ”aming steps
I am the sorrowful earth, black and weary.
Cant you see the wounds in the sharp tracks?
I was the high tower ofchildrens stories
and protected him, the frightened one, from the storm.









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ENTREACTE
The delicate weave ofclever talk,
like spiderwebs tossed by the wind,
was suddenly torn.
Bemused, smiling easily,
through the heavy clatter ofsilence


















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.

ON A BALCONY
From a distant summer hot laughter ”oats toward me
from two small and dainty women
lea“ng through a picture book.
















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My Venus wears silk slippers




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FORGOTTEN GODS
When Zeus, Phoebus, Pan,
and Cyprian, silver-footed mistress,
animator and protector ofthe world,
came down from Olympus
on their long and bright route
through ”aring and slowly dying generations,
they lit torches and built temples
in the hearts ofthe lonely,
who still bring sacri“ces and burn incence.
The world is deep and bright,
ʨʠʕ
Her smile is autumnal over her world„
cool, weary and withdrawn,
the toil ofthe house, the years in harness,
ʱʲʑ
girls in a circle,
she in the centre, tanned and jaunty.
Slowly, her rosepainted “ngernails touch
her girlfriends small, pointed breast
and fall
away, r
and happy until they pass.
And joy, song, lamentation
are in the devotion ofhot “ngers.
And eyelashes painfully ”utter
on a face made stony as a gods.
She saw her life as







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Her face is a locked door for him,
behind which fear lurks. He looks and suffers.
He suffers.
His lips rouse her soul from darkened roads,
her lips quiver in dream.
Slowly, she opens her eyes,
slowly, she smiles at her husband








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In the East Side restaurant, among the Chinese lanterns
their silence speaks like the leafed pages ofa novel.
Both ofthem motionless, round and pale,
like two middle-aged Buddhas.

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with all those clever quips ofeighteen years ago?
And is he guilty ifnow he closes his eyes
out offear ofthe storm after her calm?
She stares. Her narrowing eyes become wearier, wearier.
She hates him. He is repugnant to her.
How commendable that she can be staunchly silent for hour
What then„lacerate the wounds?


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And have they...
the waiter interrupts mercifully:
Would the lady like coffee or tea?Ž




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)


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HE BRINGS SORROW
He: Madam, it distresses me
to tell you what is not pleasant to hear.
I come, a stranger from afar
to disrupt your happiness.
She:And were I to stop you?
He:Then I will obey you and perhaps thank y
















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Is he so gravely ill? Perhaps only
This person is deathly tired...
Lies motionless hour after hour,
his smile halffawn, halfPierrot,
with that gentle, raw smile
that promises so much to women...
But the smile promises more,
than he can deliver...
I see that my words fall heavily upon you.
Forgive me. Oh, you must forgive.
... lies motionless entire days,
like someone half-faint after a tiring journey,
who cannot, will not, go further...
Madam, you may consider me vile,
but I repeat what he said: She is too beautiful,Ž
he says: Friend, can you understand,
how the beauty ofa dark disposition becomes a burden?
Even when it is an expensive, a festive burden?
Like a regal crown.
But no king am I, only one ofthe crowd,
can you understand?Ž
ʯʥʥʑ
FriendŽ, he says, dont mock me:
I long for only small, playful things„







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Like a hateful nightmare that passes in sleep,
so will I now pass by you.
And carry
away














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In the harsh gold ofday
the Williamsburg bridge is drowsing.
The wild heart ofthe city
breathes hot and weary.
In the harsh gold ofday
the ferryboat is a blue chord.
And feverish and sharp
is the accompaniment ofthe cars.
The harsh gold ofday
”ashes through the iron cables,












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MY LOVERS POEM
Her words fall along with the dull rain, about opera, the latest book of











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DUSK IN THE PARK









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To the nearest and furthest I am welded by chains.










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MY DAYS TAKE ROOT IN STONES
My days take root in stones.
Growing causes so much pain.
But the blueness above them






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DRUNK FROM THE BITTER TRUTH
The dark and the heavy„I take them.
Come strike and wound, wild anguish.
Drunk from the bitter truth,
I refuse all other wine.
The dark, the heavy, the used up
shame me day in, day out,
I will burn them through, bleed them through, blaze them forth,
and transform them into the most delicate glow.
From the dark, the heavy and the hard,
as ifin service to a higher command,
I build luminous steps to the sought-after,
dreaming and radiant God.



















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She ofthe cold marble breasts
and the slender, light hands„
she squandered her beauty
on rubbish, on nothing.
Perhaps she wanted it, perhaps lusted after it:
the unhappiness, the seven knives ofanguish
to spill lifes holy wine
on rubbish, on nothing.
Now she lies with shattered face.
Her ravaged spirit has abandoned its cage.
Passerby, have pity, be silent„
say nothing.


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I WANT, ANGRY AND TENDER ONE
I want, angry and tender one,
to tell you how it was with me,
always waiting on tiptoe.
For love? Not for love. No.
Just for a hint, a miracle, a voice„
Akhmatova, Anna.
Poems.
New York: W. W. Norton, 1983.
Baskin, Judith R., ed.
Jewish Women in Historical Perspective.
Howe, Irving, Ruth R. Wisse, and Chone Shmeruk, eds.
The Penguin Book ofModern
Yiddish Verse
. New York: Viking Penguin, 1987.
Kalechovsky, Robert and Roberta Kalechovsky, eds.
The Global Anthology ofJewish Women
Writers
. Marblehead, Mass.: Micah Publications, 1990.
Kayser, Wolfgang.
The Grotesque in Art and Literature
. Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1963.
Kazin, Alfred.
Introduction:The Portable Blake.
New York: Viking Press, 1960.
Klep“cz, Irena. Introduction,Ž
Found Treasures.
Toronto: Second Story Press, 1994.
Lasker-Schuler, Else.
. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication
Her words fall along with the dull rain, about opera, the latest book 263
No, theres nothing to say61
Often, I walk as ifbehind a veil93
Oh, ”aming gardens at the edge ofthe sky121
On autumn evenings151
On golden thrones163
Once I was a youth3
Perhaps this was my happiness:51
Primeval murderess night, dark mother ofnecessity, help me!63
She is with people193
She ofthe cold marble breasts273
Sitting at the table in the gray hall25
Slender ships drowse on swollen green water89
Slowly and brightly27
Snow blooms on all the trees today.133
Stones were laid like grass and dew213
Tell him: she couldnt forgive herself109
That time, that excitement, I will always remember227
Thats how it always was:177
The blue dream ofviolins37
The dark and the heavy „ I take them271
The delicate weave ofclever talk231
The dusty road53
The golden peacock ”ew offand
away77
The kings face glows cool and clear39
The old city, small and gray135
The road is so still71
The sorrow ofpassing125
They roll by95
This is the night, the sadness, the non-existence87
Through tall, narrow, coloured panes161
When was it? I cant remember17
When Zeus, Phoebus, Pan237
With anxious hands I hold your precious head43
WorldŽwe inscribed in the sand173
You hard, masterful voice, be still91
Your thin pro“le57
ʲʷʩʣʰʲʮˋʬʴ
ʳʩʨ
ʭʩʶʥʬ˝
ʯʢʔ
ʢˌʨ
ʯʲʥʥʲʢ
ʨʰʔ
ʯʹʩʸˋʡʸˋʡ
ʯʸʲʩʥʨ
ʨˌʢ
ʯʷʩʨʱʡʸˋʤ
ʹʩʣʑ
index to first lines in Yiddish
38
260
146
92
188
66
140
50
10
86
230
48
270
90
160
56
156
36
124
52
132
46
108
34
28
228
106
18
184
ʣʬˌʢ
ʯʩʠ
ʸʲʔ
ʯʲʰʔ
ʣʰʔ
ʨʷʥʷʲʢʮʥʸˋ
ʨʫʠʰ
ʯʢʥ



ʩʩʥʥ
ʩʩʸˋ
ʯʨʩʩʬʴ
ʨʬʩ˝ʹ
ʯʩʩʢʸˋʴ
ʢʲʥʥ
ʨʰʔ
ʨʩʬʡ
ʲʰʔ
ʭʩʠ
ʸʲʨʡʩʬʲʢ
ʢʰˋʢ
ʸʲʦʔ





:

ʨˋʦ
ʪˌʣ

ʯʲʰʔ
ʯʡˌʤ
ʣʮˋʦ
ʯʡʔ
ʯʲʥʥʲʢ
ʪʸʥʣ
ʯʲʬʷʔ
ʯʷʰʲʣʲʢ
˝ˌʷ
ʨʰʲʤ
ʲʰʲʣʔ
ʸʲʰʩʩʨʹ
ʲʰʔ
ʯʲʰʔ
ʪʩʦ
ʸʲʰʩʩʨʹ
ʯʨʩʮ








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ʯʫˋʦ
ʨʰʔ
ʨʱ˒ʥʥʲʢ
ʯʨʔ

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