YOUR ONE AND ONLY MOMENT
Your one and only moment, the fruit that fell
from the Tree of Life just a second ago and warm
and fresh still crouches full of juice in the grass
is in a lot light-years farther ahead of its sister.
This moment, as you know, is yours, yours, you are its Tree of Life:
you alone nursed it along in your blood, all your life long
you shared with it your morsel of bread and tiny sip of water,
carried it on your shoulder and protected it from lighting and thunder.
The moment has fallen and–what a shame!–it is forever.
What a kind of distance! And at your shadow’s fingers.
And it seems: a bend, a stretch of the hand, a caress,
those tears are close to you in the grass, and suddenly in your fingers.
There was probably a small flaw in creation, and perhaps
there is a wise man who will give me an explanation
for why it is not the tree’s destiny to taste its fruit
when it falls from it in warmth and freshness,
in the grass?
THIS SEVERED HAND
This severed hand belongs to me, the one that returns each year.
I found it in the garden among the tomatoes.
And because it is a man’s hand owned by no one,
it belongs to me. A third hand. For it, I write no letter down.
I confess to my set of ten curious readers:
I am not the one who feeds them with magic-speech and whispers
into the paper’s ear a memory not my own:
that is done by my third hand, found among the tomatoes.
Knowing Yiddish is not enough to read its script,
I learn its language on my own, wandering around alone
at night on its dirt trails and falling on thorns and stones,
at dawn I see it in the sunrise between the tomatoes.
This severed hand belongs to me, which was caressing, perhaps,
some young woman, when the one to whom it was part
was torn apart. And I found it when that man lost it
in September 1941, among the tomatoes.
Abraham Sutzkever, born in 1913 in modern-day Belarus, is a legendary figure of the Yiddish literary world. A survivor of the Vilna Ghetto, he immigrated to Mandate Palestine just before the founding of the State of Israel and passed away in Tel Aviv in 2010, at the age of 96.
Maia Evrona’s poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on growing up with a chronic illness, have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, New South, and elsewhere. More of her Abraham Sutzkever translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry Magazine, The Kenyon Review Online and other venues.