Poetry by Abraham Sutzkever, Translation by Maia Evrona

My Father

My father is a sheet of floating ice on Siberia’s rivers
my mother is a bonfire by the Vilia,
but both of them are within me,
the floating ice and the bonfire. 

They will also be in me, my daughter,
behind my bolted-shut eyes—
the floating ice and the bonfire.

 

 

 

The Braids My Sister Wore

The braids my sister wore
come by night into my room like wings;
And so I want to give my best kiss—
but they become blood in the mirror.

This is the sign sent me by my sister:
We are in the land of your cradle...
—Swimming, swimming, swimming,
There, with the current, through the mirror!

Yet there is nothing behind the mirror— —
It has lost a ribbon in mist
which tomorrow my daughter
will joyfully tie into her little braid. 

 

 

Abraham Sutzkever, born in 1913 in modern-day Belarus, is a legendary figure of the Yiddish literary world, with a poetic oeuvre numbering well over 1,000 pages. A survivor of the Vilna Ghetto and a former partisan, he immigrated to Mandatory 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 was recently awarded a 2016 Translation Fellowship for her translations of another collection by Sutzkever, and her translations of his work have appeared in Poetry Magazine. In addition to translation, Maia's own poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on chronic illness, have appeared in Prairie Schooner, New South and elsewhere.