A horizon of furious salt. And prudent camels
move along with disappearing footprints in caravans.
But above them a silvery string of storks recalls,
that I once had a hometown in what then was Poland.
Dune after dune has erased the trail I left,
oh, who has strung that silvery string?
Now it will divide in two my world of memories
and camels grope along in vanishing steps and keep going.
I am searching for my footprints, to finish my migration
but it’s already too late to learn the camel’s wisdom.
The silvery string of storks is slashing apart
a third layer of silence over clouds of dust.
A gushing dune engulfs my words and the desert’s
demon is all that plucks that string above.
A mirage of palaces crumbles in the sand, a sliver
of a moment – it will explode within my heart.
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 Mandatory Palestine just before the founding of the State of Israel and passed away in Tel Aviv in 2010, at the age of 96. The poems included here are taken from his 1985 collection Poems from My Diary.
Maia Evrona’s poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on chronic illness, have appeared in Prairie Schooner, New South and elsewhere. Her translations of Abraham Sutzkever were awarded a 2016 Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and have appeared in Poetry. She has written on the importance of the NEA in Artnet.