4 poems by Anna Margolin translated by Maia Evrona


I Was Once a Handsome Boy

I was once a handsome boy,
heard Socrates in the porticos,
my darling, my bosom-buddy,
had Athens’ most stunning torso.

There was Cesar. And a bright world
built of marble, the last was I,
and selected as my wife
was my proud sister.

Rose-wreathed, over wine, all night through,
I heard in the highest of spirits
about that weakling from Nazareth
and wild stories about Jews.



Ikh bin geven a mol a yingling

Ikh bin geven amol a yingling,
gehert in portikos sokraten,
es hot mayn buzem-fraynt, mayn libling,
gehat dem shenstn tors in aten.

Gevezn tsezar. Un a hele velt
geboyt fun marmor, ikh der letster,
un far a vayb mir oysderveylt
mayn shtoltse shvester.

In royznkrants baym vayn biz shpet
gehert in hoykhmutikn fridn
vegn shvakhling fun nazaret
un vilde mayses vegn idn.



I Was Once a Handsome Boy





The Song of a Girl

That hour, that allure, I will always remember,
like a song without words, like a poem by Verlaine.
I have so much fear of ceasing to yearn.
Where would you be, then?

Faces fluttered, like blossoms in the wind
with quivering lips, red like wounds.
And like dreaming poets, the violins
sang of love and of death.

And in giant mirrors, our shadows
smiled back at us, imposing and proud,
when around your feet swirled
the silk train of my gown.

Oh lovely one, I want to give you so much now.
Love? Death? Do I even know?
But a yearning bends me, it rocks me, like a storm.
Come and burn through.



Dos lid fun a meydl

Yene sho, yenem reyts, vell ikh eybik gedenken,
vi on verter a lid, vi a lid fun verleyn.
Ikh hob azoy moyre tomer her ikh af benken.
Vu bistu den?

Vi tsvit inem vint hobn geflattered gezikhter
mit tsukendn lipn, vi vundn royt.
Un es hobn di findlen, vi troymende dikhter,
gezungen fun libe un toyt.

Un undzere shotns in rizike shpiglen
hobn antkegngeshmaykhlt shtayf un farnem,
ven arum dayne fis hot genumen zikh viklen
mayn zaydener tren.

Oh, sheyner, vill ikh itst azoy fil dir sheynken.
Tsi libe? Tsi toyt? Veys ikh es den?
Nor es boygt mikh, es vigt mikh, vi a shturem, a beynken.
Kum un farbren.



The Song of a Girl





Just As My Glance Full of Tears

Just as my glance full of tears,
the night is intimate and blue.
Say your cruel words,
but with a voice that is tender.

And, here and there, in your voice
there will suddenly bloom
in the moonlight a garden,
in the moonlight a face.

And the play of sorrow
on a sick conscience again:
I know so much, my tired one,
oh, I don’t want to know anymore.

But listen, oh, like so, until late
for the coming of the shadow of love,
sad as river grasses,
tender as the names of the flowers.



Azoy vi mayn blik der fartrerter

Azoy vi mayn blik der fartrerter
iz der ovnt bloy un intim.
Zog dayne kalte verter,
nor mit a tsartlakher shtim.

Un in dayn shtim do un dortn
vet ufblien umgerikht
in levone-shayn a gortn,
in levone-shayn a gezikht.

Un dos troyer-shpil vider
fun a krankn gevisn.
Ikh veys azoyfil, mayn mider,
oh, ikh vil mer nisht visn.

Nor hern azoy-o biz shpet
dem shotn fun libe kumen,
troyerik vi tsheret,
tsart vi di nemen fun di blumen.



Just As My Glance Full of Tears





I Walk In the Shadow of Your Life

I walk in the shadow of your life
with soft, obeying feet.
My secret is curtained and safe
in my down-turned gaze.

And before your eyes, so bright and still,
I bow, like a wife and child,
and fulfill your clear, clever will,
and every night the wind calls,

and twitches by day with a pious smile,
and flutters up in word and sin.
Pardon me, my faithful one,
when I wander with the wind.



Ikh gey in shotn fun dayn lebn

Ikh gey in shotn fun dayn lebn
mit laykhte folgndike trit.
Mayn sod iz farhangen un gehit
in mayne opgevendte oygn.

Un far dayn blik dem likhtik-shtiln
boyg ikh zikh, vi a vayb un kind,
un tu dayn klugn heln viln,
un yede nakht ruft mikh der vint,

un tsukt baytog in frumen smaykhl,
un flatert uf in vort un tsindt.
Getrayer mayner, zay mir moykhl,
ven ikh vell voglen mit dem vint.



I Walk In the Shadow of Your Life



Anna Margolin was born in 1887 in modern-day Belarus and died in 1952 in New York City. When her poems—now classics of Yiddish-language literature–were first published, literary critics declared that she must have been a man using a female name, because they believed no woman could write that well.

Maia Evrona’s poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on living with chronic illness, have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Harpur Palate and elsewhere. More of her translations from Yiddish have appeared or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Poetry Magazine and other venues.