from Epitaphs

By Abraham Sutzkever Abraham Sutzkever

Translated By Jacqueline Osherow Read the translator's notes

Written on a slat of a railway car:

If some time someone should find pearls
threaded on a blood-red string of silk
which, near the throat, runs all the thinner
like life’s own path until it’s gone
somewhere in a fog and can’t be seen—   

If someone should find these pearls   
let him know how—cool, aloof—they lit up   
the eighteen-year-old, impatient heart   
of the Paris dancing girl, Marie.

Now, dragged through unknown Poland—
I’m throwing my pearls through the grate.

If they’re found by a young man—
let these pearls adorn his girlfriend.
If they’re found by a girl—
let her wear them; they belong to her.
And if they’re found by an old man—
let him, for these pearls, recite a prayer.

Source: Poetry (April 2006).

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2006
 Abraham  Sutzkever

Biography

Abraham Sutzkever was born in 1913 in what is now Belarus. He is a Yiddish-language poet whose works chronicle his childhood in Siberia, his life in the Vilna (Vilnius) ghetto during World War II, and his escape to join the Jewish partisans. In 1915 Sutzkever and his family fled their home in eastern Europe to Siberia to escape World War I; they returned to the region in 1920 and lived near Vilna, where he later studied literary . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Growing Old, Relationships, Living, Men & Women, Youth

POET’S REGION Israel

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