Memories Are a House

By Avot Yeshurun Avot Yeshurun

Translated By Leon Wieseltier Read the translator's notes

Stars by the power of their orbit
are stars in the order of the sun.
But if they are not figures of orbit,
they are not in the sun.

Exactly like me: by the power of my yearnings   
I am in the family.
And if I will not yearn,
I am not in the family.

Memories are a house.
Time is a roof. All the time a roof. All the time time.
I would like sometime to die
unto them and see them.

Benno Rothenberg related
that when he saw some archaeology,
he had a feeling of
homeland. As if he were in his house.

I do not deny that a man who reaches a certain age
can no longer hope
that those from whom he came will remain
still alive with him, as my mother once

wrote to me in one of the letters   
of her twilight. From the fadings of her letters
into the fatedness of man: But when can they.   
After all there's no chance of seeing you.

And once, in a discarded and forgotten letter:
"Good night, Yehiel alter lebn. Slumber has descended upon me.
I am caught in the throes of sleep. Khbin
shlayferig gevorn." Said in a letter that nobody reads, that nobody read.

—February 8, 1989

Source: Poetry (April 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2008


Avot Yeshurun (1904–1992) was born in the Ukraine and immigrated to Palestine in 1925, where he worked as a laborer, wrote poems, and led an active political life.

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