The life to come sold for a morsel of zest –
Master, you will be punished!
A world not yet planed smooth, like a  marble slab,
will crush you while you rest.

See not fully told prophecies limp down the street
and weep orphaned on the stairs!
And smouldering sparks, your love and hate,
are plundered by spiritual beggars

and word clowns copy your tone
and shriek, “better, more elevated!”
You will rise enraged, tongue dry as a stone,
the earthly vessel desolated.


Day after day the early morning passes in dream;
then pleasantries till lunch ˗ impressing others.
You drink unaware, wavelets of memory cream.
The red wine gurgles, your eyes in distant focus.

A fix on towers and monuments they assume,
as rainbows touch the forested ends of the earth
while below rushes a street and petrol engines fume
to the god of the city, of filth, of “Time is money…”

Smart friends caution: “Beware of tramcars! Watch out
when you cut across a street. Don’t dream but look!”
They don’t see the downtrodden who fall, and shout
eagle-like thoughts to the scabby ground.


Youth is gone. You must tell your heart
this in the silence.
As evening comes on, a cricket saws somewhere apart
and bells lament in the distance.

The wine-cup drunk to the lees, was drained
and savoured.
The once white tablecloth now burns red-stained;
was it blood, or wine you poured?

The coming greyness will, like snowy billows,
the stains obliterate.
Leaving a fool who bangs his head on the pillows
and scratches his bald pate.

Your song comes again on a wave from afar,
As if on Messiah’s horse, she rides the cresting white;
yellow daisies shine again in the sky
and on the green earth, clever stars grow bright.

How rich the greenery hangs and spills over trees!
The flowers – foam and lace and piles of crepe-red.
Fish are flying, silver swallows swim
and each blonde girl carries a sun on her head.

Your song shoots soundless lightning without thunder,
your fingers tremble, unexpectedly animate.
The harsh world looks kindly on and winks to you
” Blessed are all who suffer and build, who weep and create.”

Your withered drafts are becoming soft and tender,
The letters – small dark eyes with sparks of fieriness;
get up now Master, pick up your sharp chisel –
and carve your hero from this chaotic mess.

Translated and annotated from the Yiddish by Beni Gothajner (2012)