Abraham Sutzkever

(1913 - 2010 / Smorgon, Russian Empire)

Chosen Tree - Poem by Abraham Sutzkever

When Stradivarius felt: he is about to carve
His last violin — on a stormy night, a gray old man,
He went off to the woods, stooped over with his stick.
Like burning violin bows, lightning attacked him.
He kneels at every tree, applies his breathing ear:
Oh, which chosen tree will now reveal
The one great tone? Which tree will give the wood
For Stradivarius to carve his last violin?
The smallest seed of sound — its pain
Weeps in him. The pain of raising
Violins. As if he himself had liberated from a prison
His own death
Along with the purest sounds.
He asks forgiveness of the shadows
For sawing off their heads — to capture
The nightingale inside his violin and to unravel
The grief of a tree after the first rain, a tree
That cannot flee assaulting saws …

With a cold iron glove, the storm fells him.
A cloud stands at his head with a spade.
And Stradivarius barely
Whispers: Chosen Tree,
Saw apart my body — the weeping form,
And carve from me, paint with my blood — the last violin.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, July 21, 2014

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