Dr. Atlas - Poem by Abraham Sutzkever
To Sh. Kacherginski
The Lipichany forests are ablaze
And the Shchara
Will melt by night.
Give an order! As long as the ice holds,
We have a retreat from the battle.
But Doctor Atlas,
Used to mishap and sensation,
In a hut of branches, shimmering
With tar drops,
— Not now,
First, I'll finish the operation.
Huddled in a fur,
As if a calf had grown
Out of his bones —
Lies a peasant, moaning,
His pipe, stuffed with snow,
Stuck in his teeth —
As a suffering rod.
For nothing in the world would he give up
His pipe — not even to God.
Doctor Atlas will not dim
Nearby, crouching on one knee,
A king lies on the other —
The peasant's rotting leg.
The half lens of the doctor's glasses
Glimmers like an icicle in sunset.
Forged in a boot with a lucky horseshoe
Will not part from its boot.
Soon it will be over,
We are ten
And they …
He cuts them off:
— Mulya, wash the saw with snow
And have the boys saddle the horses,
The Lipichany Forests are ablaze,
The peasant grimly bites his pipe,
And Doctor Atlas takes a deep breath
And saws off
Ten horses gallop.
Doctor Atlas — in the lead
With the peasant on his saddle —
And the horseshoe suns ring
Over the shifting ice
Of the Shchara.
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