The Red Foot
Daybreak. A hut in the steppe under lanterns of snow.
My father is sick. His soul wanders off
Naked in the snow. I see its footsteps.
Days, waiting for a doctor. Suddenly — a neighing,
Like redhot stones rolled in ice-cold water.
Mother, in hairy felt boots, opens the door,
Father — his leaden eyes. Bending over the porch,
A horse — a bonfire in his mouth, smoke in his nostrils —
And someone above him pulls on his reins and stops
The horse from galloping in to my father.
Soon a head appears in a snowcovered, outlandishly high
Sheepskin hat — you could use it as a dovecote —
And Yiddish words melt the fear on the windowpanes:
'I saw on the doorframe glimmers a mezuzah —
So I don't need to ask if Jews live here.
In short: on my heels, a gang of Kirghizes,
They want to take me alive. My name is Lipa.
And she … (He points to a blond creature, lovely,
Cuddled in the foamy milk of his open fur) —
She's my girl, my woman, her name is Nina.
Allow me to leave her with you. A good soul
And doesn't eat much. Like a bird: peck, peck.
See you, friends! Hey, and let our enemies choke!'
And before Mother puts two and two together —
The horse strikes up his oars in the snowy waves,
As if each of his legs were a separate pony,
And Lipa — a wolf, nails sunk in the flesh, on his saddle.
A sleigh, seven bell-bedecked northern dogs in the lead.
He finally came, the only doctor around.
At first he refused. It's war. The money's no money.
Till we promised to give him a pouch of salt —
And it helped. A dark softness in the house.
The beams drip gummy tar like honey.
Such an otherworldly creature will heal my father?
One eye running over — a rotten eggyolk…
The other eye, twitching, drowns in swampy tears.
His face — a beggar's moldy loaf of bread.
And no one understands his strange, one-syllable language …
With hasty, straw fingers he feels the dying man.
And out of his doctor's breast, as out of his heart, he pulls
A handful of leeches. He licks them to see if they're alive —
They are! (In my eyes, they are enchanted rings
Around his straw fingers …) The leeches alive —
But lifeless, outside the whole scene, is my father — — —
Barefoot, I lie close to him. His legs grow cold.
I am a heap of silence older. A silkworm
Spins with his innards white stretches of cloth.
And the Creator creates the melody of life:
Facing the misty body, that just now was
My own father, from behind a skinny sheet,
Where the girl was quartered, the abandoned Nina —
A concert erupts. A chirping that pierces the ceiling.
Amazing: not at the head of the dead is
Our only wax candle — now mama, candle in hand,
Is with the stranger behind the sheet.
The candle — a golden owl. The sheet — a tempest.
Mother and doctor — two sunset shadows in a storm.
Both draw out a dark little man,
Tied to the homey bed with a string.
Drunk on the shadow-potion, I run to the sheet.
On the border, my foot is flooded with the blood of the storm.
Barefoot, I flee outside, to blue-covered snows,
I sear them with fear-hieroglyphs, breathing and dazzling.
And to this very day, behind me, a red little foot pursues:
— This is how you are born, my boy, always and ever.
Abraham Sutzkever's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (The Red Foot by Abraham Sutzkever )
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
William Butler Yeats
(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- As I Grew Older, Langston Hughes
- I Dream A World, Langston Hughes
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Mother to Son, Langston Hughes
- I, Too, Langston Hughes
- Daffodils, William Wordsworth
- Tonight I can write the saddest lines, Pablo Neruda
- Suicide's Note, Langston Hughes
Poem of the Day
- Osho, Bijay Kant Dubey
- Many Third-Classers, Bijay Kant Dubey
- As A Man, I Hate The Fanatic The Most, Bijay Kant Dubey
- Bapu, In Your Memory, Bijay Kant Dubey
- The Mirth of William, James Merchant
- -Untitled- (2), Morgan Siegel
- The Short Ballad of Egg Boy, James Merchant
- Logic in Life, Jayatissa Liyanage
- - Lady Andrea on the meadowland, Giorgio A. V.
- Lady Andrea on the meadowland, Giorgio A. V.