Abraham Sutzkever

(1913 - 2010 / Smorgon, Russian Empire)

To My Wife


Don't count the toll of wounds,
The suffering, the scar.
You have ignited once
A newborn baby star.

And at your feet, a spring
In our dark cave has curled,
And suddenly a baby's
Cooing has touched the world.

And like the purest spring
The word was then revealed,
But up above us no one
Must hear what must be sealed.

I knelt for you in thanks,
My spirit too did lift,
I brought you from above
Two blades of grass, a gift.


A child is not an other —
It's you alone and me.
It leads up on a ladder
Close to ourselves, you see.

But still before we thought
A name for him that's right,
The axes and the crowbars
Have plundered in the night.

The babe knew not a thing,
It dozed off in its rest,
A German came and ripped him
Away from mother's breast.

And what can take its place,
Dear, desolate and wild,
When from afar they glow,
The small bones of our child.


— And breathlessly we rush,
Through swamp and growth so wild,
You hold in hand a rifle —
A shadow of your child.

And every time the rifle
Spits out the chunk of lead,
In its dull glow we see
The child that we have bred.

As air fills up the world,
It fills our minds, a shield.
In pink of dawn, it rises,
Appears here in the field.

And over all our wounds,
Our suffering, our scar,
It did not disappear,
The newborn baby star.

Narocz Forest, September 30, 1943

Submitted: Monday, July 21, 2014

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