The Lead Plates At The Rom Press - Poem by Abraham Sutzkever
Arrayed at night, like fingers stretch through bars
To clutch the lit air of freedom,
We made for the press plates, to seize
The lead plates at the Rom printing works.
We were dreamers, we had to be soliders,
And melt down, for our bullets, the spirit of the lead.
At some timeless native lair
We unlocked the seal once more.
Shrouded in shadow, by the glow of a lamp,
Like Temple ancients dipping oil
Into candelabrums of festal gold,
So, pouring out line after lettered line, did we.
Letter by melting letter the lead,
Liquefied bullets, gleamed with thoughts:
A verse from Babylon, a verse from Poland,
Seething, flowing into the one mold.
Now must Jewish grit, long concealed in words,
Detonate the world in a shot!
Who in Vilna Ghetto has beheld the hands
Of Jewish heroes clasping weapons
Has beheld Jerusalem in its throes,
The crumbling of those granite walls;
Grasping the words smelted into lead,
Conning their sounds by heart.
Poet's Notes about The Poem
Translated by Neal Kozodoy
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