KR OnlinePoetry

Creation on the Bottom of the Sea

Translated from Yiddish by Maia Evrona

Creation on the bottom of the sea, without sun, without rays of light,
walking vegetation in an other-worldly landscape,
coral Towers of Babel, birth of death and life,
divine whims, it’s high time we got acquainted.

It’s high time we hurried out of the circus with its clowns, trapezes,
to here, where the pearl still rules in its glory.
It’s high time we snatched the secrets out of the darkness
where sweet little hearts of slime beat in the sea’s laboratory.

It’s high time we drank wine with long drowned sailors
in the water-tavern on the bottom of the sea, in a ship’s cabin,
and heard them tell of pirates, albatrosses, and loves that have gone on
for longer than a thousand years and still have not grown calm.

Every sound of brass and wood and string wants to be made free,
the human language is imprisoned in heavy cages.
Its high time we paid attention and glimpsed though a cranny
how mute stillness learns the alphabet of silence.

Abraham Sutzkever, born in 1913 in modern-day Belarus, is a legendary figure of the Yiddish literary world. A survivor of the Vilna Ghetto, he immigrated to Mandate Palestine just before the founding of the State of Israel and passed away in Tel Aviv in 2010, at the age of 96.   Maia Evrona’s poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on chronic illness, have appeared in Prairie Schooner, New South, and elsewhere. Her translations of Abraham Sutzkever were recently awarded a 2016 Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and have appeared in Poetry Magazine and other venues.