Whether writing of a letter containing a blade of grass from Ponar or a letter written before its writer has been born, correspondence was a fruitful subject of Avrom Sutzkever’s poetry. The following poem was written in 1974 and is included in Sutzkever’s collection Lider fun Togbukh (Poems from My Diary.)
My mailman will no longer bring any letters
and the clock in the long archive will stop ticking.
My mailman has been taken, in a sack, by another
to a home beneath clay, and I wait: Is he coming?
The doorbell blossoms. The other mailman arrives.
—From where, my love? Who has sent this letter, my dear
mail carrier? Until today I had never seen such a stamp,
these dusty boots. Has it come from the earth or from lunar ground?
—I don’t know whom it came from. I’m not allowed to read.
I only know where I brought the envelope from. An extreme
cold exists there; you better button your sweater.
The mailman retreats into mist and I kiss the mezuzah.
Original Yiddish published in Avrom Sutzkever’s Lider fun Togbukh (Tel-Aviv: Di goldene keyt, 1977).
MAIA EVRONA’s translations of Avrom Sutzkever were awarded a fellowship in translation from the NEA in 2016 and have been widely published. She has also translated poetry by Anna Margolin, Yoysef Kerler, Malka Lee, and others. Her own poetry was included, in her own Yiddish self-translation, in the Yiddish Book Center’s anthology Radiant Jargon: Six Poems about Yiddish. Maia is a 2019 Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellow.