Page 39 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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31
WISSE / THE GHETTO POEMS OF ABRAHAM SUTZKEVER
So this is the rule:
here today,
somewhere else tomorrow,
and in this coffin now
as in stiff wooden clothing
my speech
still moves into song.
Vilna,
August 31, 1941.
POWER OF CREATIVITY
Through its choice of images and verbal plays, the box
assumes the likeness of the tarred little boat that saved the infant
Moses when an earlier Pharaoh condemned Jewish males to
death. The box is also an Ark—for the muse. Written tersely,
as if in code, the poem admits the confining horror of its situa-
tion, yet the man in the coffin is resonantly alive. Despite the
“message” of the coffin where bodies are separated from human
lime, the poet is able to effect within his prison an act of re-
union, a conquest of distance and death through this artistic
feat of creation.
In another poem a man escapes to the frozen woods and finds
momentary warmth over a mound of fresh horse manure. He
reflects upon his past with regret: he has not understood before
the greatness of small things; that the warming breath of manure
can sustain a man and fire an exalted poem. When wolves
become man’s saviors, as they are in the forest, the poet must
forge their howling into a “horde of music.”
The terrifying account of “A Day Among the Stormtroopers”
ends with the bleeding poet floating in a lime-pit. The stream
of his blood runs into the white lime in neat rows, like poetry,
forming a wondrous sunset, the more beautiful because it is
“his own creation.” Written under conditions so unthinkable
they can more easily be considered metaphorical, the poems
refuse the given role of victim and seek out the redemptive
detail, the play of words, images and sounds that will secure
life by transforming it into art.
In their reluctance to name the enemy, these poems are also
special acts of aggression, annihilating the foe by denying him