Page 108 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Since poetry for Sutzkever is born of the actual, his ghetto po­
ems must also confront their given situation. Almost every poem
of this period is precisely dated, the situation and vocabulary rivet­
ing the art to its concrete origin in fact. On August 30, 1941, the
poet escaped a round-up of Jews by hiding in a coffin. There
emerged a tight narrow poem of defiance:
I am lying in this coffin
as I would lie
in stiff wooden clothing.
This could be a small boat
on dangerous waves,
this could be cradle.
And here,
where bodies have been taken
from time
I call out to you, sister,
and you hear me calling
in your distance.
What is suddenly moving in this coffin—
an unexpected body?
You come.
I recognize the pupils of your eyes,
Your breath,
Your light.
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.
August 31, 1941