Page 110 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Wisse
102
around him. He became obsessed with “rescuing the dead,” in or­
der to secure for them, if he could do no more, at least a poetic
grave. His elegies go beyond mourning in their attempt to reinter
the dead so as to guarantee them a dignified and enduring memo­
rial.
An almost unbearable poem, “To My Child,” is written as a pri­
vate matter between a father and his dead infant. There is no men­
tion of the Germans who poisoned the Sutzkevers’ newborn son
and only the gendest allusion to the actual murder:
That drop o f poison extinguished your faith.
You thought
it was warm sweet milk.
The father considers swallowing the tiny cooling corpse, his an­
ticipated future, but he deems himself an “unworthy” grave. In­
stead, he sends down his son into the snow:
But I am not worthy to be your grave.
So I bequeath you
to the summoning snow,
the snow—my first respite,
and you will sink
like a splinter o f dusk
into the quiet depths
and bear greetings from me
to the frozen grasslands ahead---------
Man’s essential affinity with nature, the subject of so much of
Sutzkever’s thought, here assumes a terrible urgency as the father
tries to rescue—is it in the natural cycle or in art?—the child he was
powerless to save.
The elegy on the death of the poet’s mother admits a similar
note of “comfort.” In her absence she says:
If you remain
I will still be alive