Translation Tuesday: Poems by Anna Margolin

Translated from the Yiddish by Maia Evrona

Mother Earth


Mother earth, much trodden, sun-washed,

dark slave and mistress

I am, beloved.

From me, the humble and the sullen,

you burst forth—a powerful stem.

And like the eternal stars, and as the flame from the sun,

I circle in long and blind silence

through your roots, through your branches

and half in vigil, and half in slumber,

I search, through you, for the high sky.


Sleep, Beloved, Sleep…


Doze on, beloved, doze.

You are like young, brown, forest earth.

Your eyes are full of heaven.


I, your rest, and I, your sword,

keep watch over earth and heaven.

Every star stands amazed and listens

to how I whisper through your slumber.


Slowly and Brightly…


Slowly and brightly

you bent your heavy brow down to my brow,

you sank with your black fire

into my blue fire.


And my room became full with summer,

and my room became full with night.

So I shut my shining, weeping eyes,

and wept softly in my Indian summer.




Autumn falls on the city and on me.

Dark heart, be still and marvel:

see, a naked branch with a leaf

blooms in asphalt, tender as a lily.


Heavy autumn. Heavy footsteps. I am old.

Dark heart of mine, don’t curse, believe in wonder:

Somewhere in a city, in a world

I am blooming now like a lily.


Anna Margolin was born in 1887 in modern-day Belarus. Following stints in Warsaw, Palestine and elsewhere, she eventually settled in New York City and died there in 1952. Though she published only one book, a number of her poems are classics of Yiddish-language poetry, and have appeared, in English translation by Maia Evrona, in the Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere.

Maia Evrona’s poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on growing up with a chronic illness, have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, New South, Harpur Palate, and elsewhere. In addition to Anna Margolin, her translations of Abraham Sutzkever have appeared in Poetry Magazine and other venues. She also loves to sing.