Two Poems

H. Leivick

The Holy Poem

With my holy poem
Clenched between my teeth
From my wolf cave—my hole, my home—
I go out and I roam
From street to street:
As a wolf with a wretched bone
Clenched between his teeth alone.

There is prey enough in the street
to sate a wolven hate,
and sweet
is the humid blood that drips
from flesh, but sweeter still
is the dry dust settling
down on jammed lips.

Struggle on the street,
The call of throats.
Let me this once come out tonight,
A deathtooth bite.
That bite is me.
But I don't come to gnaw.
I hunch into my little self
With head beneath my paw.

Back to my hole I head
And lump onto my bed,
But I am awake,
Untired from holding clenched
Between my teeth alone
This holy poem
As the wolf his wretched bone.

Gates, Open

Gates, open! Draw closer,
Threshold! You'll tell.
I come once again
To my snug little cell.

My body—fire,
My head—snow;
And on my shoulders
A sack of woe.

Goodbye. Goodbye.
Hands. Eyes. That day.
Farewell on the lips
Burnt out—burned away.

Farewell to whom?
Fled whom? What past?
The eternal questions . . .
This time do not ask.

In fire, in flames
The steppeland spreads,
And snow in the flames
On the mountains' heads.

Look what doors
Are open to me!
Hospital or prison?
Or a monastery?

I lay down at your feet
My sack of woe,
Land Colorado
Of fire and snow!

translated from the Yiddish by A. Z. Foreman