Thursday, July 4, 2013

Reparation Written by Zeev Kachel Translated by Uvi Poznansky


You're asking me to put here in writing, once more,
All that I lost, my esteemed counselor?
To list in detail, then describe and refine
And bring two witnesses tomorrow to sign?

My father's gold watch--I could just hear the sound    
Had three lids that were shining
Reflected in it I could see us, standing around
All faces aglow and rejoicing.

The watch also had a heavy gold chain
Coiled twice over, over his vein
The tips of its hands gave a hint of a spark
Shooting green glow, right into the dark   

It ticked, counting years for each girl and boy
Marking seasons, holidays, morning and night
I remember Sabbath candles flickering with joy
Sparkling brightly, like starlight.

You're asking me to record, on paper to pour 
All that I lost, my esteemed counselor?

There was an old synagogue my grandpa had built
Burning scrolls, flying ash, dying spirit
Ancient Torah aflame, letters lifting, all gilt
Thou shall not kill, shall not steal, shall not covet

There was my sister. She was delicate, tender
In her eyes I remember a twinkle 
Her name was Batia, my beloved little sister
She grew up--and then--it was simple:

She grew up and married, gave birth to a son
with a blue glint in his eyes, and a dimple 
And blond hair, like a pure 'Aryan'--
The murderers, they threw him right into the Nile 

There were aunts, there were uncles, boys and girls in our midst
The murderers decreed: they should not exist

You're asking me to record, on paper to pour 
All that I lost, my esteemed counselor?

I demand to return, reopen that door
Find parents and sister, each girl and boy
Back there in that synagogue, with that spirit of yore
Sabbath candles aflame, father's voice filled with joy.
It's not property I ask for, not mere pieces of land--
Hebrew school, friends around, all of us in one band 
With hope that inspired to survive, to withstand.
Bring the murderers to trial, that is what I demand.
You will not understand; it's of no great import--
I demand that which had been cut short

For those of you young enough, or lucky enough not to know, Reparations refers to money paid by the German government to holocaust survivors, to compensate them for property confiscated by the Nazi regime.  
The watercolor painting here is called 'The Bard', which I painted after his passing, from memory.

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  1. Beautifully told. Haunting, as it justly should be.

  2. bloody brilliant and moving.....if I could write 1/100th like that,I could die a happy writer.