Courageous Yiddish poet Abraham Sutzkever, may his memory now be for a blessing:
Written on a slat of a railway car:
If some time someone should find pearls
threaded on a blood-red string of silk
which, near the throat, runs all the thinner
like life’s own path until it’s gone
somewhere in a fog and can’t be seen—
If someone should find these pearls
let him know how—cool, aloof—they lit up
the eighteen-year-old, impatient heart
of the Paris dancing girl, Marie.
Now, dragged through unknown Poland—
I’m throwing my pearls through the grate.
If they’re found by a young man—
let these pearls adorn his girlfriend.
If they’re found by a girl—
let her wear them; they belong to her.
And if they’re found by an old man—
let him, for these pearls, recite a prayer.
Translated by Jacqueline Osherow