Direct from Houston, it's poetry!

I am very honored to be in the new issue of Lyric, whose fifth issue is hitting newsstands everywhere. Well, probably not exactly everywhere, but I encourage you to buy a copy.

It's actually not my poems, more's the pity. I got in on the coattails of a Yiddish poet that more people should know about, Yankev Glatshteyn, by translating two of his poems:

* * *

Yankev Glatshteyn

Good night, world,
big stinking world.
Not you, but I slam the door.
With my long robe,
fiery yellow patch
and proud step,
at my own command
I’m going back into the ghetto.
Trampling baptismal traces.
I roll in your garbage.
Praise to you, praise, praise,
hunchbacked Jewish life.
To hell, world, with your polluted cultures.
Though everything is laid waste
I dust myself in your dust
sad Jewish life.

Swinish German, hateful Polack,
thieving Amalek, land of gorging and slobbing,
flabby democracy with your cold
compresses of sympathy.
Good night, electrified brazen world.
Back to my kerosene, candlestick shadows,
eternal October, minute stars,
to my crooked streets, hunched lanterns,
my stray pages, my twenty-four books
of Bible, my Talmud. Back to knotty
passages, to shining Yiddish glosses,
to judgment, deep intent, duty, justice:
world, I stride with joy to the quiet ghetto light.

Good night. To you, world, I donate
all my liberators.
Take the Jesusmarxes, choke on their bravery.
Die for a drop of our baptized blood.
I hope that though it tarries
my waiting will rise up daily.
Green leaves will still rustle
on our withered tree.
I need no comfort.
I’m going back to my four cubits,
from Wagner’s idol-music to wordless tune and murmur.
I kiss you, shaggy Jewish life.
There weeps in me the joy of return.

Paris, 1938

* * *

Yankev Glatshteyn

With signs of far away
The wagons arrive.
The doors thrown open
But no one waits to meet them.
The village is still, bells of quietness sound.
Every blade of grass bows
Under the enflamed cool.
A few sick men come down from the wagons
And a wise word is stuck
In every thoughtful head:
God, on your scale of good and bad
Put out a plate of food,
Or toss out, at least,
Some oats for the skinny horses.
The deadness of the village grows darker.
A terrible quietness befalls the Jewish beards
And everyone glimpses in the other’s eyes
That a prayer is being trembled in fear:
When death comes
May I not remain alive alone.
Don’t overlook me with my thin bones.

* * *

The issue's chock-full of other good stuff, which I will post here over the next few days. Particularly noteworthy are poems by Li-Young Lee, Mark Doty, Robert Winner, and Paul Guest. But most of the poems in the issue are good. That sentence is unbelievable to any regular reader of poetry journals. Most poetry is crap; most poetry journals are crap. Lyric seems to be a shining exception.

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