Small Hymns To Sodom
by Abraham Sutzkever
You hewed out of me a smile: In my heart
A blue pyramid of vowels fell apart.
Black suns with twisted mouths — a blaring art.
Soul of salt masked in diamond, oriental stunning,
You fooled the poets, blinded their cunning,
To me alone your mystery not shunning:
Just barely created — the created is lame,
To attain perfection, it must burn in a flame.
You burned. My ancient thought — the same.
Sodom! Since then, your shadow, red of blood,
Passed over times and lands, to the venging God.
You alone are pure, an image of the flood.
The sun — black from too much light,
Polishes my brow till it bleeds…
My first minute is still alive,
Here, under seven layers of heat.
The nonexistent and what exists —
Pupils of eyes on mountains all around.
A sculptor with volcano hands
Left his work unfinished, unbound.
Separate parts lie:
Souls, thoughts, hands, hide — — —
They want to be whole, to heal.
But it's not for them to decide.
A firetree — a personality
Stands on guard at the bottom.
I find a rare similarity
Between my dream and Sodom.
He who in his art has molded angels
Didn't know they would betray him and fall
In love with the beautiful little woman
Whittled of dreamsilver, a toy for his pleasure.
Like lions chasing a hare,
With kindled muscles
Ran after the little woman,
And she beckoned to them,
Though she liked only one.
Then a drop of salt fell from God's eye,
Poured over His creation at the Salt Sea,
Dressed her in a garment of eternal coral.
And so she stands, frozen in mid-running,
Under the coral, still quivering
Her head — turned to her shoulder,
Her eyes — no-and-yes —
Flicker to the pursuing men,
And put temptation in my way …
Silence. The men
No longer pursue.
They crouch on their knees.
Roots — tresses of their heads
Baked into the ground.
Wild goats lick the tears off their necks.
I could have made
The following experiment:
See, an ant
Runs at the same Salt Sea,
A little naked Lot's wife —
What if I
Poured over her a burning salt drop —
Will she remain eternal —like the other,
A white cloud under her head?
And there will appear a prophet,
A pen to tell the story in a lightning tongue,
Visionary and viable.
If ants have a Bible.
There is a cave on the road to Masada —
In the depth of a volcano, shunned
Even by a flock pursued by lions.
They call it 'the cave of patient suffering.'
I entered it against all prohibition:
Honey for me is solitude and terror.
A graveyard of shadows, the cave,
Its bony air —the skeleton of the Creator!
Pure darkness. Timeless silence. Not the slightest
Memory of light. Not a tremor of faith.
I wandered an hour or a year in the dark —
And suddenly the sun appeared from above.
A dewy sun over lips of the crater
Refreshes the skeleton in the bowels of the cave.
Tormented shadows abruptly flutter —
Their blackness polished off by the sun!
Oh Sodom, be blessed! In your cave I shall lie
Until you pour sun on my days and nights.
From the crater, my Sodom melody will flood,
And crows will bring me my daily ration of food.