Jurek

Poem By Algimantas Mackus

I

I would lift your body into the crown of a green tree
if I had a tree
greening.

I would lift your body into the moist shroud of heaven,
if I had a bird
in flight.

I would lift your body unto a starry mountain top
if I had the summer's sun
unfading.

I would lift your body into its own gray shadow
if I had an orchard
unsapped, unharvested.


II

The mother asked the crown of the greening tree,
and the tree answered: - No.
The mother asked the moist shroud of heaven,
and the shroud answered: - No.
The mother asked the chosen tribe of Judah,
and the twelve thousand answered: - No.
The mother asked the chosen tribe of Gad,
and the twelve thousand answered: - No.

Piously kneeling within her body,
the mother carried the fatal verdict.
Nine months you dwelt separated by non existent time.
Nine months the sea became the earth,
nine months the sun lingered on
and nine months the earth civilized itself.

The mother asked the good provider earth,
and the earth answered: - Yes.
The mother asked the coffin builder,
and the coffin builder replied: - Yes.
The mother asked the nursemaid for words to a lullaby,
and the nursemaid answered: - No.
The white voices in the ward
called for a meeting of green and red
when the mother gave birth, screaming,
an offering for history's plea.


III

Bewail the fate of Jurek,
oh cantor of the Synagogues of Vilnius,
bewail the green coffin of Jurek
in the illumination of blood
in the procession of mollusks
in the cruel folds of history.


IV

The earth was tilled and ready,
the earth prepared for harvest.
Chunks of paradise, ripened in space,
fell and splintered in the sand.
Against illumination of blood,
Jurek played with the objects of heaven.

Possessions will also be called
into the hall of Last Judgment.
Only those without possessions
shall not be guilty of them.

Before the painful agony comes to pass,
let the harp of David sing
to the meaningless echo of water
against the scraps of displaced possessions.


V

Sell some bread to little Jurek, he is hungry.
You came back without bread, with the star of the House of David.
Give a plot of land to bury Jurek:
You came back with the star of the House of David,
and brought your own coffin.

Why did they sell you a coffin,
and me, Jurek, they sold bread?


VI

Angry men come to the courtyard.
- Jurek, ride! Jurek, ride!

Neighs the wooden horse in the courtyard,
and smites the concrete with his hoofs.
- How can I ride, how can I ride -
my horse if of wood!

- And the wood was alive, and the wood screamed
and the wood ran for help!

Neighs the wooden horse in the courtyard,
and smites the concrete with his hoofs.

- How can I shout, how can I scream -
my speech was hacked out by their axes!

Angry men came to the courtyard.
- Jurek, run! Jurek, run!

The wooden horse fell in the courtyard
tilting towards the blood.


VII

The slow, lumbering procession of mollusks.
Green grass and soft clouds,
pool of blood in the forehead
into the warm redness
into the soft sunrise
behind the slithering, silent
procession of mollusks.

Oh, cantor at the Synagogue of Vilnius,
with his mother's voice
bewail the fate of Jurek:
the pool of blood in his forehead.


VIII

Daring not to risk hate,
in the eerie moment of fate's recognition
I cover the brown eyes of Jurek
from the fury of the sun.
Let a falsified image of our age
remain in his ripened eyes.

I shall lift his naive body
into the silver rain
into the wind of pines:
and let the heart, that never knew hate,
murmur together with the silver and green
with the trees and the rain.

- It's not the echo of bullets at the edge of the forest,
it is a swarm of silver bees
on the way to the hive of our orchard.

- Into the silver rain
into the wind of the pines,
so that you would murmur
like the wind, Jurek,
I toss your green coffin
and fall to my knees.

- Hammer it tight, so no one could open the coffin
and verify death!

- It's not the echo of bullets at the edge of the forest,
they are the old tribes of Testament
helping me to hammer the nails
into your green coffin.


IX

From the bottom of the dead sea I lifted out the hieroglyphs,
and yet, I know not the true place for my grave.
The coat of arms of the old nation
kept to the fated painful rendezvous with its warriors.

The emigrant came at sunrise
seeking a shore, looking for a ship
at the crossroads of the village and river.
Joy was there and joy died
never exchanging places.
Wild animals adorned themselves
with oils of silver plants
for their Last Rites.
Caressed by the black moon, the adopted child
rushed into the net.
For the crowned head, the hyena gave absolution
and later, the hyena returned.


X

Palms sweating fear
water shall dry,
and water will be touched
by green grass, silver wind
and the evening sun of February -
of the sowing time, of the south wind.

Into the soft fur of the jungle rush the unanointed.
Into the soft fur of the jungle rush
the joy betrayed by God.

There is no homeland!
No softly flowing Niemen,
and the oats no longer
beg to be sown.

There is for Jurek, the silver, and the green.
There is for John, the black skinned dream,
so there could be a murmuring, breaking heart
in a foreign land, on foreign soil,
before the Last Rites
with oils not of sunflowers.

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