A Prayer in Nineteen Forty-Three

By Israel Emiot

Good God, look I’m poor, and trip over myself,
and my child wears shoes three times his size,
and plays with children, falls, and runs crying to me,
as I to you–with and without reason.

I know all prayers crown you in gold
and address the most exquisite words to you;
still, don’t insult the prayer of a child, who just wants
his own bed, and has to sleep fourth on the ground.

Your song–the day–I read and admire daily;
I still marvel at your last verse–your sunset,
but when I want to praise you my hands fail me!
Oh do not punish me, even my shirt is borrowed.

Wisdom tells me man is insignificant,
and earth the least of all your spheres;
still, do not punish me: listen to the lament
of a child who sleeps fourth on the ground.

For H. Lang
{Kazakstan, war years}

Translated from the Yiddish by Leah Zazulyer

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