Israel Emiot

Country: Poland
Language(s): Yiddish
Prayer of a Man in Snow

Today there is no bloodstain on the snow;
nobody was shot; there’s just snow and snow
around you—snow
in you snow—white on white.

O protect me God from snowy Words:
You have been weighed and found wanting.
God has numbered thy kingdom and finished it.
The face of the village: snow.
The sky that has nowhere to fall—
and sinks into snow.
The little gates swinging in the wind—
so much to say and only saying: snow.
For the village face—snow;
for morning prayers—snow, added prayers—snow, sunset
for east, west, north, south—snow,
a man in snow
a dog in snow
a horse in show.

This dear little day counts like a child
up to two:
snow, snow.

Translated from the Yiddish by Leah Zazulyer


I will trade the bread for a small box of tobacco,
already accustomed, already resigned to a day without bread;
what shall I do?—for even in the Yabbok book
such a death, such woe, couldn’t be read.

Fed up, the everlasting march in a line, march in a line,
and it’s a blessing to be dead, with your feet to the door;
I have already forgotten if I should walk on two all the time
or completely crawl like a beast on all fours.

Translated from the Yiddish by Leah Zazulyer

A Prayer in Nineteen Forty-Three

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 a 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
{Kazakhstan, war years}

Translated from the Yiddish by Leah Zazulyer