The Last Gaze (Farewell, My Birthplace)
The Last Gaze
(Farewell, My Birthplace)
My farewell is like fallen leaves
Smoldering, they also have an air of charm
And I am hurrying for the last date,
Back to the spot where I still was young and slim.
I am going to the starting point
Where my Yiddish being has arisen, in galuth.
Now I am here, an envoy from the salad days,
Though no sound of the bygone is audible.
Here, through the asphalt of the pavement,
The traces of my ancestors' steps glimmer,
As if there hadn't rambled the Nazi's boots
Grinding an entire unique world.
Now I make for my invisible parents.
For years, their ashes did not get cold in my soul.
Instead, from the depth of time,
A sense of scalding tears come up,
Filling me with a vague touch of filial fault
Because I accidentally survived.
Alas, neither on the narrow cobbles
Nor on the vanished brick sidewalks,
Would I have found the paternal traces
The priceless treasures of the irrevocable past.
Indeed, how to hunt down the faded trace
The trace of black-and-white days
Where the serenity of childhood
Dwelt next door to bloody nightmare?
There, at a prom, I experienced the first breath
Of shy love, and it lives on in my memory
Side by side with the last breath
Of my brethren buried alive shortly thereafter.
Now I come to bid farewell to the land
I once loved so open-heartedly but without requital,
Though my people's eyes day-by-day reflected
An everlasting outcry for mercy.
I don't nourish a feeling of hate
Toward my stepmotherland
I am only wondering why in the world
It drove us out, for all our loyalty.
Naum Firsel is the author of several award-winning books. A former journalist, writer, and editor in Kiev (Ukraine), he is now an American citizen living in New York. He is a contributor to the daily Philadelphia Inquirer, the weekly Jewish Press, the magazine Horizons, and the hardcover collection of essays People Like Us (True Stories to delight the heart and elevate the spirit), recently published by Targum Press. Although much of his work has been translated into English, this is his first poem written in English.