More precisely than I
Remember the story he told
Of a garden that grew
By the fortress, he pictured
The little gentile hunchback girl.
A general’s daughter? Something like that.
They come to me often,
Approach me (more truly said),
That girl in the garden, the Jewish
Boys who could glimpse her
Through cracks in the fence.
By customs restricted, their lives
Most often have seemed suspended
And small. Ugly, fat or wizened or quaint
Most of the Jews were ugly, and gentiles
Were few and far in Zamoscz.
By custom and codes for the doing
Of most things, or not, they were netted,
And the sight of the gentile girl
Who was a little hunchback
Was also forbidden – discovered
Hanging about for a glimpse of her
Through a crack in the fence,
The boys would be whipped.
Who told of her (nobody else did)
Came soon to be perplexed, even tormented
About life and reasons for it, purposes,
And about reasons for death.
The Enlighteners did not prevail.
Enlightenments only told you the coat to wear.
But long, long after
A glimpse, one only perhaps,
For I cannot recall precisely,
She still dwelled on his mind
And haunted the stories he wrote,
And the garden grew in his mind.
Look this up in a memoir of his:
We would sneak up to the fence
For a glimpse of her.
She might have been picking flowers,
A little gentile hunchback girl,
She might be reading a book.
In good faith, hump, garden and all,
Memory found her a living soul.
Soon with a slaughter machine
Others tore us apart. How should memory match
Evil organized with chimneys?
Bygone denied, slaughterers walk away.