Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Yehuda Amichai

Little Ruth

Sometimes I remember you, little Ruth,
We were separated in our distant childhood and they burned you in the camps.
If you were alive now, you would be a woman of sixty–five,
A woman on the verge of old age. At twenty you were burned
And I don't know what happened to you in your short life
Since we separated. What did you achieve, what insignia
Did they put on your shoulders, your sleeves, your
Brave soul, what shining stars
Did they pin on you, what decorations for valor, what
Medals for love hung around your neck,
What peace upon you, peace unto you.
And what happened to the unused years of your life?
Are they still packed away in pretty bundles,
Were they added to my life? Did you turn me
Into your bank of love like the banks in Switzerland
Where assets are preserved even after their owners are dead?
Will I leave all this to my children
Whom you never saw?

You gave your life to me, like a wine dealer
Who remains sober himself.
You sober in death, lucid in the dark
For me, drunk on life, wallowing my forgetfulness.
Now and then, I remember you in times
Unbelievable. And in places not made for memory
But for the transient, the passing that does not remain.
As in an airport, when the arriving travelers
Stand tired at the revolving conveyor belt
That brings their suitcases and packages,
And they identify theirs with cries of joy
As at a resurrection and go out into their lives;
And there is one suitcase that returns and disappears again
And returns again, ever so slowly, in the empty hall,

Again and again it passes.
This is how your quiet figure passes by me
This is how I remember you until
The conveyor belt stands still. And they stood still. Amen.

Kleine Ruth

Soms herinner ik me jou, kleine Ruth,
dat we afscheid namen in onze verre jeugd,
en dat ze je hebben verbrand in de kampen.
Als je er nu was, dan was je vijfenzestig,
een vrouw op de rand van de ouderdom.
Je was twintig toen je verbrand werd, en ik weet niet
wat er gebeurd is in je korte leven na ons afscheid.
Hoe ver je het hebt gebracht, welke tekenen van rang
je op je schouders zijn gedrukt, op je mouwen, op je
moedige ziel, welke schitterende sterren je zijn opgespeld,
welke onderscheidingen voor dapperheid, welke
liefdesmedailles om je nek zijn gehangen,
welke vrede met jou is, vrede zij met jou.
En wat is er gebeurd met je ongebruikte levensjaren?
Liggen ze nog steeds ingepakt als mooie pakjes,
zijn ze aan mijn leven toegevoegd? Heb je mij gemaakt
tot de bank van jouw liefde, zoals de banken in Zwitserland
waar de schat bewaard wordt, ook na de dood van de eigenaar?
Zal ik dit alles nalaten aan mijn kinderen
die jij nooit gezien hebt?

Je hebt me je leven gegeven, als een wijnhandelaar
die dronken maakt en zelf nuchter blijft,
nuchter als jij in de dood en helder in de wereld der duisternis
aan mij, dronken van leven, zwelgend in vergetelheid.
Soms herinner ik me jou, op ongeschatte tijden
en op plaatsen die niet zijn bestemd voor herinnering,
maar voor het voorbijgaande, dat wat passeert en niet blijft.
Zoals op een vliegveld, waar de aangekomen reizigers
moe bij de draaiende lopende band staan
die hun koffers en pakketten brengt,
en zij de hunne ontdekken met kreten van vreugde
als bij de wederopstanding, en weggaan naar hun eigen leven.
En er is één koffer die terugkomt en weer verdwijnt
en langzaam weer terugkomt in de hal die aldoor leger wordt,
en telkens weer en weer voorbijkomt.
Zo trekt jouw stille beeld aan mij voorbij,
zo herinner ik me jou, totdat de band
niet meer loopt en stilstaat. En zijt stil. Sela*

Close

Little Ruth

Sometimes I remember you, little Ruth,
We were separated in our distant childhood and they burned you in the camps.
If you were alive now, you would be a woman of sixty–five,
A woman on the verge of old age. At twenty you were burned
And I don't know what happened to you in your short life
Since we separated. What did you achieve, what insignia
Did they put on your shoulders, your sleeves, your
Brave soul, what shining stars
Did they pin on you, what decorations for valor, what
Medals for love hung around your neck,
What peace upon you, peace unto you.
And what happened to the unused years of your life?
Are they still packed away in pretty bundles,
Were they added to my life? Did you turn me
Into your bank of love like the banks in Switzerland
Where assets are preserved even after their owners are dead?
Will I leave all this to my children
Whom you never saw?

You gave your life to me, like a wine dealer
Who remains sober himself.
You sober in death, lucid in the dark
For me, drunk on life, wallowing my forgetfulness.
Now and then, I remember you in times
Unbelievable. And in places not made for memory
But for the transient, the passing that does not remain.
As in an airport, when the arriving travelers
Stand tired at the revolving conveyor belt
That brings their suitcases and packages,
And they identify theirs with cries of joy
As at a resurrection and go out into their lives;
And there is one suitcase that returns and disappears again
And returns again, ever so slowly, in the empty hall,

Again and again it passes.
This is how your quiet figure passes by me
This is how I remember you until
The conveyor belt stands still. And they stood still. Amen.

Little Ruth

Sometimes I remember you, little Ruth,
We were separated in our distant childhood and they burned you in the camps.
If you were alive now, you would be a woman of sixty–five,
A woman on the verge of old age. At twenty you were burned
And I don't know what happened to you in your short life
Since we separated. What did you achieve, what insignia
Did they put on your shoulders, your sleeves, your
Brave soul, what shining stars
Did they pin on you, what decorations for valor, what
Medals for love hung around your neck,
What peace upon you, peace unto you.
And what happened to the unused years of your life?
Are they still packed away in pretty bundles,
Were they added to my life? Did you turn me
Into your bank of love like the banks in Switzerland
Where assets are preserved even after their owners are dead?
Will I leave all this to my children
Whom you never saw?

You gave your life to me, like a wine dealer
Who remains sober himself.
You sober in death, lucid in the dark
For me, drunk on life, wallowing my forgetfulness.
Now and then, I remember you in times
Unbelievable. And in places not made for memory
But for the transient, the passing that does not remain.
As in an airport, when the arriving travelers
Stand tired at the revolving conveyor belt
That brings their suitcases and packages,
And they identify theirs with cries of joy
As at a resurrection and go out into their lives;
And there is one suitcase that returns and disappears again
And returns again, ever so slowly, in the empty hall,

Again and again it passes.
This is how your quiet figure passes by me
This is how I remember you until
The conveyor belt stands still. And they stood still. Amen.
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
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