These are my English translations of Holocaust poems by Miklos Radnoti, with a bio following the poems.
by Miklós Radnóti, written August 30, 1944
translation by Michael R. Burch
"Cleansings" is a Holocaust poem I wrote while working with Holocaust survivors like Yala Korwin to translate Polish and Yiddish Holocaust poems into English.
by Michael R. Burch
Walk here among the walking specters. Learn
inhuman patience. Flesh can only cleave
to bone this tightly if their hearts believe
that G-d is good, and never mind the Urn.
These are poems I have written about the Holocaust ...
Pfennig Postcard, Wrong Address
by Michael R. Burch
We saw their pictures:
tortured out of Our imaginations
We could not believe
in their frail extremities
or their gaunt faces,
pallid as Our disbelief.
they are not
with us now;
into the backroomsofconscience,
to the ovensofsilence,
buried them in the mass graves
for the children of the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba
Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.
Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
The tormentor slammed the heavy wrought iron door.
"No information yet from this guy" he mumbled to himself
"But we have ways, yes we do," he continued to murmur to himself.
After all the prisoner, captured from the underground was very fortunate.
"How may in his group in the forest? How many women? Weapons? What are they up to next?
It was like an annoying ant on a thick-skinned elephant/
Besides the lieutenant realized, we're losing the damned war.
How will it end? How many more months?
Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust after our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.
The Testimony Of Light
Our life is a fire dampened, or a fire shut up in stone.
--Jacob Boehme, De Incarnatione Verbi
Outside everything visible and invisible a blazing maple.
Daybreak: a seam at the curve of the world. The trousered legs of the women
They held their arms in front of them like ghosts.
The coal bones of the house clinked in a kimono of smoke.
An attention hovered over the dream where the world had been.
For if Hiroshima in the morning, after the bomb has fallen,
Where is the seed
Of the tree felled,
Of the forest burned,
Or living root
Under ash and cinders?
From woven bud
What last leaf strives
Into life, last
Is fruit of our harvest,
Our long labour
Dust to the core?
To what far, fair land
Borne on the wind
What winged seed
Or spark of fire
To kindle a star?
My Heart Was Wandering in the Sands
MY heart was wandering in the sands,
a restless thing, a scorn apart;
Love set his fire in my hands,
I clasp’d the flame unto my heart.
Surely, I said, my heart shall turn
one fierce delight of pointed flame;
and in that holocaust shall burn
its old unrest and scorn and shame:
surely my heart the heavens at last
shall storm with fiery orisons,
and know, enthroned in the vast,
the fervid peace of molten suns.
The flame that feeds upon my heart
Millenial Hymn to Lord Shiva
Earth no longer
hymns the Creator,
the seven days of wonder,
the Garden is over —
all the stories are told,
the seven seals broken
all that begins
must have its ending,
our striving, desiring,
our living and dying,
for Time, the bringer
of abundant days
is Time the destroyer —
In the Iron Age
the Kali Yuga
To whom can we pray
at the end of an era
but the Lord Shiva,
the Liberator, the purifier?
Our forests are felled,
our mountains eroded,
the wild places