The Old Jewish Cemetery at Lesko; a poem (& photos)

 

Jewish cemetery, Lesko (1996)

 

Jewish heritage sites have long inspired artists and writers, and we occasionally like to highlight examples. Our new Have Your Say is a poem about the Old Jewish Cemetery in Lesko, Poland — one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to the middle of the 16th century — which we present with a photo essay showing some of the 2,000 or so gravestones that remain. 

The poem, from 1954, is “Old Jewish Cemetery at Lesko,”  by the Polish poet Tadeusz Różewicz: we present the English translation by Joanna Trzeciak Huss. (Click HERE to see the Polish original, Stary Kirkut w Lesku.)

 

Lesko, Poland

 

Różewicz died on April 24, 2014 at the age of 92, and was laid to rest in the mountain village of Karpacz.

Trzeciak Huss writes that he “is widely considered to be the most influential postwar Polish poet, having grappled with finding a new poetics and ethics after Auschwitz.  He  published more than 20 volumes of poetry, and was a major playwright, essayist, and fiction writer. Among his works available in English translation are The Survivor (Princeton UP 1977), Recycling (Ark 2001), New Poems (Archipelago 2007), and Sobbing Superpower (Norton 2011).”

 

Old Jewish Cemetery at Lesko

 

Beneath the tires

of wartime trucks

cemeteries

lie flattened

like a long country road

 

there

the earth’s gentle sighs

the Słone Mountains

quietly

float off into the sky

 

here

beneath the clouds

beneath the crowns of oaks

burrowed into the ground

bristling

with a black stubble

of tombstones

lies the Jewish cemetery

 

saved

from the pogrom of graves

beneath the clouds

which pass

and shimmer in silence

 

beneath the green crowns

of oaks

mourned by rain

it falls into time

into silence

 

1954

Tadeusz Rozewicz

translated by Joanna Trzeciak Huss

 

The poem appears in Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Rozewicz (Norton 2011)posted with permission

 – – – – –

Joanna Trzeciak Huss is Associate Professor of Russian & Polish Translation at Kent State University

September 6, 2017

 

Jewish cemetery, Lesko

Jewish cemetery, Lesko, Poland

Jewish cemetery, Lesko, Poland. 2011. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

 

Jewish cemetery, Lesko, Poland

Jewish cemetery, Lesko (1996)

Jewish cemetery, Lesko, Poland

Jewish cemetery, Lesko, Poland

Jewish cemetery, Lesko, Poland

Jewish cemetery, Lesko (1996)