all who come from there

after the Hebrew of Avoth Yeshurun

 
from whence you go
to where you come
I wont arrive
at anyplace.

b/c all my goings are
toward the from-where.
b/c the nothing is.
the nothing exists.

in the non-existence – write in logic. clear. exact:
all that does not exist in existence.
in nothing, exists
all that exists.

all who come from there,
like a dog I’ll smell their clothes.
those, their smell, my father & mother, brothers & sister stand
            straight in my eyes
& all Krasnystaw stands at the windows.

 

[Translator's note: Avoth Yeshurun’s poetry resists the assimilationist pull of Zionist Hebrew monolingualism. His poems re-accent and re-alphabetize standard Hebrew in order to open it to colloquial Yiddish, Polish and Arabic influences. In “all who come from there,” Yeshurun draws his intertext from Pirkei Avoth (Ethics of the Fathers) 3:1: “Know from whence you came and where you are going…”. The first stanza of the poem breaks the classic Mishnaic language and makes the Hebrew strange and uncomfortable to the ear. At the close of the poem he writes of Krasnystaw, the Polish town where he left his family and community (who later perished in the Holocaust) when he immigrated to British Mandate Palestine in 1925.]