Opochinski [Opochinsky] Holocaust Poetry Translations
compiled and edited by Michael R. Burch
Opochinski was born in 1895 to a Hassidic Jewish family in Lodz, the
third-largest city in Poland. His father died when
he was young. He wrote poetry in Hebrew at age twelve and was published in a
Lodz newspaper. He became a German prisoner during WWI. After WWI he lived in
Warsaw. During WWII, he worked for Oneg Shabes and was a mailman in the Warsaw
Ghetto. Some of his poetry and prose chronicles of ghetto life survived in the
Ringelblum Archive. He died of typhoid in the ghetto. His wife and child were
Slowly I lock my door
letting none of my neighbors see
how I wander bizarrely, drunk with grief.
Today is market day in the city
wagons laden with produce struggle to market;
soon the women haggle
over the price of cabbage.
How many precious vegetables!
So many women, innumerable women!
What sort of day is today,
but a day of onrushing sadness?
Near a fabric booth
stands a small cart.
I sit down to rest.
Someone eyes me suspiciously,
A thief sits on your cart now,
Conspiring to steal the joy
of your happy hour.
So I get up and go—
It’s all the same.
Why should I rest on a cart?
There are so many gentile women
Stubborn, as is their custom,
with sacks of berries, eggs and cheese
and Jewish women, disheveled, busy
with stands of socks, cereal, poultry ...
How can I tell them
Of my bad dreams, this dark hour?
Eyes glazed wild, green cunning looks
Paws—steel muscles poised to strangle
and a sack sewed up from human skin—
Before the Canaanite face, heart with lust-rubbish
rabbit-fear and eyes pierce distance
somewhere on a sacrifice the bitch gnashes teeth—
Insides churn, lips drool,
—with bound ribs
So on God and self too blackness, rage—