Harvest of Blossoms

Poems from a Life Cut Short
By Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2008 Northwestern University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8101-2537-7


Chapter One

Song lied

Today you wounded me. Around us there was only silence, only silence, and snow. The sky was not a brilliant blue, but blue it was, and full of stars. From very far away the wind song rang. Today you deeply injured me. There were homes, snowed in, all white, everything in winter's dress. A chord so very low and deep, resounded as we walked along. Railroad sirens filled the air ... Today it was so beautiful, beautiful like snowy peaks immersed in sunset's glowing rays. Today you wounded me. Today you told me: go. And I-went.

DECEMBER 25, 1939

Apple Blossoms apfelbl��ten

Colors farben

Such blueness hovers over the snow-white snow and oh so black are the evergreens that the ever so silently flitting deer is just as gray as interminable grief that I so much would like to banish. Steps crackle in the music of the snow and wind is blowing the snowflakes back onto the trees now veiled in white. And benches stand like dreams. Bits of light are falling, playing dancing games with shadows. The distant lanterns faintly twinkle, taking light from the snow's bright shimmer.

DECEMBER 18, 1939

Crystal kristall

All's still. And wilted leaves are scattered, golden brown, immersed in glowing sun. The sky is very blue, and clouds of white roll by. A radiant frost has left its trace on trees. There are some fir trees, fresh and green, the treetops pointing upward to the sky. And the red beeches, slender, bold, listen to the soaring eagle's call and keep on climbing skyward, ever higher. Now and then a bench, a lonely sight, and here a little patch of grass, half-frozen, which the sun has chosen as its darling.

DECEMBER 8, 1940

A Song for the Yellow Asters den gelben astern ein lied

Through the rain they gaze at me so brightly, so lustrous they replace the sun for me. And nothing of the sadness of the rain can mar for me the glowing yellow joy. Bursting with laughter they bend amid the green accompanying their laughter, fresh and pure-I lay my song down at their feet today because they've brought such happiness to me.

JUNE 30, 1941

Dark Lilacs dunkler flieder

Chestnuts kastanien

Scattered on the smooth, bright path wearily they lie at rest, brown and smiling like two tender lips, full and shiny, lovely, round, I hear them like a sparkling melody. I pick one up, caress it in my hand as though it were a tender tiny child, and think about the tree, about the wind, which sang so softly through the leaves, and that to the chestnuts this soft song must be like the summer, slipping past, leaving just this sound, its last farewell. And the one I have here in my hand is not brown and shiny like the rest, it is flat and sleepy like the sand that is trickling with it through my fingers. Slowly, step-by-step, as if unwilling, I let my feet go wandering on ahead.

SEPTEMBER 23, 1939

Wilted Leaves welke bl��tter

Suddenly my steps are muted, they just murmur faintly, faintly, like the tearful melody that I sing, consumed by yearning. Underneath my tired legs, which I lift as if I'm dreaming, lying dead are tear-filled leaves, which were shed by that tall tree.

SEPTEMBER 24, 1939

Silence stille

In the room the warmth and silence float just like a bird in air all aglow, and on the small black table lying mutely the doily, thin and frail like a scent. The glass with crystal water, like a dream, is watching lest the bell should chime, and seems to be awaiting little fishes. The red carnation flickers in the room, as if she were its queen. The silence seems to be for her alone, nothing but the jug of fragrant wine is twinkling, mute, and yet commanding her. But she remains afloat on her green stem, thin like the dress of angels in children's dreams, and her hypnotically sweet fragrance lulls as if intent on snatching Sleeping Beauty from her deep slumber. The windows look down at the street and they believe that everything was made there just for them. The mirror shines and in it ticks the clock, far in the distant town a rooster crows, a bluish cord restrains the drapes. The carnation with her tender rosy tips attends the sun's bright beam that, through the cracks, today adorned her in a gold-dust gown.

OCTOBER 24, 1939

A Stroll spaziergang

... so many chickens and a small white dog and sky, which is so colorful and bright-the barren tree appears so phantomlike and grayish houses so bereft of strength ... Some tiny beads of rain hang from the branches, and distant mountains are wrapped up in silence. The fields are merely clods of darkest brown and here and there a bit of yellow-green, and little sparrows, silly, fresh, and daring, are darting over them like raucous children ... And far away the city with its towers, with houses storming forth, so light and merry, is like an image from a fairy tale. The air is quiet, filled with yearning, so that you wait for sky-blue larks and want to ride in slender rowboats. Here stand white asters, white and pure, and there a head of cabbage, small and young. They're like a long-forgotten parasol in the middle of snow-covered streets. A rabbit, running past, cannot believe it: The summer, so it seems, is here again.

NOVEMBER 29, 1939

Pressed Leaf welkes blatt

On the page, half-faded now, lies the slender yellow leaf, lies so sad, so soft and dull, like a vacant tearful gaze. And the stalk, it is so soft and supple you can almost see the wispy dress that's destined to adorn this silhouette. The leaf is like a song in minor key, bringing thoughts of autumn to our mind, like a child who seems to know that it's sick and senses death is near, just that sweet and filled with harnessed grief. That's just like the final snow ...

FEBRUARY 1, 1940

The Chalice der kelch

And here it stands: so glistening and slender, a naked virgin risen from the sea, its rays of light are dancing, twisting, swaying, bright as a thousand sleigh bells wildly chiming. The glass is cool and smooth like women's hands, which, floating over the keys, play out the legend of that young prince who grappled with the dragon.

FEBRUARY 1, 1940

Spring fr��hling

Sunshine. And still a little melted snow and water dripping off of all the roofs, and then a broken heel, which taps along, and boulevards that glisten, wet and smooth, high fences and behind them bits of grass rising there just like a startled deer ... Heavens. And warm and gentle rain is falling, and then a dog that's barking aimlessly, a coat that's flapping in the breeze, a wispy dress that fits just like a laugh, a child with melting snow held in its hand and in its eyes the clover soon to come ... Springtime. The trees at last completely bare and every bush is like a muted sound that brings the first report of coming bliss. Tomorrow, too, the swallows will return.

MARCH 7, 1940

Afternoon nachmittag

Slender branches like unworldly veils rise up out of slender birch-tree trunks, and the silence, as in a ceremony, seems intent on damming up the sky, lest it lose itself, enraptured by the birdsongs. Brown sodden paths. And a blossoming tree discovering the world anew, it seems. Soft green grasses barely sprout. All the firs have just turned green again, and a tiny yellow butterfly makes bold to come to rest here on a sun-drenched bench. This does not suit a green fly at all: The sun, it thinks, is meant for it alone. Only tips of blackthorn whisper softly: No!

APRIL 16, 1940

Late Afternoon sp��tnachmittag

Lengthy shadows fall upon the well-lit path and the sun sends out its final parting warmth and the frail twitter of a bird sounds noisily and as if stealing something from the silence. People at ten paces' distance seem to come from other worlds and you almost want to chide the wilted leaves since they rustle and disturb the final sunrays. And you only want to hear the violets grow.

APRIL 16, 1940

Rain regen

You walk. And suddenly the pavement's wet and suddenly the green of the trees is new, and a smell like that of freshest hay hits you in the face, which, hot and pale, eagerly looked forward to the rain. The grasses, which, all dusty, tired, and weak, already have bent down to meet the ground, joyously see the swallow flying near and suddenly seem filled with pride. And you walk on. Walk lonely and alone and know not whether you should laugh or cry. And here and there some rays of sun, which shine as if the rain were none of their concern.

MAY 1940

Evening I abend I

The sky is of the brightest blue and milk-white clouds are smiling with it. And slender trees-they're dark, or maybe green-are peering at you, mutely saying: Look! Everything is wrapped in silken air that's still, as if fairy tales were being told. All the birds are spellbound as they listen-you only hear the scent. The milk-white clouds are twinkling like the snow that now has fallen on forget-me-nots. And oh so blue the soft ache also lies that's pouring itself upon the trees. And-the trees, they're dark, or are they green? They themselves don't seem to know for sure. Out of the blue there shivers in a window a drop of red. They're blooming.

JULY 14, 1941

Evening II abend II

Like a line of silence dark and blue the horizon in the distance, fringed by gentle red. The treetops sway like they were charmed by round-dance music, the light is from a fairy tale, soft and dreamy blue. The sky is not yet dark, you scarcely see the stars, the air is cool and tender like a woman's hand, from furthest distance sweetly drifts a melody: the music of a panpipe, charming, strange, and foreign.

DECEMBER 12, 1941

Night Shadows nachtschatten

Grief trauer

Murky-muddy puddles mirror light, yellow, greasy, dirty too, and dense. Windows brightly lit lack any purpose. Doorways echo emptiness. The tired fog lies heavy on the streets, and the rain just pours and pours. People are too sad to even hate, and somewhere out there a child is coughing. In the gardens lie half-rotten leaves, benches stand there, sad, and wet, and gray, when it's seen at all the sun comes later, and the moon is stingy with its glow. Daylight weakly penetrates the fog, dull and grayish, sticky, sludgy. Sleepily the guard plays with his saber, and a bird, all wet, is shivering so. Haggard, hungry horses standing there, oozing steam, with empty eyes. Soaked through, scattered on the moistened ground, oats now serve no useful purpose. Drenched from head to toe a cat creeps along the moldy wall. With his collar raised a farmer looks at his money: will it see him through?

DECEMBER 6, 1940

Song of Yearning sehnsuchtslied

Quietly you strike a note there in your song-something still is missing, so it seems. And you search, confused, through all the notes: can they possibly explain where you'll find it, where and how and when ... But the first one is too pale and the second one too lewd and the third so full of distance-much too full. Long you rummage-minor, major, minor seem to spring to life there in your hands. And then suddenly you strike a key and-there is no sound. And the silence hits you like dull ridicule: suddenly you know without a doubt, that's the missing one, and if your hands could find it, the spell would be lifted from your song, and the end no longer empty, gray. And you strike the key, you strike again-asking where the obstacle could lie, searching, will the soft touch of your hands prevail, desperation fills your pleading eyes. No sound comes. Loneliness remains a guest in the song you ripened gravely, sweetly. Forever you will agonize about that unplayed note, agonize about the joy that only touched you lightly in the very quiet nights while cradled by the moon, when the silence doesn't grasp the meaning of your tears.

JANUARY 9, 1941

Lullaby for Myself schlaflied f��r mich

I cradle and cradle and cradle myself with dreams by day and by night and drink the same benumbing wine like someone who sleeps while awake. I sing and I sing and I sing me a song, a song of hope and good fortune, I sing like someone who keeps on walking, not seeing he cannot return. I tell and I tell and I tell me a tale, a tale of the meshes of love, I hear it but I don't believe anymore, and yet I know that the end is grim. I play and I play and I play me a tune of days now past and gone, and run away from the naked truth and act as if I were blind. I laugh and I laugh and I laugh at myself about this game of mine, and yet weave dreams, so crazy, confused, so bereft of any goal.

JANUARY 1941

Do You Know ... du, weilst du ...

Do you know how a raven shrieks? And how Lady Night, afraid and pale, does not know where to flee? How the frightened night can't tell is it or is it not her realm, does she belong to the wind or he to her, and are not the rapacious wolves poised to devour their prey? Do you know how the wind howls shrilly? And how the woods, afraid and pale, do not know where to flee? How the frightened woods can't tell is it or is it not their realm, do they belong to the rain or the night, and isn't Death, who's laughing grimly, their almighty lord and master? Do you know how the rain is weeping? And how I walk, afraid and pale, and don't know where to flee? How this frightened girl can't tell is it or is it not her realm, does the night belong to me, or I to her, and isn't my mouth, so pale and confused, the one that's really crying?

MARCH 4, 1941

Fairy Tale m��rchen

So. And that must be the end. The rain is crying, as is the night, and my lips cry for a kiss and cry and cry-and laugh. So this is how every fairy tale ends, or else-it isn't true: someone alone out in the wind and the night becomes his altar. And deepest yearning becomes his priestess. In a billowing dress of blue, she kneels down there at his feet, and she is so far ... so far ... As far as my two eyes-lost in the deepest forest, blind and dead, they play with the wind, and I-am tired and cold. The paths are all so endlessly long, just like all of my days. And all the trees are so afraid. The bushes soaked by rain. I walk in union with the night and am as lonely as she. The rain is crying, as is the wind, for me-or is it for her?

MARCH 7, 1941

(Continues...)



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