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Gabriel Levin’s Essay on Robert Friend’s work

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Edward Field’s Essay on Robert Friend

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Anthony Rudolf’s Obituary and Tribute

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Robert Friend’s poetry

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Photos of Robert Friend

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Feature of Friend’s work in a previous issue

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Robert Friend’s essay on Translating Rachel at www.poetryinternationalweb.net

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Robert Friend’s translations. Copyright © Jean Shapiro Cantu
jeanshapirocantu@gmail.com

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Contributor Notes





Yisroel Shtern (1894-?1942)

Translated by Robert Friend

 



An Adage Concerning a Man and an Old Book

 

 

Spring, but the day was dark with rain and sleet.

Over the pillars of night like a cat, grief

climbed and frightened every street.

Solitary in my room I sat, leafing

an ancient tome, when like a crown

through the gloom of centuries dead

an adage gleamed, proud though old.

I didn’t greet the dream—not with a silver tray

and not with salt or bread.

Nor did the adage flash like lightning through my sleep,

nor did it sit at the head of my bed

in the first light of dawn,

with knives in its eyes of judgment and punishment,

nor did it gnaw like sulfur night and day.

And I partnered the spring in the dance of the day,

and my stick wrote gladness on the warm sands,

and sorrow did not drip into my food.

 

A Jew, heavy and blind like a cloud, and covered with blood,

dragged along a wall, unable to find his house,

while laughter rippled the hair of torturers on a lark,

and my street fled, small and fleet as a mouse,

And the trees stood erect like hunters’ guns in the park.

But the dawn felt no shame and neither did the noon,

and the sun towered over the town in its crown of gold,

and not in sun, not in tree, and not in me

did the old-book-words burn, “Man is a fragment of God.

 

From Found in Translation: Modern Hebrew Poets, a Bilingual Edition

Selected and with an Introduction by Gabriel Levin.

(The Toby Press, 2006)