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  • Writer's pictureCorbin Allardice

Poem 15 - Quiet Watched the Moon (Untitled)

I ran out to the street.

The street was still asleep

In a black and burdened dream.

Quiet watched the moon

With a dead face, dead and white.

Silent, a shadow moved

With a dead face, dead and white.

And from windows and from doorposts

After me there swarmed and sprung

With long, with lolling tongues--

Thin, bony ghosts.

The deathbed night

Laughed aphasia

and laughed spite.*


Kh’bin in gas aroysgelofn.

In a shvern, shvartsn kholem

Iz di gas nokh shtil geshlofn;

Mit a vaysn toytn ponim

Hot di levone shtil gekukt.

Mit a vaysn toytn ponim

Hot a shotn zikh gerukt.

Un fun tirn, un fun fentster

Zenen nokh mir nokhgeshprungen

Mit aroysgeshtrekte tsungen--

Dine, beynike geshpenster.

Shtum gelakht, shtum gelakht

Hot di goysesdike nakht.


By Moyshe Varshe

Translated by Corbin Allardice


*- The word here rendered as “deathbed” is goysesdik, which means “on one’s deathbed, dying,” the choice of translation is to preserve the more effusive, evocative nature of the original verse. The final line literally translates to “laughed mutely, laughed mutely.” I opted for “spite,” of course, to preserve the rhyme. The use of “aphasia” is certainly tendentious, and I am uncertain of its success, however I feel that it captures Varshe’s fixation on silence/muteness while also echoing his persistent interest in illness and nosology.

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