Equality, Father


Equality, father! Your dream has come true.
I glimpse you dimly, still see you walking
next to Roth the man of property who refused us
a little cottage cheese for the holidays,
Klein the shoemaker who wouldn't resole your only shoes
on credit, Goldberg the butcher
with his trimmed goatee who dragged you
into court for selling meat without a license,
Stein the teacher who gave us Hebrew lessons
in expectation of a heavenly reward and directed us
like a demoniac conductor
breaking dozens of pointers over the heads
of your children, illiterate in Hebrew, destined to hell.
And you, the poorest, most recognizable
by those skinny buttocks! The most agile,
most exploitable in forced labor.
Forward, father! You've been tried by every eventuality,
armed with experience
you know the front lines, rifles, trenches,
the daily struggle even in good times.
You know prison, the hard plank in the dark cell
where you picked off lice, licked your wounds,
unrolled cigarette butts.
You know the taste of blood in your mouth
from a rotten tooth
from a Fascist's fist
from a bullet you caught defending the homeland
you stubbornly believed was yours.

You know death lurking in ambush
the meanness of men
the power game
the bosses' exploitation.
You know the whole gamut of humiliation
the dark street with menacing shadows
ravenous wolves and skittish horses
on sleepless nights during your solitary trips
in the illusion of business deals
doomed to fail
the promises not kept
except for Jehovah's wrath!

Forward, father! You know the marches,
the cold, hunger! Hold your head high!
You no longer have to hide from your creditors:
they're all there, naked!

Ah, you turn toward me? Don't you know me?
I've grown up, my breasts are firm,
the down on my skin is pure and soft
like mama's when they brought her to you
as a bride. Take me, father!
I'll give you pleasure, not children,
love, not obligations,
love, not reproaches,
love undreamed of by you,
imagined by me. Run:
It is the time of the Apocalypse!
Let us commit a mortal sin
worthy of death.


                       Italian; trans Ruth Feldman


Edith Bruck, Italian, trans. Ruth Feldman, Milkweed Chronicle.