Edith Bruck


Feeling the urge my mother
made for the privy at the far end of the courtyard
and strained strained with all her might
plagued by her painful constipation.
"It's like giving birth," she kept saying to herself
and strained strained harder
broad forehead dripping sweat
bluegreen eyes full of tears
veins swollen on the white neck
untouched by real or imitation jewels.
The kerchief slipped off
showing her dark hair;
with both hands she held onto the swollen belly with me inside.
To readjust her head-covering
like a good Orthodox Jew she let go of her belly
and kept straining straining.
The next thing was a cry a long-drawn-out wail:
my head almost grazed the pit full of excrement.
A busy neighbor woman
ran to her aid and that's how I was born.
According to the gypsies a lucky future was in store for me;
for my father I was another mouth to feed
for my mother an unavoidable calamity
that befalls poor religious couples who make love
as a gesture of peace after months of quarrels
for my five not seven brothers
(luckily two died young)
a real toy that squealed
sucked at the wrinkled nipples
clung to the skin of mama's empty breasts
a mother undernourished like the mothers
of Asia Africa India South
or North America of yesterday today and tomorrow. . .

          Italian; trans Ruth Feldman & Brian Swann

Edith Bruck, Italian, trans. Ruth Feldman & Brian Swann, Italian Poetry
Today, New Rivers Press, 1979.