(after the Eastern European poet who refused
to read her poem in its original language)

A pillowbook of veils and autumn evenings.
A litany of all the loveliest things.
This lullaby that I will not sing to you
because I cannot watch you slip into a reverie
brought on by the sound of the words of this.

Hear instead a translation of the poem
which I wrote one summer before the war.
I was in my then— kitchen making jam
with the window open onto a darkening sky
and I had a vision, had I known it then,
of how the streets of this place would soon
turn a deeper shade than any
Valentine’s berry.

Have you ever loved anyone, maybe more than one,
whereby even a hint of that foreshadowing
would cause a glass jar to slip from your hand
and shatter so badly that it can never be put back
together again.

Perhaps my retelling is inadequate.
But I cannot let you succumb to foreign words
whose sound without meaning might be like
a caress of waves at evening time or
a slow air on a finely tuned instrument.