Dot... Letter... Word...
by Itzik Manger
translated from the Yiddish by Y.D. Shulman
The ragged man stands on the backward road
And wakes him from his sleep, the crucified.
"Who told you, Jesus, who murmured in your ear,
Who said your crown is holier than my tears?
"Who told you, Jesus, who tendered you the word
And said your crown is holier than my scourge?"
And Jesus stammers, "I am but a child,
My home a cross hanging in the wind."
And Jesus stammers, "Woe and three times woe
For my red and brilliant Spring on the white snow."
The ragged man is fevered. "Where's my home?
Of spiderwebs and night, of wind and lime...
"I am alone each step I set my foot,
And lice, like stars, are burning in my shirt.
"And you--two women rock you in the wind--
One stammers 'Lover,' and the other, 'Child.'
"For every wound of yours, lips can be found
To call your body holy, crucified man.
"For every thorn of yours, knees can be found
To bow before your cross, crucified man.
"And I am like the shadows and the dogs
Who howl wildly on the backward road."
And Jesus stammers, "Ragged man, I must
Say three times holy are your tears and dust"--
And from the cross, a silver keening flows.
the ragged man then smiles, and goes--with joy.
With heavy steps, late, he enters the town
To get a loaf of bread, a jug of wine.
Yaacov David Shulman
New! Jewish Spiritual Growth: The Step-to-Step Guide of a Hasidic Master