Marie Under

Christmas Greetings 1941

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I walk the silent, Christmas-snowy path,
that goes across the homeland in its suffering.
At each doorstep I would like to bend my knee:
there is no house without mourning.

The spark of anger flickers in sorrow's ashes,
the mind is hard with anger, with pain tender:
there is no way of being pure as Christmas
on this white, pure-as-Christmas path.

Alas, to have to live such stony instants,
to carry on one's heart a coffin lid!
Not even tears will come any more -
that gift of mercy has run out as well.

I'm like someone rowing backwards:
eyes permanently set on past -
backwards, yes - yet reaching home at last ...
my kinsmen, though, are left without a home...

I always think of those who were torn from here...
The heavens echo with the cries of their distress.
I think that we are all to blame
for what they lack - for we have food and bed!

Shyly, almost as in figurative language,
I ask without believing it can come to pass:
Can we, I wonder, ever use our minds again
for sake of joy and happiness?


Now light and darkness join each other,
towards the stars the parting day ascends.
The sunset holds the first sign of the daybreak -
It is as if, abruptly, night expands.

All things are ardent, serious and sacred,
snow's silver leaf melts on my lashes' flame,
I feel as though I'm rising ever further:
that star there, is it calling me by name?

And then I sense that on this day they also
are raising eyes to stars, from where I hear
a greeting from my kinsfolk, sisters, brothers,
in pain and yearning from their prison's fear.

This is our talk and dialogue, this only,
a shining signal - oh, read, and read! -
with thousand mouths - as if within their glitter
the stars still held some warmth of breath inside.

The field of snow dividing us grows smaller:
of stars our common language is composed....
It is as if we d started out for one another,
were walking, and would soon meet on the road.

For an instant it will die away, that 'When? When?'
forever pulsing in you in your penal plight,
and we shall meet there on that bridge in heaven,
face to face we'll meet, this Christmas night.

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Marie Under