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MANGER, Itzik


Ruth cannot fall asleep


Ruth stands before the mirror, slender,

and combs her blond hair.

The thing the mother-in-law has said

is clear to the point of sorrow.


Tomorrow, that is, in just a few hours,

the mother-in-law by herself

will go to her people and her god,

and she, where will she go?


Home, to the town where her father drinks

and her wicked stepmother curses,

red-haired Marusya—she has saddened,

darkened her world enough.


Home to the town where the noble beats

servants with an iron rod?

She recalls as if today her brother’s body

covered with sweat and blood.


Home to the town where mad Vasil

tells everyone in the market

how Pan Yezus blessed him

on top of Kloyster Mountain?


She trembles. Outside the river sounds:

“Come, Ruzhke, beloved, come!

I’ve divorced the old Rusalke

and you are good and pious.


Come be my Rusalke, Ruzhke dear,

come be the water-wife,

I have water-roses for your hair

and pearls for your body.


With me you’ll have things that are good,

nothing can be better,

by day the ginger of the sun

and by night the shine of the moon.”


Ruth hears and fevers. Yes, she is ready.

If the mother-in-law won’t take her with her,

she will become the river’s Rusalke.

And she smiles, sad and tired.


translation Lawrence ROSENWALD