The face of my neighbor
The face of my neighbor, the professor,
whose wife had died,
had suddenly become naked, deprived of a cover.
Whenever I ran into him in the yard
and he started to talk unexpectedly frankly
of all the things that reminded him of her,
I felt as if I were seeing his face for the very first time.
Like the house across the way –
till recently a large chestnut shielded it,
but a storm damaged the tree and it had to be cut down.
And before the gap is grown over by habituation,
I can see the windows, life happening within them.
A shirt light in color. The head of a Roman patrician.
An inviolate parking space
by a low wall, where after the rain
snails do their parking too.
I spent a long time thinking: the perfect gentleman,
he goes through his well-ordered life
just as he goes through the yard each morning.
I’d have given him seventy at most.
He’s eighty-two years old, he told me recently,
as a boy he was in the Warsaw ghetto.
His father and brother perished. His mother and he survived.
Alina Szapocznikow wrote about the baptism of despair.
How many people are silent about what they have been through.
© translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones