The hope a mooncalf follows
is sacrifice for slaughter,
and yet the wings of swallows
still skip across the water. 

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December 1942

How resounding is the winter squall.
Hole-riddled the loam walls of Bethlehem’s stall.
That’s Mary murdered at the entrance gate,
Hair frozen to the bloody stones and grate.
Masked in rags, three soldiers limping by
Cannot burn from her ear the infant’s cry.
The last canteen sunflower won’t get them far.
They seek the way and cannot see the star.
Aurum, thus, myrrham offerunt…
Crow and cur come to a manger ruined.
…quia natus est nobis Dominus.
On a bleached skeleton gleam soot and ooze.
The way to Stalingrad’s a smouldering glow.
And it leads to a charnel house of snow.
after the German of Peter Huchel (1903-1981)
translated by Leo Yankevich
first appeared in Trinacria
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© by Leo Yankevich