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

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Where do they come from? From whose love do they throng?
And who so meted out their christening
That their breasts are never deprived of song
And their wings never without rustling?
Who dreamt them up? Who drew them from his mind’s eye?
And for what reason underneath the earth?
And for what paradise upon the earth?
And for what news happening in the sky?
Who coined first, over whose grave, the word: angel,
With wings manifested in an instant,
And why did he coin it so strangely well
That at once it was holy, at once ancient?
And why did he, looking into death’s flame,
Give them, who are not, such an eternal name?
after the Polish of Boleslaw Lesmian (1877-1937)
translated by Leo Yankevich
first appeared in The Susquehanna Quarterly
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© by Leo Yankevich