It’s been too long since Momma sang,
and when would she have time!
Does she have so little to do
that there is time for everything!

On birthdays during
the clicking of glasses and conversation
her friend, the old actor,
sits down to the piano.

With a joke she dilutes her sorrow,
and searches for the music sheets,
searches and turns red
from shyness and from wine…

They will clap respectfully
and say:
‘Well done! ‘-
but Momma will run to the kitchen
with a face grown older.

Once she had given concerts
face to face with fighting men
in austere,
frontline forests,
tall as a church.

Momma’s hands were frozen,
her head heavy, and still
the sounds would swell
as pure as the silence.

The driver’s horses,
turned gray from the cold,
twitched their ears as they breathed
and reflected on themselves.

The saddle blankets were vaguely white.
There had been a snowfall-
you can’t tell the blankets apart:
the officer’s from the soldier’s…

Momma brings out the wine
and spreads out the feast.
The courteous guests ask
Momma to sing something.

I beg you,
You’ll blame yourself later.
It’s not your fault-
the guests must understand.

Let the radio phonograph do the singing
and the glasses ring as they come together…
don’t sing, for God’s sake!
don’t torture me!

Translated by Albert C. Todd

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