What will remain?

Poems from a Diary


Who will last? And what? The wind will stay, 
and the blind man's blindness when he's gone away,
and a thread of foam - a sign of the sea -
and a bit of cloud snarled in a tree.
Who will last? And what? A word as green 
as Genesis, making grasses grow. 
And what the prideful rose might mean, 
Seven of those grasses know.
Of all that northflung starry stuff, 
the star descended in the tear will last. 
In its jar, a drop of wine stands fast. 
Who lasts? God abides - isn't that enough? 

Abraham Sutzkever

In these uncertain times the question often comes to mind, “What will remain?”. I learned of this poem and poet only recently in a podcast from Tikvah’s The Stories Jews Tell by Ruth Wisse. The life story of the yiddish poet Abraham Sutzkever is an amazing tale in itself. Enduring the brutal Nazi occupation of the Vilna ghetto in 1943 and surviving to testify at the Nuremburg trials against the murderer of his mother and newborn son; ultimately arriving in British Mandate Palestine shortly before the birth of the state of Israel.

One may imagine out of such an experience the poet could have produced a more nihilistic view as other survivors of the holocaust had. For those whose lives are being shattered and destroyed in Ukraine our enduring inflation with its high gasoline prices and mortgage rates and impending recession may seem of small consequence. The world I knew over the past fifty years is indeed falling apart, and I ask myself “What will remain of the world I knew?”. Faith, hope, and love – as St. Paul reminds us (1 Cor 13), will always remain, and the greatest of these is love.

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