Hagar's Last Night
In Abraham's House
The housemaid Hagar sits in the kitchen,
a smoky lamp shadows
the shapes of cats and mice
against the gray walls.

She cries. The master ordered
her out of the house today,
"Witch, are you getting out
of my life or not?"

Sarah, matron of the charity box,
kept egging him on:
"Either you get rid of that girl,
or I'm getting a divorce."

Hagar opens her trunk,
pulling out a string of blood-red
beads, a little apron,
silky green, and a straw summer hat.

He gave her these things
when they used to take walks
through the meadow, near
where the railroad runs.

"Like smoke from a chimney,
or like smoke from a train ---
so, dear mama, so
is the love of a man.

What am I going to do now,
me and his little bastard?
Unless I take him in my hands
and look for housework somewhere."

She takes the broom in her hands
and cleans the room for the last time
while under her blouse feels her heart
telling her she still loves him.

She does the dishes once more,
and scours the copper pan ---
like smoke from a chimney
is the love of a man.

--- Itzik Manger (1901 - 1969)
From With Everything We've Got
A Personal Anthology of Yiddish Poetry

Richard J. Fein, Editor
© 2008, Host Publications
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