Second Elegy
(the 1910s)

And nothing like a rosy childhood…
No freckled faces, teddy bears, and toys,
And kindly aunts and scary uncles, no,
or little friends among the river pebbles.
From the beginning, even to myself
I seemed another’s dream, hallucination,
an image caught in someone else’s mirror,
without a name, or flesh, without a reason.
Already I could see the list of crimes
that I was to commit…And like a sleepwalker,
I started out in life, and frightened life:
it spread before me like the meadow
where once Proserpina would take her strolls.
Before me, awkward, kinless me,
the doors were opened without warning,
and there were people coming out,
who cried, “She’s come! It’s she herself, she’s come!”
I looked at them and couldn’t believe my eyes,
and thought, “They’ve gone out of their minds!”
The more I was admiringly acclaimed,
The more they praised me to the skies,
The scarier it got to be on earth,
The more I tried to make myself wake up,
And knew I’d pay a hundredfold for this
in prison, in the grave, in an asylum,
in all the places people of my sort
wake up—but happiness dragged on and on.

Translation © Margo Shohl Rosen