By Gábor Schein

Translated by Ottilie Mulzet

from Issue 23


On her chest, where they operated
a picture was tattooed.
An angel turned to the sky, descending,
outside it snowed.

Pushing the stone away, the angel
sat at the entrance to the cave.
It sank into the skew-eyed evening
light: good thing there was no birth.

Six months after the first operation
her stomach was cut open too. What the
chemo left on the veins, the aorta,
they took out the lymphoma.

It was cold in the operating room. She was freezing.
A needle squirted a dream into her.
She saw a hand for the last time,
fell into a narrow mantle, which was

filled with egg-like light.
The angel waited in the corridor.
Group photographs of doctors on the walls. A nurse
at times clattered across the sick ward.

Hours went by like this. Awakening in intensive care.
Her stomach sliced open to the sternum.
You are beautiful, beautiful, the female likeness of my body,
enveloped in the palm of nothingness.

And the angel leaned above her.
And whispered in her ear:
Adonai, Elohim, Sebaoth.
Come back to the cave-night.

Gábor Schein is a literary historian, poet, and novelist. His verse and novels explore the state of Jewish survival in late and post-communist Hungary, the aftermath of catastrophe, the legacy of Jewish life in both pre- and post-Holocaust Europe, and the psychic conditions of the final decades of communist rule.

Ottilie Mulzet’s translation of Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai (New Directions, 2013) was awarded the Best Translated Book Award for 2013. Her translation of Krasznahorkai’s Destruction and Sorrow beneath the Heavens is forthcoming from Seagull Books in 2016, and her translation of The Dispossessed, by Szilárd Borbély (1963-2014) is forthcoming from HarperCollins.

Original text: Gábor Schein, “Terj vissza,” Élet és irodalom, Volume LIX, No. 4, January 23, 2015. Budapest: 2015.

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