Too often it is assumed that modern Hebrew literature is the same thing as Israeli literature. But just as many Israelis write in other languages, such as Arabic and Russian, so too have many Hebrew poets lived outside of Israel. Haim Lensky is one of many Hebrew poets who wrote on Russian soil in the early 20th century. He eventually starved to death in a labor camp for the crime of writing in Hebrew. Here translated is a sonnet about a St. Petersburg white night.
The Day Descended By á¸¤aim Lenski Translated by A.Z. Foreman
The day descended the cold steps of stone To bathe in the Neva, but hardly found Itself half in before it plunged and drowned. The furrowing funeral of waves began. Complete silence descended in half-darkness Again. Then, rounded, gilded and agleam St. Isaac's dome sank into the blue stream As if a diving bell dropped by a harness. The Admiralty like a golden ball Feels its way through the water- spires and all. A gurgle. Then the river runs in twilight. Then up with the cadaver that they haul Out, with blue frozen lips and face of white. They know him, and they call him the white night.
On an Arab girl whom I'd love to have as a lover, whom I saw with other women kissing one another. I've known love's labor pangs, but brought forth naught. I'm in the snares of her, an Arab fawn. My soul so longs for kisses from her mouth That I long to turn myself into a female For it is women that she'll woo and kiss But I am lost. For I was born a male.