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Come Back

by Gabor Schein
Translated from Hungarian by
Ottilie Mulzet

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 one of the most significant poets to emerge in the post-1989 generation. In addition to being a highly respected literary historian and dramatist, he is significant as an unflinching explorer of the Jewish presence in post-Holocaust Hungary, particularly in his novel Lazarus (2006).
Ottilie Mulzet is a Hungarian translator of poetry and prose, as well as a literary critic. Her translation of Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s most recent novel, Seiobo There Below (New Directions), won the Best Translated Book Award in 2014. Other translations include Szilard Borbély’s The Dispossessed and Gábor Schein’s Lazarus.