Five Poems by Maia Evrona

Modern Hebrew

Language in which we affirm and erase the past
playing favorites with our diverged ethnicities,
in which Khanike becomes Chanukah, and Shabbos
morphs into Shabbat. After all these years—
which once were shoynim and now are shanim—
I, an Ashkenazi, must title all my poems on our holy days
with the chosen modern pronunciation I was raised on
rather than the Yiddish, now so strange and foreign.

Maia; From the Greek

Daughter of Atlas and mother of Hermes:
Daughter of the world sustained
on the sweat of a back in pain;
mother of a word with wings on its feet.

Returning to Hydra
(For Leonard Cohen)

Returning to a place once loved on a visit:
Rereading a book that was a favorite.

Dried bougainvillea petals saved, notes written,
a place can be studied like a poem.

The rhythms of its rooster calls
clopping mules and hush of rainfalls

whitewashed winds and ringing bells
listened to again and again like the songs.

In its streets the melodies on which my life was drawn,
in its streets an unknown melody to which my life goes on.

Childhood Spanish: Coda

Language of school’s last counted down minutes
and of countries I haven’t yet been,
language I knew perhaps even before illness
and one I still understand

when gaucho and ranchera melodies
travel through layer upon layer of memories
to speak to me of childhood and its feeling
with enduring fluency.

The Inquisition in Córdoba

In the Castle of the Christian Kings,
we will be tortured in the chambers
where Moorish ghosts still bathe,
while hidden in the walls, the forbidden
Cupid and Psyche rest in an embrace
to last until centuries from now,
when the kings have been replaced.

Maia Evrona’s poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on chronic illness, have appeared or are forthcoming in the North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Her translations of the Yiddish-language poet Abraham Sutzkever were awarded a 2016 Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and have appeared in Poetry Magazine. She has written on the importance of arts funding in Artnet.

Published on June 11, 2019.


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