Sloan Kettering: poems
In his final collection of poems, Abba Kovner -- the famed Jewish resistance fighter who led the Vilna ghetto uprising during World War II -- records his battle with cancer and his deep engagement with life up to his last days.
A beloved master of Hebrew literature, Abba Kovner was a poet, novelist, and essayist whose work has seldom appeared in English. These clear, spare, luminous verses bring his voice to us in all its fullness. Facing the one fight he knew he would lose, Kovner records in these poems his final weeks, as he was dying of cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York.
Weaving together his perceptions of the present moment ("How little we need to be happy: a half kilo increase in weight, /two circuits of the corridors"), sorrow at leaving the world and at the dramatic loss of his vocal chords ("Have I no right to die/while still alive?"), and memories of his heroic comrades in the Baltic forest, Kovner emerges from these pages with yet another kind of heroism. His desire to give a complete account of the gift of life, even as that life is failing, makes these poems deeply moving and unforgettable.
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He fell asleep under strange skies
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