Anna Margolin translated by Mildred Faintly

On a Balcony

The image flickers back at me,
from a long ago summer,
late afternoon heat,
a pair of petite, affectionate women
leafing through an old album, laughing.
Their hands touch, they let them, they leave them,
they want this, they lean together,
shoulder finds shoulder with a shudder of pleasure.
The landscape beyond them is orange-red
from the sunset of a thirsty day in August.
They too thirst, the curves
of their pale bodies blur.

Above them towers a powerful man,
with the weighty grace that men possess,
like a splendid, unnecessary decoration.

Rosa Lebensboym (1887–1952), known by her pen name Anna Margolin, was a Jewish-American Yiddish language poet. Born in Brest, then part of the Russian Empire, she permanently settled in New York in 1913. She worked on the editorial staff of the Yiddish Newspaper Der Tog, and was associated with both the “Youth” and “Introspectivist” Yiddish literary movements, which came to the fore as Yiddish poetry soared free of religious and political content. She published a single volume of verse, Poems (1929) which is stylistically akin to that of Rilke, but unique in its engagement with Manhattan’s modern urban landscape, and her unambiguous description of love affairs with women.

Mildred Faintly is a lesbian transgender woman who writes book reviews for the SF/Fantasy literary magazine She earned a doctorate in classics under another name in another life; this rendered her entirely unemployable and for some years not very good company. She finally found work as a high school math teacher, where she explained to parents the dispiriting facts of how numerical grades are averaged. In the classroom, her talents were more meaningfully brought into play deciding who really needed to use the bathroom, and inflating grades (those impromptu lessons in averages never really “took.”) Now retired, she is translating the sweetly melancholy poems of Li Qing Zhao, a brilliant and defiant woman of the Sung dynasty, and enjoying the life of a literary recluse in a bamboo grove somewhere in New Jersey. Her translation of Else Lasker-Schüler’s first book of poems is being published by the Ben Yehuda Press.