Born near Grodno on December 15, 1891, Avrom Zak moved to Warsaw in 1919 and joined the Yiddish Literary Society. After the Nazis took Poland he fled to Grodno but was arrested a year later and spent World War II as a laborer in the East. After the war he returned to Poland, settling in Lodz, a cultural center.

 

Out of the Hot Ashes

It’s often past belief that I, that I alone
of all the millions who had come to grief,
that I without a scratch climbed from the vale of bones.
At times I can’t imagine it, it’s past belief.

Perhaps I too was burned to ash with all the others,
like them, just like the rest of them, my sisters, brothers,
burned up, burned up like Moses’ bush, his desert thorn,
and out of the hot ashes I arose newborn.

But how it happened I’m unable to remember –
as if a mother’d given birth to me once more
to cry out for a reckoning to the last ember

for all who dies in flames or in the poison chamber,
for every child and mother butchered in this war,
all, all, six million lives to be accounted for.


Avrom Zak