Oy Sacred Bukhara (or: Beyond Life and Death*)
by Tsippy Byron
To Azam Obidov
My generous and great-spirited friend.
In July 1942 I was an illusionary idea
In the narrow, sacred alleys of Bukhara;
Threaded along the margins of an exhausted search for satiation;
For a respite from the body’s burden.
I was a quivering anxiety in the alleys of Bukhara,
Of disappearance from the Jewish Book of Life,
Or of a hasty realisation
Not of its time or place:
That I would be born to no bosom;
But to a bluing frost
Of death rising from lips and toes.
I was the apprehension of an inadvertent cry
And also, an abstract hope for routine
For grandchildren’s solace.
You were about 60
Your children spread throughout the globe
And in all the Death Camps.
Like the risk dispersion of a sophisticated investor.
The mercy of not knowing your children’s fate,
Wrapped you as a shawl.
All you wanted was to pass the days
And reach the distancing rim
Of a home, a meal and an eiderdown.
A lady of a big city:
Slowly rolled by sudden trains,
In strange torments,
To an Uzbek city.
Its generous people left roots in their fields
For the hungry.
Who could not distinguish
Between good and bad
Collected what you did not know
Together with sheaves of poisonous weeds
To fill the pot.
Oy grandma, oy babushka
I wasn’t there
And my father was chasing a capricious wind
Carrying food coupons
While you were sated by poison.
With the trembling knees of a pilgrim to the Ka’aba
To the divine step,
To the hair of the Beard of the Prophet,
(My father’s shaved hair was swarming with guilt and lice)
I will place my feet in the footsteps of his lonely grief,
And helpless desperation at not placing a tombstone.
With the trembling knees of a pilgrim,
I will stand opposite the incidental, small escape that
Sufficed like a miracle,
Like a portion of bread,
To open for him and for me
A chance for life.
Near papa’s invisible ka’abah
With a stuttering prayer
That will invent consolation from the distance of years
I will become holy for a miniscule minute
With Hebrew words, journeys and pilgrimage.
And this small flame, grandma,
Will vaporize what is dissipated.
And the rest of your unlived life
Will take off like a messenger pigeon
With a ringed witness
Beyond Life & Death.
Nevertheless, I carry your name,
And with my dead fathers’ decree,
I am here,
Fulfilling a heart’s desire
That could lighten his life,
And perhaps also
The torments of your death.
 In memory of my Grandmother, The Late Feigel Levin Peretz, who died and was buried without a tombstone on 1st August, 1942 in the Ashkenazy section of the Jewish cemetery of Bukhara