Song Of A Milkmaid

Itzkhak Viner
Song of the Milk Maid

Cold early morning on city streets,
noisy rush of the day is still asleep,
Far away on a corner a person – a dot,
grows into a girl.

She’s small and dark with black curly hair.
and on her shulders two braids are laid out:
an old ragged overcoat hangs over her side –
way too big, too long and too wide…

On her feet two old shoes open mouthed –
rotten, from wind and from rain all dried out;
in her hands she holds cans to distribute milk:
to men to women to children and dogs…

I follow behind – the girl with the milk-cans,
from street to a gate, up stairs to the top…
she drags her feet and knocks on the door
where maids appear with empty pots…

Here she comes down the stairs,
step after step and stands still a while;
then from my nook I can see her well-
Her face reveals two beautiful eyes…

I wait in my corner, I wait for the girl
Why is it you lower your eyes?…
Can it be you’re ashamed of your work?
A girl like you should hold her head high…

Her shoulders are trembling, her head is bowed down…
Her eyes open wide but are focussed inside;
Then she sees my unworthy appearance behind her…
with a glance at her cans, her big coat and me…

– They hired me out to work for strangers,
my mother and father are gone a long time…
So I’ll carry the milk to where it’s been sold –
until I become very gray, very old…

I don’t have a soul with whom I can speak
It’s always the same – the cans in my hands…
I know no close friends like other girls –
So it’s good when a stranger makes contact with me.

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