With patches on our bodies, striped and parching,
They chase us in the ghetto, streets are marching,
Our buildings say farewell eternally,
Stone faces walk with us at each decree.
Old people wearing tfillin like black crowns,
A calf walks with a village Jew in tow,
A woman drags a person by the nails,
Another pulls a bunch of wood on rails.
Among them walks a woman, Teacher Mira.
A child is in her arms — a golden lyre.
She clasps another child by his frail hand,
The students walk around her — trusting band.
And as they get to Jew Street, there's a gate,
The wood still warm and raw, they huddle, wait.
And like a sluice for torrents of a flood,
It opens up and swallows in its blood.
They chase us over ruins, no bread, no light,
Bread is a book, a pencil shines so bright.
She gathers all her children on the floor,
Teacher Mira goes on teaching as before.
She reads Sholem Aleichem's  tale aloud,
A sparkle in their eyes, they laugh so proud.
She ties blue ribbons in the girls' braids
And counts her treasures: hundred thirty heads.
And Teacher Mira, like the sun, at dawn
Awakes, waits for her children to go on.
They come. She counts. Oh, better not to count!
For overnight, some twenty were cut down.
Her skin, a windowpane in stains of dusk,
Mira must not reveal the darkness thus.
She bites her lip, of courage she will tell:
About Hirsh Lekert, how he fought and fell.
And overnight, gray covered all the town,
And Teacher Mira's hair, her silver crown.
She seeks in cellars for her mother blind,
And seventeen more children she can't find.
When sun dried up the blood, with branches green
She trimmed the orphaned room, so neat and clean:
— Gershteyn  the teacher came and we shall sing,
Over the walls, our children's choir will ring.
They sing: "Not far is spring." But in the street,
Axes and bayonets smash, crush, and beat.
They drag from cellars, hidings, but the choir
Sings on "Not far is spring," sings higher, higher.
They are but sixty, with no sister, mother,
Now Teacher Mira is one and the other.
A holiday approaches, little doves,
We shall prepare a play, a play she loves.
The fête — and only forty children left.
But each in a white shirt, each child bereft.
The stage is fresh, a garden in the sun,
A river you can swim in, you can run.
Till axes split her mind, she on her knees,
A flower, and her children — buzzing bees.
Gray is the flower, and the time is awesome.
Tomorrow in the dew, again she'll blossom.
Vilna Ghetto, May 10, 1943