Oh Lord, my God!
You see my sins
that multiply like sandgrains.
Here, like an ocean wave
my transgressions
break upon my head!

I meditate on this
on a wide deserted beach
where swollen-headed seagulls
strut or lie about in the sand.
Now one, now another,
spreading grey wings
with wide white edges,
flaps up to the rumbling
frothy border and,
with several stabs
of its long sharp beak,
cracks crabs cast up by the breakers.

When we say, O Lord,
that our sins outnumber
the sands of the sea,
it is only an image, a cliche.
Even if my foot
feels sand slipping away,
what is that to Thee?

Nevertheless, this sand,
both whole and pulverized,
vast and minute,
piled up and washed away,
the detritus (the corpses, really)
of myriad intricate shells,
the flour of siliceous stone,
this sand--absorbing everything,
storing nothing--
isn't it analogous
to the triviality of our life?

But Lord--what is the meaning
of these slow, cautious birds
with their twisted orange knots of knees?--
these creatures adapted
to flocking flight
and solitary stroll alike.

© 1996 Boris Khersonsky. All rights reserved.
Translation by Ruth Kreuzer and Dale Hobson.