DER YIDDISH-VINKL February 3, 2006


Published February 03, 2006, issue of February 03, 2006.
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The pages of the Forverts devoted to Pearls of Yiddish Poetry recently featured Yankl Yankelovitch (1905-1938). His early death was no accident; Yankelovitch was a victim of Stalin’s campaign against Jewish intellectuals. What follows is the text of a poem that Yankelovitch wrote when he visited his mother’s tomb. The transliteration is by Goldie Gold. The English version is by Gus Tyler.

Tsu Mayn Mamen

Shofer, shofer, loyf nit, halt ayn di mashin

Durkh ot yene hoyfn kereve ahin

Tsu dem o shtetl, in a shtub do krum

Shteyt, dakht zikh, mayn betl, oysgedreyt un shtum.

Un nit vayt fun danen, bay a ployt fun leym

Ligt dort hin mayn mame, shtil unter a shteyn.

Nit vayl ikh gleyb in toyte, tsi in yener velt

Mustu lebn ployt dot opshteln zikh shnel.

Nor vayl s’ligt a mentsh do, vos zayn gantser troym

Iz geven — ir kind zol; lebn khotsh geroym

Nokh a tog a zatn eynik zikh geyogt

Un azoy gelatet hot zi tog nokh tog.

Nu, hot zi getroymt nor un zikh nit devart

Vaksn itst nor beymer oyf ir keyver tsart

Iz fun danen ort, vil der zun dos kind irs

Zen ir keyver ort.

Shofer, shofer, loyft nit, kereve ahin

Lem ot yene hoyfn shtel op dayn mashin.

To My Mother

Chauffeur, chauffeur, take it easy

Through these courtyards bright and breezy

Until you come unto a shtetl

Where there is very little metal.

You’ll find a house most unpretentious

Though in my crib I was licentious

Not far from there you’ll find a gravestone

The only land my mom does now own.

I do not think the dead are living

Nor that they have the power of giving

Now, at this fence, you should be stopping

For here lies one whose head was popping.

With dreams about the child she nourished

And praying that someday he’d flourish

Her day was busy, full of labor

She bounced from neighbor unto neighbor.

Now on her grave a tree is growing.

The years they come and keep on going

Mom’s son is one of world renown

He brought great fame to mother’s town.

Chauffeur, chauffeur, take it easy

Through these courtyards bright and breezy.

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