On the 20th yahrzeit of Rokhl Fishman, the pages of the Forverts dedicated to “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry” featured this lyrical young poetess and her works. Born in Philadelphia in 1935, she was an activist in the Workmen’s Circle and in Zionist movements. She first began to be published in Der Nayer Dor (The New Generation), and was among the few American-born writers who immigrated to Israel. She was quite prolific, having published four books that contain her works. What follows is her Yiddish original, transliterated and translated by Goldie A. Gold. Since Rokhl Fishman was a pioneer spirit, her poem is titled, quite appropriately:
Ikh Bin a Groyser Onfanger
Ikh bin a groyser onfanger
Un ikh hob shoyderlekh lib
Dem sharfn, grinem, tam
Fun yedn onheyb.
Kh’hob gelernt — un ikh hob fargesn
Dates, lere, gramen.
Nor nit fargesn vel ikh
Baym ershtn tog fun nayem shulyor!
O, tomid in a reynem frishn heft!
O, tomid mit a geln frish-farshnitstn blayer —
Fartzeykhenen dem ershtn fakt
Fun a nayem visn!
Ver darf den mer.
Der ershter blits fun farshteyn
Iz der helster
Di ershte koyse farshikert
Der ershter blik —
Un mir iz azoy gefeln
Mayn ersht lid
Az ikh zing es vider —
Tomid tsum ershtn mol!
Ikh bin a groyser onfanger.
Lomir gefinen a nayem veg aheym,
Lomir aynshlingen a frishn fakt
Lomir onheybn sheyn shraytn
In a shpigl-reynem heft!
I Am a Great Beginner
I love to feel I’m starting things
For I do passionately love
The sharp green taste of all that’s new.
I learned and have forgotten
Teachers, dates and rhymes
But I never will forget the radiance
Of the first day of the new school year.
Always with a clean new notebook
Always with a freshly sharpened yellow pencil
To note the first fact of some new knowledge.
Who needs anything more?
The first flash of understanding is the brightest
The first goblet makes one drunk
The first glance.
I was so pleased with my first song
That I sing it again and again
But always for the first time
For, I am a great beginner.
I am a great beginner.
Come, let’s find a new way home.
Let’s swallow a new fact
Let’s begin to write neatly and nicely
In a brand-new notebook.