Every other week, a page-plus of the Forverts is devoted to “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry,” edited by Eleanor “Chana” Mlotek. Each column carries a standard subhead, “In ondenk fun Yosef Mlotek” (In memory of Joseph Mlotek).
Joseph “Yosl” Mlotek was a multitalented man. Not just a compiler of poems and songs, he was a writer, a performer, an organizer of cultural events, and for years he served as a pivot of Yiddish in America — if not of the world. He also composed his own poem, including this one, which appears in the Mloteks’ compilation “Songs of Generations.” The English version is by Gus Tyler.
Mayne khaveyrim — bloyz arbeter-yatn,
Mit hent fun mazoles un hart
Fintstern op zey’re teg in varshtatn,
Vu teg vert farbitn oyf nakht.
Mayne khaveyrim koym yinglekh fun akhtsn
Gevebt zikh khaloymes fun glik.
Itst vern di troymen fun mayne khaveyrim
Tsemoln oyf shtoyb fun fabrik.
Derfar geyen khevre avek fun fabrikn
Glaykh inem klub, in fareyn,
Un trefn zikh mit mentshn fun arbet,
Mit brider fun noyt un fun payn.
Un bindn tsunoyf zeyer goyrl dem shvern
Mit brider fun nont un fun vayt;
Un zeyen a has kegn di vos farshmakhtn
A yugnt aza far der tsayt.
Derfar hobn khevre a shvue geshvoyrn
A shvue oyf lebn un toyt.
Derfar hobn khevre zey’re blikn gevondn
Tsum morgn vos shaynt oyf hel-royt.
My comrades who are a working folk
With calluses upon their hands
Know lives they live are not a joke
Life treats them rough with its demands.
They still are youngsters in their teens
They dream their dreams of happiness
But soon dreams are a hill of beans.
There’s nothing left. Life’s just a mess.
That’s why my comrades do depart
From factories to join a cause
Where they’re at home in head and heart
With those who see the world’s fierce flaws.
Together we are bound by fate
With brothers here and far away.
Despotic lords we deeply hate
We fight for justice night and day.
That’s why we comrades hereby swear
To take an oath of life and death
To fight in freedom’s cause we dare
We’ll fight until there’s no more breath.