The Yiddish Forward’s “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry” column recently was dedicated to Zussman Segalovish on the occasion of his 55th yahrzeit. His first poems appeared in Warsaw. They were written in the carefree spirit of a man of 25. The Holocaust turned him from laughter to lamentation. He saw the Holocaust through the eyes of someone who had been exposed to, and fell in love with, the great Jewish “talents” of his time — men who by their creative genius occupied great space in his life and in the lives of his contemporaries and now were no longer there.
The following transliteration is by Goldie Gold, and the English version is by Gus Tyler.
Mir zaynen krank fun nit fargesn,
Mir muzn veynen un fartroyen,
Es vet undz fresn un tsefresn,
Di leydikeyt fun di “nishtoen.”
Nishto mer Gotlieb, Shiper, Shtern
Un Aron Eynhorn der kluger,
Stupnitski oykh nishto shoyn merer,
Nishto fun Lodzh Redaktor Uger,
Menakhem Kipnis, aza voyler —
Ikh her nokh itst zayn zingen “Brayne,”
A yat, a tayerer dertseyler
Mit ale folks-nigunin zayne
Aktyorn yidishe, fil krayzn;
Vos yeder nomen iz undz tayer,
Nishto shoyn mer der Samberg Ayzik —
Aza talant, azoy fil fayer.
Aza talant… Avrom Ostshego
Mit zayne Yidishe skulpturn
Ikh ze un fil es yede rege:
A velt farvisht fun ale shpurn.
No Longer There
We suffer for we can’t forget
We’re doomed to sorrow and to tears.
It must in time devour us yet,
The emptiness that haunts our years.
No more a Gotlieb, Shiper, Shtern
Nor Aron Eynhorn, men so wise
And for Stupnitski we do yearn,
They one and all have left our eyes.
From Lodz that scribe Uger is gone
Menakhem Kipnis, what a guy,
For this sweet soul we deeply mourn.
He’s gone and no one tells us why.
I hear him sing his favorite song
I hear him tell his magic tales.
Our Jewish actors, what a throng.
Each name weighs heavy on our scales
And Isaac Somberg’s been extinguished
One time he flared with fire and flame
With other talents most distinguished:
There’s nothing left except a name.
Appended to her transliteration, Gold adds: “He said kaddish for the lost world.”