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DER YIDDISH-VINKL October 22, 2004

On the occasion of her 60th yahrzeit, the Yiddish Forverts featured Miriam Ulinover on its page dedicated to Pearls of Yiddish Poetry. Orphaned as a child, she was raised by her grandmother, to whom she dedicated a book of poetry titled “Der Bubbe’s Oytser” (“Grandma’s Treasure”). Ulinover described her poetry in the following lines: “Epes klingt in mir a nigun. Fun an alter tsayt, Reyd gezungene-gezogte, Dayne, bobe, reyd.” “Inside of me I hear a song/It comes from olden times/Sometimes it’s spoken, sometimes it’s sung/It is my granny’s rhymes.”

In Ulinover’s book, she recounts her grandmother’s advice on how to live a life. The text is written as a dialogue between Bubbe and Miriam:

Bubbe:

Nisht zol keyn mentshns hant oyf dir

Farneyen, kind-leb, s’lokh.

Der seykhl vert farneyt, farshpart

Farshtopt azoyernokh!

Bakumen konstu, kosher kind,

A kop i temp, i shver —

Un forst dokh vern klug un klor

Du forst dokh in di le…

Miriam:

Ikh hob zikh do arumgekukt

Itst bobe-lebn mayn.

Vos anbalangt dos kepl mayns

To konstu ruik zayn.

Grandmother:

Let no one place a hand on you

To sew the hole they say you had.

They’ll sew in junk you never knew

They’ll empty good and stitch in bad.

You’ll end up, oh, my kosher child

With a head that’s dull and dense.

Your travels now, they are not wild

Each day you get more sense.

Miriam:

I’ve had a chance to look around

Oh, Granny, without cease.

My feet are firmly on the ground

Your mind can be at peace.

To her bubbe, many common events had mystic meanings. And Miriam respected her resultant insights. To restrain her granddaughter’s yen to nosh, Bubbe warned her that if she noshed, it would rain on her wedding day. Here’s the way Miriam puts it in poetic form:

Undzer kekhen shrayt un rudert

Lyaremt, vildevet un rasht —

Emets hot ir puter-kukhn

Fun der fan aroysgenasht.

Kukt mikh on, mayn bobe-lebn

Mit dem mildn oygn-glants:

“Aybgeregnt vet dir vern

Tokhtershi dayn khupe-krants.”

Un ven m’hot gefirt mikh — kale

Tsu der khupe mit mayn fraynd.

Hobn mentshn shtil geshmeykhlt

Ober volkns shtark geveynt.

“Nor ikh bin dir, regn, moykhl

In dayn groysn khupe-tog.

Nisht farshemt getort hotvern

Mir mayn bobes alter zog.”

English Version:

Our cook did scream, for heaven’s sake

Like someone who had lost her mind.

For someone stole her butter cake

When she had turned her big behind.

My granny gave a look at me

And said with very knowing eyes:

“Your wedding day, great rains you’ll see

My little daughter, from the skies.”

And when time came when I was bride

And I appeared with my good friend.

The guests did smile on every side

But rains poured down without an end.

But I forgive you, heavy rain

For on this special wedding day,

You did present a great refrain

On what my bubbe had to say.

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