DER YIDDISH-VINKL May 7, 2004
Dr. Barnett Zumoff, who in addition to being a prominent doctor and a motivating spirit in the world of the Forverts and the Workmen’s Circle, is also a prolific translator of Yiddish poetry into English. For some time now, he has been working on an anthology of Yiddish writings by women and about women, titled “Women in Yiddish Poetry.” Zumoff presents the pieces in both Yiddish and English.
Of the many pieces in his forthcoming book, Zumoff, who is also co-president of the Congress for Jewish Culture, has selected 20 to be published by the Congress under the title “About Mother.”
What follows is one of the poems, “Mayn Mame” by Perets Miranski. We chose it for this column in the spirit of Mother’s Day, this Sunday. Both the transliteration and the translation are by Zumoff.
Mayn mame shteyt nokh alts in Sodom,
Oyf koyl farbrent, a verbe shtume,
Mit “Got fun Yitskhok un Avrom”
Farloshn oyf di lipn frume.
Mayn mame hot in toytntol
Di viste rotskhim nit gesholtn
Zi hot gehert dayn viderkol
“In kalkhoyvn, fun flam tseshpoltn.
Un hot tseflakert zikh — a knoyt
A likhtike — in yam fun fayer.
Zi hot gemeynt, az mit ir toyt
Iz zi dem khoyte, mikh, m’tayer.
Nor ikh, ikh bin a khoyte alt,
Un shtekhedik in mir dayn shem iz.
Ikh shtey in Sodom — a zayl fun zalts —
Un ruf tsum din dem dayin emes.
My mother stands in Sodom still
A silent willow burned to coal,
Her prayers to God her lips ne’er will
Speak out — they live on in her soul.
Facing death, ‘twas mother’s choice
To keep her silence, speak no curse.
She felt she heard God’s holy voice
In ovens, camps and even worse.
And when she burned into a coal
Her soul glowed pure and bright
She hoped her death would cleanse my soul
And bring me to the holy light.
But I’m a lonely sinner still
And God’s name hurts my ears.
I stand in Sodom, always will —
Call God to judgment with my tears.