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DER YIDDISH-VINKL April 11, 2003

While working on his forthcoming anthology “Women in Yiddish Poetry,” Barnett Zumoff noticed that many of these poems written about Jewish women or by Jewish women revolved around the theme of “mother.” As a result, he has compiled a selection of such poems in a separate volume, titled “About Mother: Yiddish Poets Speak.” One of the poems, “Dos Geveyn Fun Mayn Mamen” (“My Mother’s Lament”), was written by the late Joseph “Yosl” Mlotek, who, among his many talents as educator, editor and organizer of movements to preserve and promote Yiddish culture was also a poet. What follows is Zumoff’s transliteration and translation.

Dos Geveyn Fun Mayn Mamen

Durkh yamim un lender,

Durkh moyern un vent

Ze ikh mayn mames

Farbrokhene hent.

Her ikh mayn mames

Geshukhts un geveyn

“Vu blonken arum

Mayne kinder aleyn?

Mayn yingster zun, der poet,

Blondzhet um in der vild-fremder velt,

Tsi hot er bay nakht khotsh a bet

Oyf tsu shitsn fun vint zikh un kelt?

Tsi hot er a lefl gekekhts

In der vayter un ayz-kalkter fremd?

Tsi greyt im ver tsu in di nekht

Oyf tsu morgns a zoybere hemd?”

Ikh her ir geshlukhts

Un ikh farnem ir geveyn,

Un s’falt yede trer

Oyf mayn veg vi a shteyn,

Rayst zikh dos harts mayns

Tsurik tsu mayn heym —

Harts veyst fun keyn grenets

Un kinstlekhn tsoym.

Harts veyst nisht fun moyern

Bavakht fun shinel —

Ot brekht es di toyern

Un ikh bin ir shvel.

Ikh tref on mayn mamen,

Alt shoyn un groy —

Zi halzt mikh un kusht mikh

Un zogt mir azoy:

“Farfloygn, farfloygn vi feygl in harbst

Zent ir, mayne kinder, mayn lebn, mayn harts —

Ot nekhtn ersht, dukht zikh, vi kh’hob aykh gevigt

Gezungen aykh lider fun goldenem glik.”

Veyn ikh tsuzamen

Mit mames geveyn

Fun blaybn fareynzamt,

Fun blaybn aleyn.

My Mother’s Lament

Through thickness of heavy walls

Across the seas and distant lands

I still can very clearly see

My dear old mother’s twisted hands.

I hear my mother’s weeping cries,

“I wonder where each child’s head lies.

My youngest son, the poet boy,

is wandering through the world, I’m told,

I hope he has a bed at night

Protection from the wind and cold.

I hope he has a bite to eat

where’er he is, so far away

And has someone to wash his shirt

To wear to help him face the day.”

I hear her sobs —

She’s all alone

And every tear

Falls like a stone.

I miss my old beloved home —

It calls out to my heart.

No manmade fences, boundaries.

Can keep the two of us apart.

No mighty walls can bar my heart,

Despite the guards with stony will.

The gates give way, I’ve broken through

And now I’m at my mother’s sill.

And there I find my mother dear,

Already turned so old and gray

She hugs me and she kisses me

And then these words I hear her say:

“My children dear, my life, my heart

you’ve flown away like autumn birds.

And only yesterday, it seems

I rocked you, crooned you soothing words.”

And then I weep along with her

And feel my mother’s pain, for

Well she knows we’re still alone —

Alone and lonely ever more.

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