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
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.