On the Other Side of the Poem/Fun Yener Zeit Lid
I so fell in love with this poem by Yiddish poet, Rokhl Korn, that I decided to spend a few days with it, one stanza per day.
Whilst working on these pages, I discovered ’Shtoltse Lider’ by Swedish duo, Isa and Louise – an album of poetry in Yiddish by women writers set to music. One of the tracks features a recording of Rokhl Korn reading ‘On the Other Side of the Poem/Fun Yener Zeit Lid’, followed by a beautiful piece of instrumental music.
On the Other Side of the Poem (Fun Yener Zeit Lid)
On the other side of the poem there is an orchard,
and in the orchard, a house with a roof of straw,
and three pine trees,
three watchmen who never speak, standing guard.
On the other side of the poem there is a bird,
yellow brown with a red breast,
and every winter he returns
and hangs like a bud in the naked bush.
On the other side of the poem there is a path
as thin as a hairline cut,
and someone lost in time
is treading the path barefoot, without a sound.
On the other side of the poem amazing things may happen,
even on this overcast day,
this wounded hour
that breathes its fevered longing in the windowpane.
On the other side of the poem my mother may appear
and stand in the doorway for a while lost in thought
and then call me home as she used to call me home long ago:
Enough play, Rokhl. Don’t you see it’s night?
– Source: Yiddishkayt. Translated by Seymour Levitan.
It has been a deep experience climbing inside the words and images of this poem over the last few days. I found the last stanza especially moving, knowing that Rokhl Korn’s parents, brothers, and their families were murdered in the Holocaust. May their memories be for a blessing.