My steps mingling with yours (part 7)

Here are the pages from the final few days of my Omer Journey through Yiddish poetry, folklore, and song. I have reached the end of an incredibly rich exploration and yet I feel as though I have only just opened the door to a whole world.

The Train Sings a Song

I am in love with the chaotic rich rhythm of this poem by Celia Dropkin. I wanted to include the whole of the first section on the page but didn’t know how I would ever fit in all the English and all the Yiddish.

Inspired by some of Irena Klepfisz’s poetry, which merges and mingles English and Yiddish, I wrote out the first stanza, substituting English words for transliterated Yiddish. I chose words where the Yiddish sounds similar enough to the English to still catch the overall meaning.

I love how the juxtaposition of all these different words together mirrors the energy and aliveness of the scene Celia Dropkin conjures in her poem.

Flirty couples with cigars,
cigarettes, peanuts, ice-cream,
and coffee; muffled vignettes
from a dark lava flow
of people; smells and sweat
from young bodies; eyes flashing
wanton and hot. Thundering
laughter. Cards laying on laps,
touching of legs and knees.
The jostling on the train
is sweet. Eyes, hearts, words glow.

– Excerpt from ’The Train Sings a Song’ by Celia Dropkin. Translated by Faith Jones, Jennifer Kronovet, and Samuel Solomon in ‘The Acrobat: selected poems of Celia Dropkin’.

Look Not

Look not
To the reach
Of the road
That compels you;
Look only
At the stone
On which you stand.

ניט קוק
אין דער ווײַטקייט
פֿון וועג,
וואָס פֿירט דיך,
נאָר קוק
אויפֿן שטיין
וואָס דו טרעטסט.

Nit kuk
In der vaytkeyt
Fun veg,
Vos firt dikh,
Nor kuk
Oyfn shteyn
Vos du tretst.

‘Look not’ by Yiddish poet, Bertha Kling.
Translated by Abigail Weaver on the Bronx Bohemians blog at The Yiddish Book Center. You can read several other poems by Bertha Kling here:

So far in this journal, the English translations have been as prominent as the Yiddish text, if not more so. On this page, with only one week left to go of the project, the Yiddish becomes more visible, and the English translation recedes into the background.

Let drops of blue moon flow into you

Let drops of blue moon flow into you.
Lozn araynflisn in zikh tropn fun bloer levone.
‎לאָזן אַרײַנפֿליסן אין זיך טראָפּן פֿון בלאָער לבֿנה

Glass Flowers

The moon is a white cherry blossom.
Sorrow smell of viscous longing.
The seven years.

Yellow glass tulips
under the streetlamps
planted on street one, street two, street three.

Yellow glass
smell of cold hands
and the amber coral of going without.

You can go down the first street.
Down the second.
Let drops of blue moon flow into you,
smell of viscous longing
and the coldness of the yellow lamp glass.

What more can each night bring
besides the smell of viscous waiting,
besides the glass smell of going without.

From ‘Figures of the Day’
By Yiddish Poet, Dvore Fogel.
Translated by Jordan Lee Schnee.

You can read more from this series here.

Arum Dem Fayer/Around the Fire

I learned this beautiful folksong at the Babel’s Blessing ‘Yiddish Language and Song’ class with fabulous duo Annie Cohen and Rokhl Weston just a few days ago. I have been singing it out loud and in my head all week. Even singing it down the phone to friends.

Around the campfire
We sing songs
The night is lovely
And no one gets tired

And if the fire
Goes out
The heavens shine
With their stars

So crown our heads
With flower garlands
Around the fire
We’ll dance happily

For dance and song
Is our life
And in our sleep
We spin our dreams


Arum dem fayer
Mir zingen lider
Di nakht iz tayer
Me vert nit mider.

Un zol der fayer
Farloshn vern
Shaynt oyf der himl
Mit zayne shtern.

To kroynt di kep
Mit blumen-kranstn –
Arum dem fayer
Mirn freylekh tantsn.

Vayl tants un lider
Iz undzer lebn,
Dernokh in shlof –
Khaloymes shvebn.

Watch a beautiful performance of this song by Shpielberg here.

Sholem Lid/Peace Song

If my voice were louder,
If my body stronger,
I would tear through the streets,
Crying: Peace, Peace, Peace.

Volt ikh gehat koyekh,
Volt ikh gelofn in di gasn,
Volt ikh geshrign sholem,
Sholem, Sholem, Sholem.

‘Peace in the streets/Sholem Lid’
— a song by Yiddish singer, musician, and activist, Adrienne Cooper.

You can hear Adrienne’s passionate singing of this song on her album, ‘Enchanted’. Isabel Frey sings Sholem Lid on her wonderful album, Millenial Bundist.

Di tsung/The tongue

The final day of my Omer journal brings me back to the beginning, to the spark that lit the flame and set me off on this exploration of Yiddish language and culture.

Only a couple of months ago, I was reading ‘Born to Kvetch’ by Michael Wex (which is a great book, btw!) As I came across each Yiddish phrase, I found myself mouthing the words and speaking them out loud. The way the words felt in my mouth, the sounds that they made, felt like a homecoming. Like I knew this language even though I didn’t. I heard my own voice and my Bobba’s voice both speaking at the same time. Even before I began formally learning some of the vocabulary and the grammar, I had the sounds, and the visceral embodied knowing that came with them.

Today’s poem is an excerpt from ‘Di Rayze Aheym/The Journey Home’ by Irena Klepfisz. From the anthology, ‘Tribe of Dina’ (co-edited with Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz)

Di tsung/The tongue

Zi shvaygt.

Di verter feln ir
she lacks the words
and all that she can force

is sound
unformed sound:

der klang the sound

dos vort the word

di tsung the tongue

dos loshn the language

di trern the tears.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.
Thank you for all your wonderful comments and your interest.
A sheynem dank!

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