Commentary Magazine


A Group of Poems

The group we paint in this number is unique in one special respect, having been, according to Mr. Wolf, “composed in Yiddish and translated, almost at once, into English.”

_____________

 

 

My Mother

My Mother used to say:
     Laughter and light—
That’s all it takes to deal with life.

And, with that,
She became urgently busy,
Worked like a horse,
Cooking, washing,
Bedroom to cellar,
Cupboard to attic,
Windows and walls,

Until her hands were like the hands
Of a day laborer:

Out of the water
Into the dough,
Out of the dough,
Into the water.

And running, running
Running like a heavy bird
Newly created and already sick
That hardly knows what food
It ought to eat

Well . . .

When she came to die
It’s true that she had, indeed,
A golden candelabrum for
Her Chanukahs,
But, as for laughter . . .

Hush—

An ugly story.

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In Those Days

In Those days
   I dreamed a lot
As children dream.
Everything at once
And nothing worth remembering.

But one dream I remember:

How the Sunday bells rang
And all the lovely children
With whom I had never exchanged a word,
Dressed in all their wealth,
Washed, scrubbed and combed,
Boys and girls,
Stood and waited for something
Happy and fine.

And suddenly I knew
(And they, never)
That in a little while there would come
    (in a very little while)
The gypsies and their horses
And their whips

And there would be tumult,
The weeping of children,
The whipping of boys and girls,
The neighing of horses,
The muddying of Sunday shoes,
Children, dragged by the hair.

And afterward
A long, wet summer.

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O! It Used To Be Such a Pleasure

O it used to be such a pleasure
    To sing the old pious songs,

The delicious young women
Used to watch us
And we were able to pray,

We prayed lustily,
With a rich and happy laughter.

The pretty, pretty women
With their eyes alight
Peeped at us, around our fire,
Our holy fire,

And with their fine, tiny laughter
They disturbed our prayers
A little

And we were able to know
That in the farthest distance,
In the most distant stars
There dwelt a delighted God
With a delicate mouth
And satisfied eyes.

And we were able,
Devoutly, so devoutly,
To pray.

_____________

 

Congratulations

For this, you really deserve congratulations,
   Not everyone would have known
How to deal with such a woman.

Such women love to cry—
They complain of their lot.
They talk of love
They wash the dishes.
They cook little delicacies.
(And one can see how they lick
Their fingers.)

And you!
How cleverly you handled yourself.

Such a scholar.
What remarkable wisdom:

You spoke of love
(Hot as in a sweating dream)
You complained of your lot
(How heavily the whole world
Lies on your shoulders)
And you struggled, yourself,
With the dishes
(Somewhat cracked)
And, as for the delicacies—
With greasy fingers
You ate them all.

Congratulations.

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About the Author




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