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What popular children’s poet Kadya Molodowsky wrote about her mother

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Kadya Molodowsky, the author of Yiddish children’s poems that were very popular in pre-war Poland, also wrote acclaimed poetry for adults. Among the recurrent themes in her work were the lives of Jewish women and girls and Jewish tradition in the face of modernity.

For Mother’s Day, we bring you two poems she wrote in 1925 about her mother, both translated into English by Kathryn Hellerstein in her book, Paper Bridges: Selected Poems of Kadya Molodowsky.

In a tribute to the poet, the Jewish women’s magazine Lillith published an article by Yiddish literature scholar Sheva Zucker that includes the poems in the original Yiddish, the English transliteration and a short biography of the poet.

 

Women-Poems

by Kadya Molodowsky

The women of our family will come to me in dreams at night and say:

Modestly we carried a pure blood across generations,

Bringing it to you like well-guarded wine from the kosher

Cellars of our hearts.

And one woman will say:

I am an abandoned wife, left when my cheeks

Were two ruddy apples still fixed on the tree,

And I clenched my white teeth throughout lonely nights of waiting.

And I will go meet these grandmothers, saying:

Like winds of the autumn, your lives’

Withered melodies chase after me.

And you come to meet me

Only where streets are in darkness,

And where only shadows lie:

And why should this blood without blemish

Be my conscience, like a silken thread

Bound upon my brain,

And my life a page plucked from a holy book,

The first line torn?

VIII

Nights when I’m awake

And one by one my past days come

To place themselves before my eyes,

My mother’s life come to me.

And her emaciated hands

Wrapped in modest nightgown sleeves

Are like a God-fearing script on white parchment

And the words of Hamapil are angry

Like fiery coals quenched by her quiet plea,

And they shrivel her mouth

Like a withered plum.

And her tears come drop by drop like a stingy drizzle.

And now that I myself am a woman,

And walk, clad in brown silk

With my head bare

And my throat naked,

And now that my own life’s misfortune has hunted me down

Like a crow falling upon a chick,

Often my room is lit up all night,

And I hold my hands, reproaches, over my head,

And my lips recite a quiet, simple

Plea to God.

And tears come drop by drop like a stingy drizzle.

The post What popular children’s poet Kadya Molodowsky wrote about her mother appeared first on The Forward.