Candles of Song 1 of 2

October 23, 2012 by

Candles of Song: Asya

Yiddish poems about mothers, in memory of my mother, Miriam Pearlman Zucker, 1914-2012.

Photo of Asya

Asya Kuritsky-Guy (1932-2009) was born in Vilna. Her father was a painter who wrote plays that were never produced. During the Second World War she and her parents fled to Soviet Russia. At the age of eight she began writing poetry in both Russian and Yiddish. When she was repatriated to Poland after the war she worked in an orphanage and created literature – poems and plays – for the children. In 1951 she emigrated to Israel and studied in a drama school there. For a brief time, from 1956-1856, she acted in the Habimah theatre. From 1948 on her poetry was published in a number of publications, in Poland, America and Israel. None other than the great poet Yankev Glatshteyn wrote the foreword to her debut volume Tsvyagn-tsiter (The tremble of Branches). In Israel she published the books Tsvaygn-tsiter, 1972 and Nit kin albatros (Not an albatross), 1981.

Here, Mame, by Asya, read by Sheva Zucker:


My Jewish mother,
They didn’t allow you to
Cry your Yidishkeyt,
You didn’t coo over me
Like a dove,
Didn’t nourish me with
Scraps, torn from your mouth.
The claylike bread –
A few bites
Like children
We tore into two equal parts
Measuring it out exactly –
Eyes full of hunger.
On roads full of terrible wonders
Leaden hatred raining down upon you,
A sack covering your slender loins,
A mother orphan
You walked alongside your child
Who had so aged within hours,
Mother child
Of the wide River Viliye,
Of your young dream
In later days
May you be blessed.
Tr. Sheva Zucker


Mayn yidishe mame,
Men hot nit gelozt
Dir dayn Yidishkayt veynen,
Du host iber mir
Vi a toyb nit gevorket,
Mit breklekh fun moyl
Opgerisene, mikh nit gekormet.
Dos leymike broyt –
A por bisn
Mir hobn vi kinder
Af tsvey glaykhe teyln tserisn
Mit pinktlekhe mosn –
Oygn ful hunger.
Af vegn fun shreklekhe vunder
Mit blayener sine baregnt,
A zak iber lendn dare bahongen,
A mame yesoyme
Bam zayt fun dayn kind bistu gegangen,
Vos hot zikh geeltert in shoen,
Mame kind
Fun der breyter Vilie,
Fun yungn kholem
In shpete teg
Gezunt zolstu zayn.
Tsvaygn-tsiter, 1971


מײַן ייִדישע מאַמע,
מען האָט ניט געלאָזט דיר דײַן ייִדישקײט װײנען,
דו האָסט איבער מיר
װי אַ טױב ניט געװאָרקעט,
מיט ברעקלעך פֿון מױל
אָפּגעריסענע, מיך ניט געקאָרמעט.
דאָס לײמיקע ברױט —
אַ פּאָר ביסן
מיר האָבן װי קינדער
אױף צװײ גלײַכע טײלן צעריסן
מיט פּינקטלעכע מאָסן—
אױגן פֿול הונגער.
אױף װעגן פֿון שרעקלעכע װוּנדער
מיט בלײַענער שׂינאה באַרעגנט,
 אַ זאַק איבער לענדן דאַרע באַהאָנגען,
אַ מאַמע יתומה  
בײַם זײַט פֿון דײַן קינד ביסטו געגאַנגען,
װאָס האָט זיך געעלטערט אין שעהען,
מאַמע קינד פֿון דער ברײטער װיליִע,
פֿון יונגן חלום אין שפּעטע טעג
געזונט זאָלסטו זײַן. ‏
צווײַגן־ציטער,פֿאַרלאַג “המנורה”, תּל־אָבֿיבֿ, 1972

Here, Mayn Meydele, by Asya, read by Sheva Zucker:

My Little Girl

My Little girl cried quietly,
She thought I wouldn’t hear,
So from her downcast face
Carved from pain and light,
I kissed away a tear.

My little girl yearned quietly,
She thought I’d not discern,
So I vanished from  her gaze
And took with me my joy
Leaving her to yearn.

My little girl did not demand,
Her silence, still and deep, –
On her lips I sensed
My thirst, entwined, not stilled
Would forever keep.
Tr. Sheva Zucker

Mayn Meydele

Mayn meydele hot shtil geveynt,
Gemeynt ikh vel nit hern,
Hob ikh fun ir farklemt gezikht,
Vos iz geshnitst mit vey un likht
Aropgekusht di trern.

Mayn meydele hot shtil gebenkt,
Gemeynt ikh vel nit visn,
Bin ikh antrunen fun ir blik
Un fun ir benkshaft kh’hob mayn glik
Mit zikh avekgerisn.

Mayn meydele hot nit gemont,
Nor tif un shtil geshvign,
Af ire lipn kh’hob derfilt –
Mayn dorsht, farshnurt, nit ayngeshtilt
Vet eybik dortn lign.

מײַן מײדעלע

מײַן מײדעלע האָט שטיל געװײנט,
געמײנט איך װעל ניט הערן,
האָב איך פֿון איר פֿאַרקלעמט געזיכט,
װאָס איז געשניצט מיט װײ און ליכט
אַראָפּגעקושט די טרערן.

מײַן מײדעלע האָט שטיל געבענקט,
געמײנט איך װעל ניט װיסן,
בין איך אַנטרונען פֿון איר בליק
און פֿון איר בענקשאַפֿט
כ’האָב מײַן גליק מיט זיך אַװעקגעריסן.

מײַן מײדעלע האָט ניט געמאָנט,
נאָר טיף און שטיל געשװיגן,
אױף אירע ליפּן כ’האָב דערפֿילט —
מײַן דאָרשט, פֿאַרשנורט, ניט אײַנגעשטילט
וועט אײביק דאָרטן ליגן.
צווײַגן־ציטער, 1972 ‏

Poems cross-posted with

Dr. Sheva Zucker is currently the Executive Director of the League for Yiddish and the editor of its magazine Afn Shvel. She has taught and lectured on Yiddish language, literature and culture on five continents.