Candles of Song 1 of 2

October 18, 2012 by

Candles of Song: Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

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

Photo of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (1920 – ) was born in Vienna, her mother was a remarkable traditional folksinger and her father, a passionate Yiddishist. She and her family left to settle in Czernowitz, Ukraine (then Romania), when she was a young child. Thinking she wanted to be an artist, Schaechter-Gottesman went to Vienna to study art but was forced to return to Czernowitz when the Germans invaded Austria in 1938. In 1941 she married a medical doctor, Jonas (Yoyne) Gottesman, and together they lived out the war in the Czernowitz Ghetto along with her mother and several other family members. She, her husband and daughter settled in New York in 1951.

Schaechter-Gottesman’s first book of poetry, a children’s book, Mir Forn (We’re Travelling) appeared in 1963. Her books, nine in total, have appeared regularly since then. They include poetry for adults, children’s books and song books. Her most recent book is Der tsvit fun teg: Lider un tseykhenungen (The Blossom of Days: Poems and Drawings), 2007. She has recorded three CDs of her songs and one recording of folk songs. Beyle has played a central role in reviving and inspiring interest in Yiddish song and poetry among a new generation of artists, and her songs have been performed by many of the major names in Yiddish music. She is the only Yiddish poet ever to be awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the top honor for folk arts in the United States.

Here, S’letste Bletl, by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, read by Sheva Zucker:

The Last Page
(On Typing My Mother’s Memoirs)

The last page of the last notebook
is finished.
Your lines, stirred up,
keep typing through my night.
So deft, so transparent,
you sketched yourself for me.
Now I’m mother to your past.
Tones that turn to gold.  Your picture doesn’t fade.
Evening comes,
cool, raw, moist,
full of echoes,
and takes hold
as if it never
will let go.

Sharey  (Dawn), 1980
Translated from the Yiddish by Seymour Levitan

S’letste Bletl
(Iberklapndik der mames zikhroynes)

S’letste bletl funem letstn heftl
Shoyn farmakht.
Di shures dayne, ufgetreyslt,
Klapn oys mayn nakht.
Vi durkhzeevdik
Opgetseykhnt bistu mir.
Ikh bin haynt di mame fun dayn fri’r.

Tener gildikn – dayn bild nisht vaykht.
S’falt avek der ovnt,
Kilblekh, roy un faykht,
Ful mit nokhklangen.
Tsit zikh
Vi er volt keyn mol
Nisht fargangen.
Sharey, 1980

ס‘לעצטע בלעטל
(איבערקלאַפּנדיק דער מאַמעס זכרונות)

ס‘לעצטע בלעטל פֿונעם לעצטן העפֿטל
שױן פֿאַרמאַכט. די שורות דײַנע, אויפֿגעטרײסלט,
קלאַפּן אױס מײַן נאַכט.
װאָרהאַפֿטיק װי דורכזעעװדיק
אָפּגעצײכנט ביסטו מיר.
איך בין הײַנט די מאַמע פֿון דײַן פֿרי‘ר.
טענער גילדיקן — דײַן בילד נישט װײַכט.
ס‘פֿאַלט אַװעק דער אָװנט,
קילבלעך, רױ און פֿײַכט,
פֿול מיט נאָכקלאַנגען.
ציט זיך
װי ער װאָלט
קײן מאָל נישט פֿאַרגאַנגען.
      שאַריי, 1980‏

Here, Mayn Kind, by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, read by Sheva Zucker:

My Child

My child,
the birds of summer have all flown away,
the sky has closed the shutters,
so we sit at the table and pick crumbs,
as if the party were over and dusk has come,
shadows – awesomely huge on the walls.
We bend our heads and with searching hands
we look for a spark in the tiniest morsel.
My child,
with upward-turned brow,
I willed you the legacy.
Woe, what remains of it!
Forgive me for deceiving you,
I didn’t mean to.
LIDER Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, 1995
Translated by Gabriel Preil

Mayn Kind

Mayn kind,
Di zumer-feygl ale shoyn avekgefloygn.
Der himl hot di lodns tsugemakht.
Zitsn mir bam tish un kloybn krishkes,
Vi shoyn nokh der sude – un far nakht.
Shotns – moyredik groys af di vent.
Mir farbeygn di kep mit zukhndike hent.
Pruvn a funk in a brekl gefinen.
Mayn kind,
Mit a farrisenem shtern
Kh’hob dir di yerushe farshribn.
Vey, vos s’iz derfun geblibn!
Zay mir moykhl, dikh nisht-vilndik genart.

LIDER Beyle Shekhter-Gotesman, 1995

מײַן קינד

מײַן קינד,
די זומער־פֿײגל אַלע שױן אַװעקגעפֿלױגן.
דער הימל האָט די לאָדנס צוגעמאַכט.
זיצן מיר בײַם טיש און קלױבן קרישקעס,
װי שױן נאָך דער סעודה— און פֿאַר נאַכט.
שאָטנס— מוראדיק גרױס אױף די װענט.
מיר פֿאַרבײגן די קעפּ מיט זוכנדיקע הענט,
פּרוּװן אַ פֿונק אין אַ ברעקל געפֿינען.
מײַן קינד,
מיט אַ פֿאַרריסענעם שטערן
כ’האָב די ירושה פֿאַרשריבן.
װײ, װאָס ס’איז דערפֿון געבליבן!
זײַ מיר מוחל, דיך נישט־װילנדיק גענאַרט.
לידער, ביילע שעכטער־גאָטעסמאַן, 1995

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.