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by Sheva Zucker

Candles of Song: Celia Dropkin

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

Photo of Celia Dropkin

Celia Dropkin (1888-1956) was born Celia Levin in Bobruisk, White Russia. She lost her father at an early age and her mother never remarried. She had a high school education and began writing poetry in Russian while still a young woman and was greatly encouraged by the Hebrew writer U.N. Gnessin. When she was about 21 she married Shmaye Dropkin, an active socialist in the Bund party, and in 1912 she followed him to America where he had fled for political reasons.

Between 1910-1926 she bore six children, five of whom survived, and around 1918 she began writing poetry in Yiddish. She published in many of the Yiddish publications of the day, including Inzikh, Tog, and Tsukunft. Her books include In heysn vint – lider (In the hot wind – poems; 1935) and In heysn vint: Poems, Stories and Pictures published posthumously in New York by her children. Her poems are remarkable for their sensuality, bold eroticism, and inversion of the reader’s expectations of traditional women’s writing.

Here, Ikh Vel Antloyfn, by Celia Dropkin, read by Sheva Zucker:

I Will Run Away

I will run away from all of you
To my little boy,
From all of you
With your glances,
Thirsty hot and cold,
With your friendly and hostile faces
To his bright face,
Rock him to sleep,
Quietly cover him
Or perhaps
Quietly wake him
Barely brushing him with kisses.
“Mamma!”
“It’s your, your Mamma. . . “
In a quiet dark disc
By the cradle of my child
I   will set myself free
From all of you.
1922
In heysn vint,  1935, 195

Translated by Sheva Zucker

Ikh Vel Antloyfn

Ikh vel antloyfn fun aykh alemen
Tsu mayn kleynem yingele,
Fun aykh alemen
Mit dorshtik heyse,
Mit kalte blikn,
Mit penemer fun fraynt un fun sonim
Tsu zayn likhtikn ponem,
Im farvign,
Shtil im tsudekn
Oder gor,
Shtil im ufvekn
Koym, barirndik mit kushn.
_ Mama!
– Dayn, dayn, dayn mama…
In a shtiln tunkeln disk
Bay der vig fun mayn kind
Vel ikh mikh rateven
Fun aykh alemen!
1922
In heysn vint, 1935, 1959

איך װעל אַנטלױפֿן

איך װעל אַנטלױפֿן פֿון אײַך אַלעמען
 צו מײַן קלײנעם ייִנגעלע,
פֿון אײַך אַלעמען
מיט דאָרשטיק הײסע,
מיט קאַלטע בליקן,
מיט פּנימער פֿון פֿרײַנט און פֿון שׂונאים
צו זײַן ליכטיקן פּנים,
אים פֿאַרװיגן,
שטיל אים צודעקן אָדער גאָר,
 שטיל אים אויפֿװעקן
קױם, באַרירנדיק מיט קושן.
— מאַמאַ!
—  דײַן, דײַן, דײַן מאַמאַ…
 אין אַ שטילן טונקעלן דיסק
בײַ דער װיג פֿון מײַן קינד
װעל איך מיך ראַטעװען
פֿון אײַך אַלעמען!
1922
אין הייסן ווינט, 1935, 1959

Poems cross-posted with ShevaZucker.com.

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.

© 2011 Lilith Magazine