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[Pages 125-128]

Homey Songs

by S. Chester*

Translated by Lillian Leavitt

“In The Evening”

In the small white room my grandma sits,
Frail hands folded in her lap.
Her shadow rests on the wall,
Watching as she takes her nap.

Her grey head bobs a little
Behind a face creased with woe.
Housing faded silent lips
Finished speaking long ago.

A little lamp, dark and tired
Sends out its yellow light, opaque
Grandma sits alone and rocks
Until a dream her consciousness takes.

Her head hangs low. She's tired.
There's a smile, then a fright,
Dreams around her face draw circles
Here for a moment, gone in the night.

Off in a corner, a fly's buzzing
Caught forever in a spider's net
In the small white room
A groan's been stifled, a sigh silenced to forget.

Is it from a heavy heart
That aches while bearing a weighty stone?
Or is it simply a bad dream
That evokes that quiet moan?

Suddenly, grandma lets out a yawn,
Murmurs something regretful,
Stirs and gazes for a moment
Lost in a daze, somewhat mournful.

A tired eyebrow rises
To let a weary eye take a peek.
But her brow drops quickly
When a twitching lip tries to speak.

Very lonely, sits my grandma,
Frail hands folded in her lap.
Rocking slowly with her shadow
As bare, white walls watch her nap.

*Talented writer and poet, born and raised in Koydenov.
In America, he wrote poetry as well as longer stories.

“The New Land”
(America)

I don't know who I am…
Not brought here by the Mayflower.
Nor did my ancestral seed
Take root in this soil.
The long chain of heritage
Snapped apart stretching
Somewhere in a far off land
With a name I do not know.

So here I am - a link in a chain
That flew with mighty force
And landed on your shore.
As fresh and succulent
As your earth am I,
Watching my children rise
To heaven like pine trees to the sky,
I unroll fresh new links, strong and able.

My grandfather sat in his tiny shul;
I wander among the hills
Chasing deer and sparrow hawk.
Like a spring in a knoll, I amble across valleys
Picking and pitching colored rocks,
Catching tiny fish in a stream.
While feathers of the eagle
I weave into my hair.
And to the hills and valleys
I pay the debt of generations.

 

S. Chester

 

[Pages 129-131]

A Fair in Town

by Yacov Chester

Translated by Lillian Leavitt

It's the night before the fair in town. The big fair arrives tomorrow. Everyone is busy, toiling, bustling. The well-known tailor and shoemaker families have already claimed their spots, put up pictures and laid out their wares. Avrom Aaron, the grandfather of the large tailor family stands at his booth, lost in worry. His long, thin, tailor-like hands are thrust into the sleeves of his cape. He stares up at the sky and says “Ha, what do you say, Zishe?” as he turns to Zishe the fur hat maker who was standing at the entrance of his store. “Doesn't the sky look like it's going to rain?”

“You think I know?” Zishe talks into his black beard. “Hard to tell - it might and it might not…” Old Avrom Aaron doesn't particularly like that response. He removes his hands from the sleeves of his cape, stands silently for another moment and then blurts out “So, now you're a wise guy Zishe. You've brought a little money back from America so now you can joke around? Just wait, it won't be long before you have to go back there.”

People are out at the taverns all night long. Large electric lamps light up the entire area. The thin layer of mud covering the broad marketplace takes on a shine in the reflection of the lights.

Dobe Hinde, Gnese and Rivke are working hard, busy, sweating. Their dresses are rolled up, raised, tied off on one side. A dark sheer leg of Dobe Hinde's cotton underpants peeks out and it looks like the tall, broad, heavy-set Dobe Hinde has grown a third leg.

Things in Avrom Eli the baker's tent are in a similar bustle. No one is sleeping. Everyone is busy preparing baked goods for the fair. Old Khaye Leye is at the oven while short Hode with her long emaciated fingers forms the bagels and passes them to Khaye Leye. Avrom Eli is in his felt boots, shuffling around the tent, smoking his clay pipe through a small pipe stem that he has made out of a little branch. After each puff, he spits, with more spittle landing in his beard than on the floor.

Zalmen the butcher is frantically racing around as if he's just swallowed poison. He needs a loan, just a few kerbles for the fair. He drops in on Yosl, the tavern keeper. Seeing that Yosl is not home, he is astonished. “What?? He asks of Bayle, Yosl's wife, “Reb Yosl isn't home yet? He's still at shul? Not that's something to envy. I wish that I could spend time sitting in shul.” Bayle smiles. She knows why he's dropped by, but she simply says “We'll be having a good fair tomorrow.”

Meanwhile the huge market place has filled with wagons. It's hard to pass through. Things will certainly be selling. “You know, dearest Bayle,” Zalmen starts off in an upbeat tone of voice, “Things will really be selling…and I wanted to ask a favor, a small charitable loan. Right after the fair, I'll bring it back with a big thank-you, and after that, I'll bring you a kishke for Shabbes. I've had a stroke of bad luck lately. Everything's gone wrong but I'll pay back every last penny.”

“Did I say I didn't think you would?” Beyle replied, “But who's got spare money right before a fair?”

Rivke's shop is happy and bustling with action. The big old stall has been cleaned up and is alight with colored lanterns. A girl with painted red checks sits at the entrance selling tickets. She screeches: “People, buy your tickets, only fifteen kopeks a ticket. You'll see wonder upon wonder: a blind man will walk a wire; a black bear will make a toast and finish it off with a plate of honey; an old woman will dance a “komareske”; all this for only 15 kopeks a ticket.” A couple of farmers look at each other and smile, slowly walk over to the entrance with tentative steps. They take out their linen purses to look for a few cents, and purchase tickets for themselves.

A group of Jews walk back from shul and stand at a distance. They worriedly look at Rivke's stall with some angst and shake their heads: “Just what we need - con artists - in the midst of it all. How could Rivke rent her stall to con artists? Who knows what kind of characters they are? Who knows what they'll do there? They'll take the last dollar out of here - drain the town.”

“We've waited half a year for this fair” Khalane's Elye says. “We were hoping to make some money here, make some big sales - and out of the blue - you've got con artists! They arrive when everything's been all set up and now they'll drain the town……”

 

Yacov Chester

 

[Pages 147-150]

Mein Shtetele
[My Little Town]

by Yaacov Yosef Shnipper
(the son of Nusan der Boyger
[slaughterhouse family])

Translated by Lillian Leavitt

 

Natan Shniper, may he rest in peace,
First Koydanover Colonist in Israel

To Koydenov, my dear hometown
I still keep a cord tied
Attached to a cradle there
Standing peacefully by a side.

Pictures of childhood long ago
Deep in my memory remain
Sounds of your lake, your hills, your valley
Ring a constant refrain.

I see the market with the church in place
Shops planted as if a garden.
I see the schoolyard with its water well
I see the public bathhouse, if I may beg your pardon.

Ordinary people walk your streets
Not to buy or sell anything.
They're off to shul to pray and bow
To bless God, to joyously sing.

Now autumn has arrived,
With hard work and worry at every morrow.
We strive to earn our bread,
More easily, without loans to borrow.

Along with autumn comes the mud,
When fields lay barren and unsown
The weighty footsteps of water carriers
Can be heard beneath the carriers' groan.

Yes, I see you clearly, little town
You're still my dream, you're not alone.
Although vile depraved hands
Ravaged you, leaving barely bone.

I am pained to have been far away.
And not have protected you.
My mind is aflame, my heart ablaze,
My soul demands its due.

My hand can't shorten the distance
Nor seize the cursed enemy.
Nothing on earth I would not do
To ease your pain and set you free.

Once I walked in that place
With childlike love and trust
Now it calls, “Brother help me.
Rebuild me, you must. ”

Far gone is now the beastly enemy
That tore my limbs apart.
But help has come to cloak me
And banish pain from my heart.

Let life pull us up again,
Feed troubled children from above
Enmeshed in my being,
Entwined in my love.

Yes, everyone - without exception
Will build life anew.
Time will strengthen our souls
Because nature has designed that too.

The stream will flow again
D reams I will weave once more
For people and my children
To live life as before.

 

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