With Golden Steps over Earth

By Pessie Pomerantz-Honigbaum, translated by Jessica Kirzane

Pessie Pomerantz-Honigbaum (1900–1978) was a prominent cultural activist in the Chicago Yiddish scene and a member of the group of modernist poets known as Yung Shikage (Young Chicago). Born in Kamenobrod, Volhynia, she immigrated to the United States in 1913 and settled in Chicago, where she initially worked in a sweatshop. She began publishing poetry in 1918 in a variety of New York–based Yiddish journals, local Chicago publications, and anthologies of Chicago Yiddish poetry. She published several books of poems: Kareln (Corals, Chicago, 1926); Geklibene lider (Selected Poetry, Chicago, 1931); Royter toy (Red Dew, Chicago, 1939); and Reges fun genod, geklibene lider (Moments of Grace, Selected Poems, New York: Tsiko, 1957).

The poems in Red Dew, including the poem here, exhibit the deep melancholy she felt as violence encroached upon the Europe she had left behind. Her poems often integrated her relationship with nature with her somber feeling about the world around her. 

 

 

Summer’s blood streams over the earth:  
Rust red,  
          Lemon yellow,  
                  Honey gold,  

Elegies play on your harp— 
September,  
         A guest  
                  At my threshold.  

In the bright blue of day,  
Black  
         Crosses  
                  A flock of geese,  

Leave longing in the wake of their flight  
Like the clouds,  
         White  
                  As fleece.  

The last green of the earth  
Weeps  
         In thin  
                  Scythes of wind;  

With golden steps over earth— 
September,  
         Elegies  
                  Sing.  

Rustling leaves, falling leaves, flying leaves,  
Rust red,  
         Lemon yellow,  
                  Honey gold,  

Elegies play on your harp—  
September,  
         A guest  
                  At my threshold.  

 

 

Jessica Kirzane is the assistant instructional professor of Yiddish at the University of Chicago, the editor in chief of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies (www.ingeveb.org), and the translator of Miriam Karpilove’s novel Diary of a Lonely Girl, or the Battle Against Free Love (Syracuse University Press, 2020). She was a 2017 Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellow. You can find more of her translations at www.jessicakirzane.com.

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