Untitled [From My Days (1952)]

By Bertha Kling, translated Leah Zazulyer

Bertha Kling was born around 1885 in Nowogrodek (then White Russia) and died in New York City in 1978. An orphan, she lived for a time in Germany before arriving in the United States in 1899. Her poetry was published widely in newspapers and journals, and three volumes of her poetry were published during her time in New York. Along with her husband, Yehiel, Kling maintained an open salon-like house, where she welcomed and helped other Yiddish writers. She is mentioned warmly in the papers of Zishe Landau, Melech Ravitch, Ruven Iceland, and other New York–based Yiddish literary figures. Although Kling wrote at a time when overtly feminist work was not in fashion, her writing is dominated by women’s issues, including motherhood, marriage, and domesticity. While her poems are characterized by modesty in thought, action, and expectations with regard to all her relationships, these apparently pious and self-effacing poems also have an underlying tone of sensuality and emotional intensity. These conflicting undercurrents heighten the tension in her work and create a link between her love of God and her exploration of love in the broadest sense of the word. To date, only four of her poems have been translated.

 

                              Untitled

Wind, you weeping wind,
why do you come to frighten me?
My children are already asleep;
I beg you not to wake them.

Winds, long ago,
cried like you do;
go, bring them back from there,
and let us rest here in peace.

װינט, דו װײנענדיקער װינט,
װאָס קומסטו מיך דערשהרעקן?
מײַנע קינדער סלאָפֿן שױן, 
איך בעט דיך זײ ניט װעקן.

עס האָבן װינטן לאַנג צוריק
בעװײנט אַזוי װין דו,
גײ אַהין צו זײ אַװעק
און לאָז אונדז דאָ צורו...

LEAH ZAZULYER is an English-language poet and translator of Yiddish literature. Her book As Long as We Are Not Alone, a bilingual translation of Israel Emiot's poetry, was published in 2016 by Tiger Bark Press.