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On a Stanza of H.Leyvick (1888-1962)

"Like careworn cats who schlep all their umpteen
Kittens around on agitated feet,
We go schlepping our poems by the neck, between
Our teeth, through every New York City street."

--Those were the Yiddish poets: (ubi sunt
Leyvick and Halpern, Leyeles, Mani Leib,
Glatshteyn and Teller, Yehoash--who by dint
Of innocence wove a Hiawatha, babe

In the Yiddishwoods, into another tongue?)
And so with us, decades later, hopeful boys
Moving with grimy manuscripts among
Earlier Villagers, through milder noise

And scenes more reticent in that earlier time,
Our poems typed in telltale pica fonts, too large
And pale to be elite, and with sublime
Chutzpah felt the new life was in our charge.

Sadly uncool cats, madly unknowing, bold
In some things, timid in others, we would see
Toothless Max Bodenheim, haunting the old
San Remo (God have mercy on such as we!);

In a corner, Chester Kallman, years before
We ever met him, and Isaac Rosenfeld
Walking on Bleecker Street... how many more?
The sage and serious Milton we beheld

Once (Klonsky, that is) lurching through the rain,
And Alan Ansen with us still, alone
Among the pale allusive ghosts I strain
To see back down the decades' alley grown

Longer and narrower than the one that stretched
From the mid-century Village back to the New
York of the Yiddish poets, they who kvetched,
Muttered and kvelled and made their sad ado.

But we were kids, assimilated, they
As sadly adult as we would ever get
And writing in a language that today
Is sentenced to an early death. And yet,

Isn't it that our English--with its deep
And echoing caverns of the KJV
And roller-coaster rides twisting and steep,
Sublimely high and dense syntactically,

Fast down to low and dirty, and then back
To middle flight again--was just a dying
Yiddish, and whether in its yak-yak-yak
Quotidian palaver, or high-flying

Lyric ironies, now already in need
Of too much glossing. And yet after all
Our memories themselves can only read
Coherently these days amid a sprawl

Of marginal glosses (like the "pica'and
"Elite"." the larger and the smaller fonts
On typewriters of almost any brand
In those days that this very text now wants).

Vsye poety Zhidy -- all are Yids,
The poets--said Tsvetayeva, who knew;
And so the old guys, us de-Yiddished kids,
And, at most, a son or daughter or two,

The native speakers of our dialect,
Are few and dying, the philologists
To puzzle it out, at best a tiny sect,
Will fade like pale inscriptions in a mist

That burns off in no sun we'd ever know,
Or sightings of that phantom, the Sublime,
Or noon's last traces of an April snow,
Or voices lost in the loud flames of time.

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