Jehanne Dubrow

Fragments from a Nonexistent Yiddish Poet

                        Ida Lewin (1906-1938)
                        AlwaysWinter, Poland


At Purim, an angel dances
on the cobblestones.
She’s from the world-to-come,
except for her new shoes
                the soles unmarked,
the kidskin leather still unscratched.
Perhaps the little daughter goes
to shul to celebrate HaShem,
his work hidden behind a mask
of lucky accidents. She cries
thank you
        a history of close calls.
Each time the rabbi says Haman,
she shakes a noisemaker,
until its hiss obliterates the name.
If only every evil man
were crushed by children’s shouts,
        his shame delighted in
like treats, his rule trampled
beneath the dancers in the street.


            these winters in Galicia,
the Sabbath bride         arrives
by four, adorned in her greatcoat
of snow and sleet, the wind sharpening
its nails against the roof.
How welcome the candles are—
        two heats shielded
between my hands, blue shadow-birds
that light the walls to shut
                        December out.
Their wings can warm the room
or be extinguished with a word.
In every home: two braided loaves,
meat stews slow-cooking seven hours.
The twilight flickers like a torch.
        someone should write a book
which chronicles
the taste of kugel on the tongue.
Start with blessings and end
with melodies that don’t endure.
                                        [translation one]

                Shabbes is a bride,
her gown embroidered snow.
The wind desires her, its breath
turned crystal on the windowpanes,
its nails     sleet against the roof.
How welcome, then, the candles—
small heats nesting in between
my hands, blue birds in shadow.
Their wings set fire to the room
        or else they’re snuffed with words.
In every home: two breads, a stew
so cooked its makes an alchemy.
I want to write a book
which tastes like kugel on the tongue.
I want to bless this place and all
the melodies that sputter out.
                                        [translation two]


I dream the myth of men
        who lead the living
to the dead.     like potatoes,
      mute for what they know
for where they’ve stood,
planted in the earth. They’ve bled
their secrets in the purpled
creases of a cabbage.
No answers when they’re asked
about the terminus,
only a shrug             tongueless
        and indecipherable,
as if the spirits pulled
all language from its roots,
left dirt         some chimney soot
    and fingerprints behind,
tunnels collapsing in the mind.