One day, beezras hashem, there will be a bisl (ober zayer gut geshribn) background here!
Read by Hertz Grosbard
Monologue in Plain Yiddish
מאָנאָלאָג אין פּלעינעם יידיש
Translated by Zeke Levine and Raphi Halff
Sure I’m a landsman, Mister Zeitlin
When I left Warsaw, mind you,
All of the women wore sheytls
And all the men had beards
In the street, a trolley with horses
At Hekslmans, lunch cost a ruble
Businessmen sat in Kanarek’s cafe
Hadisim prayed in the Gerer Shtibl Mind you, sometimes I forget plain Jewish.
But until now, I could have passed on
That true Warsaw speech,
If only there were Yiddish children….
And I hear you write in the papers.
Jewish isn’t doing too well, mister
You can have a head like a minister
It’s no use—and that’s all
Your wares are worthless.
You may be alright,
But your business is going to Hell.
As much as you try to pull yourself together
As much as you try to make yourself alright,
It makes no difference. Switch to another line of work Mister Zeitlin.
Do I remember,
The little bits of grammar?
Those little trifles! But me with my missus
We use a local Jewish, you know, a plain one
And besides, we speak English, you know? Because of the business and because of the kids. Sure, as greenhorns we spoke differently,
We speak a plain Yiddish and aplain English,
As a greenhorn, I wasn’t so satisfied, Well, in those days,
I looked in a Yiddish paper.
I still got it in the back of my head
A bit from one—just how did we call him? Jacob Gordin.
That was all ages ago! Today I can’t afford to, Because I’ve been a citizen a long time, you know.
To us in the United States,
When you become a citizen, you know,
You don’t bother with the greenhorn stuff:
You don’t read the Yiddish paper
And you don’t go see some jargony play.
But if you should try to throw it all away,
It’s completely useless, Because You remember it and you long for it.
And as you make money—is it actually worth anything?
My son, the Great Mister Mike,
Considers me, anyway, for an old kike.
I work like hell, you know, like a dog.
My daughter doesn’t go for Yiddish boy,
She’s infatuated with an Irish goy,
I have pranksters for grandchildren and a goy for a son-in-law.
And my misses, my woman—dontcha know her?
She goes around in pants and soaks on the beach,
And dolls herself up,
And all with a scream—
It has no Jewish flavor.
Moranov, the Jewish quarter, the Bonifratn hospitals…
The Paviak with the prison bars...
Nalewka liqueur, Franziskaner beer...
A Varsovian resembles his city
like his own mother.
In my dreams I still see the Grzybowski Square sometimes,
I go here, and I go there,
And sometime I get lost on my way to Mokotów,
Where the world is green.
And what’s up, anyhow?
Not so good for the Jews, huh?
Warsaw is gone, the world is gone…
Gone… all gone… Well, yes, but you personally—
How do you make out? Sure, your line is dead, But, you still make a little living?
You say, you’re dead, But you make believe your living? What do you meandead? You mean to say that—
You’re plainand simpledead? Aha! I got it. it’s a joke, you’re kidding!
You say it’s the truth?
You say, in America you’re dead,
waiting only to be buried?
Well, I won’t push it.
Maybe you’re right. But anyhow,
Dead, shmead—you’re making a living?
What do you think?
It’s you, I see, whose got the blues. Well, no one hears after all—
So I’ll tell you Mister:
I’m also out of sorts. Because, after all.
If God wills it, even a broom can shoot—
But how long does it shoot?
Not God—the broom I mean.
You’re a landsman,
You’ll maybe understand.
As I stand before you—I’m just one man Just one man, all alone.
An old Jew without a beard,
Like a dumb king on a card,
And at night, when I can’t sleep,
I lie and lie,
And catch glimpses of the years,
And I think: here lies a Jew, a dummy,
A dummy, a dummy, a dummy with some money,
A Jew in America. Wait a minute:
What was such a thing, America?
What did it mean—
And what does it mean?
My heart, beg your pardon, weeps
Why does it weep?
I am, you say, also a little dead? Well, I’ll tell you, landsman:
You are—between us—a little right. Because today every Jew is a little dead,
A corpse that doesn’t sleep nights.
They say: Majdanek... everything burned... Really, I can’t understand! I can’t!
Just plain burned?
And me, the old fool,
The dummy with the money,
Something makes me remember,
And I long for something,
for nonsense, for women in sheytls,
for Jews with beards,
for trolleys with horses,
for homemade grits,
Even for my teachers with their yardsticks
And with their whips,
Even for my fathers smack:
Smoking on Shabbos, you rascal?
I long even for windows, for walls— Just for windows and walls———
Really plain and simple burned?
You understand this, Not me! I simply can’t understand!
Burned? And what remains?
My son Mike? My son-in-law the goy? Maybe in Palestine, you know...
It’s just like that,
you can just go crazy. What the hell, business is alright,
The cards are dealt, but—
At night you lie and think:
Where is God here?
In the alter heymis where he was,—
Is it just in America that he isn’t?
How can that be?...
What matters, if business is alright?
The grave isn’t far,
And Mister Mike won’t say Kaddish,
There won’t even be a wagon.
They’ll go to the cemetery in a car,
not even a hearse.
The cantor Mr. Pempik
Will be cold and dull
Making a prayer,
And you will, like in an elevator,
Sink into the earth.
And a machinewill lower you.
And the cars will escape like a stampede—
And goodbye! So long!
No casket, no stretcher,
And the main thing—
Go rent one!
Well, I don’t give a damn
For some rented American Kaddish.
It’s a real shame, But what can you do?
You’ll have to rot just like that.
Like, as if you were—a goy.
You know Mister Zeitlin:
How we would in Warsaw
fasten the doors at night,
That’s how my heart feels, locked with chains
Since I’ve been a citizen in this America.
How do they say it? Take it easy. Never mind the tears in my voice:
As long as the dead live
they have to make a living— That’s all!