“A Dress for My Child”

Jan 7th, 2013 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
I read this poem today, written in the Lodz ghetto, it can also be read as something written by a mother in Egypt:

I would sew a dress for you, my child,

out of tulle made of spring’s joyful green,

and gladly crown your head with a diadem

made of the sunniest smiles ever seen.

I would fit out your feet with a pair

of crystal-like, weightless, dance-ready shoes,

and let you step out of the house with bouquets,

bright with the promise of pinks and of blues.

But outside it is cold and dreary, my child,

the wanton winds lurking unbridled and wild.

They will mangle the dress of joy into shreds

and sweep the sun’s smiling crown off your head,

Shatter to dust the translucent glass of your shoes

and bury in mud the dreams of pinks and of blues.

From far away I can hear you call me and moan:

“Mother, mother, why did you leave me alone?”

So perhaps I should sew a robe for you, my child,

out of the cloak of my old-fashioned pain,

and alter my hat of experience for you

to shelter you from the ravaging rain?

On your feet I would put my own heavy boots,

the soles studded with spikes from my saviourless past

and guide your way through the door with a torchlight

of wisdom I’ve saved till this hour of dusk.

But outside it is cold and dreary, my child.

The wanton winds lurking unbridled and wild

will rip up the robe sewn with outdated thread,

bare your chest to all danger, to fear bare your head.

The heavy boots will sink in the swamp and will drown,

the light of wisdom mocked by the laugh of a clown.

From afar I hear you call me and moan:

“Mother, mother, why did you leave me alone?”

What a wretched seamstress your mother is—

Can’t sew a dress for her child!

All she does is prick her clumsy fingers,

cross-stitching her soul, while her eyes go blind.

The only thing that I can sew for you, my sweet, my golden child,

is a cotton shift of the love I store

in my heart. The only thing I can give to light your way

are my tears of blessing; I have nothing more.

So I must leave you outside, my child, and leave you there alone.

Perhaps dressed in clothing of love you will learn better how to go from home.

So I sit here and sew and sew, while in my heart I hope and pray—

my hands, unsteady, tremble; my mind, distracted, gone astray.

Chava Rosenfarb “Aroys fun gan eydn [Out of Paradise]” (Tel Aviv: Peretz Farlag, 1965)

Tablet Magazine- New Translations of Three Poems From Lodz

Author Info:
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