The following three poems are part of a collection of poems by the Yiddish writer Chava Rosenfarb that will be published in English in Spring 2013 by Guernica Editions of Toronto under the titleExile at Last: Selected Poems of Chava Rosenfarb. (Rosenfarb’s essay “The Last Poet of Lodz,” about her mentor, the Lodz ghetto poet Simkha-Bunim Shayevitch, appeared in Tablet magazine last year.) The introduction below was written by Goldie Morgentaler, Rosenfarb’s daughter; all of the following poems were translated from Yiddish to English by Rosenfarb.***Chava Rosenfarb was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1923. She was educated in Yiddish and in Polish. When she was 16, the war broke out. Along with her family and the rest of the Jews of Lodz, she was incarcerated in the Lodz ghetto from 1940 until the ghetto’s liquidation in August 1944, when she was deported to Auschwitz. After the war, she settled in Montreal, Canada, where she began a prolific literary career, which included the publication of three books of poetry, three multivolume novels, a play, and numerous short stories and essays, most of which were published in the Yiddish literary journal Di goldene keyt. All of her work was first published in Yiddish, but some of the novels and a short-story collection called Survivors are available in English. She is best known for her landmark Holocaust trilogy, The Tree of Life: A Trilogy of Life in the Lodz Ghetto, one of the seminal works of fiction about the Holocaust.The first two poems below, “Praise” and “A Dress for My Child,” were published in Yiddish in Rosenfarb’s last collection of poetry Aroys fun gan eydn [Out of Paradise] (Tel Aviv: Peretz Farlag, 1965). “Praise” is a paean to ordinary life by a poet who had lived too much in extraordinary times. “A Dress for My Child” is similarly about the day-to-day joys and cares of motherhood. Both these poems were composed in Montreal, where Rosenfarb lived for most of her life and where she raised her two children.The poem “Isaac’s Dream” was first written in the Lodz ghetto. It was lost when the knapsack containing all of Rosenfarb’s poems was ripped out of her hands at Auschwitz. She survived the selection and, along with her mother and sister, was sent to a slave labor camp near Hamburg, where she helped to build houses for the bombed-out residents of that city. There she managed to beg a pencil stub from a kindly German overseer and wrote what she could remember of her poems on the ceiling above her bunk. She then memorized the poems. After the war, she published them in her first book of poetry, Di balade fun nekhtikn vald: geto un andere lider [The ballad of yesterday’s forest: ghetto and other poems] (London: Oved, 1947).Continue reading: PraisePraisePraise likewise the day\nstanding still as a water—\na mirror without a reflection.\nThough hours that glide\nthrough its hazy-pale surface\nlike breath-carried skaters\nare shunning the lighted eye of awareness,\nerasing their footprints\nbefore they are falling—\nPraise likewise that day\nyou will never remember.Praise likewise that day\nwhose name is a riddle\nand you are not sure,\nis it now, is it later?\nAnd all the accounts\nwith yourself and with others\nare resting hidden\nin white and gray sponges;\nand words that you utter\nand words that you ponder\nresemble the minnows\nthat fall through ripped net-holes\ndeep into the silence …Praise likewise that day\nwhen you feel no discomfort\nof soul or of body;\nwhen moving your limbs\nyou don’t feel their burden\nand you don’t hear the pulse\nof time in your bosom;\nand throughout your mind\nreflections are swimming\nlike gossamer threads\nwithout knots or connections—\nnot bound and not torn …Praise likewise that day\nwhen no letters are coming,\nno tidings arriving,\nnot good ones, not bad ones—\nwhen silent the bell at your door\nand the telephone’s quiet;\nand the loudest of echoes\nthat reaches your being\nis that of a kiss\nthat your baby gives you\nwith lips sweet as honey …When the light is down\nand the end is approaching\nand sudden at last\nyou find yourself standing\nin a gate of deep darkness;\nlook once more behind you\nto that bubble of being—\nand praise it, that day\nthat drips out of existence,\ndissolving unnoticed\nin the night of oblivion.Continue reading: A Dress for My ChildListen to Chava Rosenfarb read “A Dress for My Child” in Yiddish, recorded at the Ashkenaz festival in Toronto in the late 1990s:\n[audio:https://www.tabletmag.com/wp-content/files_mf/Chava_Rosenfarb_-A_Kleyd.mp3]A Dress for My ChildI would sew a dress for you, my child,\nout of tulle made of spring’s joyful green,\nand gladly crown your head with a diadem\nmade of the sunniest smiles ever seen.I would fit out your feet with a pair\nof crystal-like, weightless, dance-ready shoes,\nand let you step out of the house with bouquets,\nbright with the promise of pinks and of blues.But outside it is cold and dreary, my child,\nthe wanton winds lurking unbridled and wild.\nThey will mangle the dress of joy into shreds\nand sweep the sun’s smiling crown off your head,Shatter to dust the translucent glass of your shoes\nand bury in mud the dreams of pinks and of blues.\nFrom far away I can hear you call me and moan:\n“Mother, mother, why did you leave me alone?”So perhaps I should sew a robe for you, my child,\nout of the cloak of my old-fashioned pain,\nand alter my hat of experience for you\nto shelter you from the ravaging rain?On your feet I would put my own heavy boots,\nthe soles studded with spikes from my saviourless past\nand guide your way through the door with a torchlight\nof wisdom I’ve saved till this hour of dusk.But outside it is cold and dreary, my child.\nThe wanton winds lurking unbridled and wild\nwill rip up the robe sewn with outdated thread,\nbare your chest to all danger, to fear bare your head.The heavy boots will sink in the swamp and will drown,\nthe light of wisdom mocked by the laugh of a clown.\nFrom afar I hear you call me and moan:\n“Mother, mother, why did you leave me alone?”What a wretched seamstress your mother is—\nCan’t sew a dress for her child!\nAll she does is prick her clumsy fingers,\ncross-stitching her soul, while her eyes go blind.The only thing that I can sew for you, my sweet, my golden child,\nis a cotton shift of the love I store\nin my heart. The only thing I can give to light your way\nare my tears of blessing; I have nothing more.So I must leave you outside, my child, and leave you there alone.\nPerhaps dressed in clothing of love you will learn better how to go from home.\nSo I sit here and sew and sew, while in my heart I hope and pray—\nmy hands, unsteady, tremble; my mind, distracted, gone astray.Continue reading: Isaac’s DreamIsaac’s DreamAs I was standing, all set for my exile,\nDoom staring at me from the road’s blinding end,\nThe door, like a book’s heavy cover, opened,\nTo bring forth a guest from the biblical land.His body, half naked, a knife in his loincloth,\nIn sheep-leather sandals his tanned, bronze-like feet,\nA bundle of firewood upon his shoulder—\nHe said, with a smile very boyish and sweet:“Good morning, my girl; remember me, dearest?\nYou’ve waited for me so long—not in vain.\nI’m Isaac, your bridegroom, ordained by the Heavens …\nThrough ages I’ve wandered to you, till I came.Take off your dress. A sheet of plain linen\nIs sufficient to drape round your navel and hips.\nUndo your braids and let’s hurry, my sweetheart,\nYour hand clasped in mine and a chant on our lips.Thus will l lead you beyond the horizon,\nBetween north and south, through the west—to the east,\nUntil we will reach Mount Moriah, my dearest,\nThere to be married, to rejoice and to feast.So come, let us hurry, the distance is calling.\nPray, why do you shiver with anguish and cry?\nYou’re asking why all that wood on my shoulder,\nThe glittering knife on my hip—you ask why.Then turn your soul to my soul, my beloved.\nRead your fate in my fate, while I explain:\nOut of the wood I will construct an altar\nAnd with love all redeeming set it aflame.And the knife, my bride, I will file to its sharpest point\nUp there, at the peak, on a rough mountain stone.\nAnd who will be offered, you ask me?—then listen:\nThe offering, my dearest, shall be you, you alone.A gift of life to the God of All Being,\nAs Abraham told me, his late-born son:\nIf you trust in love and love wholly trusting,\nThen fear not, nor waver, dear girl, but come.Though fire will blaze through the wood of the altar,\nFlames licking your body, yet you shall see:\nThe knife will fall from my hand, and a miracle\nWill happen to you, as it happened to me.The rivers and seas shall sing Hallelujah!\nThe mountain pines, moved, will give praise to all life,\nWhile the Voice Divine will, with thunder and lightning,\nProclaim me your husband, pronounce you my wife.So hurry, my girl, the sky is already\nSpreading its canopy, preparing the rite.\nCome to the blue sacrificial fire—\nYour last maiden stroll—to the altar, my bride.”Thus he spoke. I smiled, then said in a whisper,\nMy eyes not on him, but fixed on the dark night,\nWhere another road was tracing its outlines\nWith the red of my blood, with signals of fright:“Oh leave me, Isaac, you bronzed, sunny man.\nThis road is not yours, not mine is your day.\nI head for those places you never have dreamed of,\nWhere altars do smolder with their unwilling prey.”As I spoke a gale swept towards my threshold.\nThe tempest took hold of my hearth and my house,\nWhistling through streets, through the yards of the ghetto,\nHissing with rage: “Juden raus! Juden raus!”Thus I stepped forward with Abraham, my father,\nWho wrapped his arm round me as if with a shawl,\nWhile delicate Isaac, all tremble and flutter,\nPressed his tanned sun-kissed frame to the wall.“You’re frightened, Isaac?” said I. “I’m your nightmare.\nAwake and you’re back in your undying scroll,\nWhere Rebecca, your true betrothed awaits you,\nTo be taken with joy on her last maiden stroll.Make haste, return to the Book that shall save thee.\nHide yourself in the Bible’s fairytale land.\nFor your God Himself walks with me and my father,\nRight now, to the altar; with us—to His end.”***Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.Chava Rosenfarb (1923-2011) is the author of the novels The Tree of Life: A Trilogy of Life in the Lodz Ghetto, Bociany, and Of Lodz and Love, and the short story collection Survivors. She was a frequent contributor to the Yiddish literary journal Di goldene keyt.