One Poem by Yoysef Kerler Translated from the Yiddish

My Epitaph
All things are full of weariness—Ecclesiastes
My epitaph is a wild plant that grows
in the kingdom of sadness and regret—
A smile slinks past like a fox
and is lost among gray stones.
Here human weeping stands out
in muteness, which lasts an eternity,
and my smile stands aside on its own
when all words, all words have grown weary.

About the Author

Yoysef Kerler was an important post-war Yiddish poet. Born in Ukraine in 1918, he served with the Red Army during WWII. He would later spend years in the Vorkuta Gulag for so-called “anti-Soviet nationalist activity,” which included advocating the teaching of Yiddish. Following his release, he was unable to publish poetry written in Yiddish in the Soviet Union. He became one of the early refuseniks–Jews campaigning for the right to leave the USSR. 

About the Translator

Maia Evrona is a poet, prose writer, and translator of Yiddish (and occasionally Spanish) poetry. Her poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on illness, have appeared in Prairie Schooner, North American Review and elsewhere. Her poetry has been supported with two Fulbright scholar awards to Spain and Greece, while her translations of Yiddish poetry have received fellowships from the NEA, the Yiddish Book Center, and other organizations. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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