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  • Writer's pictureCorbin Allardice

Nadirisms 155-160: Shtetl Pastoral

155th Nadirism:

Like a loyal dog, my shtetl has followed me even here.

Once again: Like my white dog, who is always smeared with dirt and mud, but whose amber eyes still howl with loyalty from beneath the filth, so too is my destitute shtetl, in destitute Galicia, in my destitute youth.

Weep? Who would weep? Not even crocodile tears! We are all already cosmopolitans. We have silken ties. We have a language like a ribbon, as polished and pathetic as a boot sitting next to the door, without a foot to fill it.

Mayn shtetl iz mir, vi a getray hintl, nokhgelofn biz aher-o.

Nokh a mol: vi mayn vays hintl, vos iz tomid farshmirt un farblotikt, nor di burshtinene oygn havken derfun aroys mit getrayshaft, azoy iz oykh mayn shtetl dos viste, in galitsye dem vistn, in mayn yugnt der vister.

Veynen? Ver vet veynen, ver? Afile mit trukene oygn nisht! Mir zenen shoyn ale groysshtetish. Shnipsn hobn mir zaydene. A shprakh hobn mir vi a stenge, un geglantst un patetish iz zi vi a shtivl, vos shteyt lebn der tir on a fus.

156th Nadirism:

People grow into the shtetl, they carry it with them wherever they go, like a blue forget-me-not in whichever nation they end up in. A big city is, after all, either a collection of so many small towns (shtetlekh), or merely a word.

In shtetl vakst men arayn, shlept men es mit zikh vuhin m’geyt, vi a blo gedeknmirl in velkhn land arayn men vert farvoglt. A groyse shtot iz dokh oder a sakh kleyne shtetlekh, oder bloyz a vort.

157th Nadirism:

The fields are fat. Fecund. Black. Mother earth has a dirty face, but she is so good.*

Di felder zenen fet. Shvarts. Di mameshi erd hot a farshmirt ponim, ober zi iz aza gute.

158th Nadirism:

When my father left for America, poverty sprouted in our house like mushrooms in the darkness.

Mitn tatns averforn keyn amerike hot zikh di oremkayt tsevaksn in undzer shhtub vi shveml in der fintsernish.

159th Nadirism:

The days went past. Scraps of eternity flowed out from the now-opened time-cork and swept up my life on their way--I became less and more. My eyes desired more wonders, which would burst in the air like the shells of golden eggs. Endlessly beautiful and distant--that was life--like a parched field with yellowing wheat, to whom the wind speaks through the stillness of summer, and the earth kisses each stalk at the root, and the flight of birds cuts curves in the sky overhead, and far, far-off you can hear the village, you can hear an axe, a scythe and a harrow, you can hear the prayer-tinted life of the blind, who look through closed eyelids and see nothing, save for some thin reflected radiance, yet they know it is day, smelling of sky and earth and summer.

Di teg zaynen gegangen. Shtiklekh eybikeyt zaynen gerunen fun dem geefntn tsayt-shpunt un hob mitgenumen mayn lebn--ikh bin vintsiker un greser gevorn. Di oygn hobn nokh merer gebenkt nokh vunder, vos platsn in der luft vi sholekhts fun goldene eyer. umendlekh sheyn un vayt--iz gelegn dos lebn--vi an ahintsutsuik feld mit gel-verndikn veyt, vos der vint redt tsu im durkh zumerdike shtilkayt, un di erd kusht yeder zang baym vortsl, un di feygl makhn kroyzike fli-tseykhns iber dem, un ergets-ergets klingt dos dorf, klingt a hak, a serp, a brone, klingt dos gebentshte lebn fun mentshn blinde, vos zeen durkh di farmakht oygndeklekh bloyz a dinem opshayn un veysn, az siz take tog un az s’shmekht mit himl un mit erd un mit zumer.

160th Nadirism:

“Get out of here, Itsik! Save yourself from Narayev’s empty days, which swallow people whole and--never shits them out.” (Uncle Isaac)**

“...for avek, itsikl! Rateve dikh fun narayever leydike teg, vos shlingen mentshn un--fardayen zey nisht.” (Feter Itsik)

*- English struggles to translate affectionate terms for mothers. This phrase would be more literally translated as “mommy earth,” but the term mommy connotes infantility more than affection, at least to my ear.

**- Literally, “and never digests them.” Itsik (Isaac) was Moyshe Nadir’s birth name.

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