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  • Writer's pictureCorbin Allardice

Nadirisms 161-172: Shtetl Pastoral & Shtetl Erotics

161st Nadirism:


Boyishness ripened in me, like an apple ready to fall from a tree near a fence--onto the open road, to be trampled by the full, or eaten by the hungry...


Di yinglishkayt iz in mir tsaytik gevorn, vi an epl, vos iz fartik tsu faln fun a boym, vos shteyt lebn ployt--afn ofenem veg aruf tsum tsetrotn vern fun dem zatn, oder tsu ufgehoybn-vern funem hungerikn…


162nd Nadirism:

Lust sleeps in flesh, like fire in as-yet-ignited wood. A stillness in a stillness.


Di glustung shloft in layb, vi fayer in nokh nisht-ongetsundene holts. Es ligt a shtilkayt in a shtilkayt.


163rd Nadirism:


More than anything, I was drawn to the scissor sharpener, the spark-maker, who makes fire with song and, somehow, makes something sharper in the process.


Mer fun altsding flegt mikh tsien tsum shernshlayfer, dem funken-makher, vos makht fayer mit gezang un epes vert derfun sharfer.


164th Nadirism:


Spring. After the snowmelt, water laughs all around, like tears of joy from someone who has just recovered from a grave disease.


Friling. Nokhn shneytsegeyn lakhn vasern fun ale zaytn, vi nakhes-trern fun eynem vos iz ersht ufgeshtanen fun zeyer a shverer krenk.


165th Nadirism:


Boyish winds come from the pasture heavy, sated, and lazy. They lie down with the velveteen calves and colts at the foot of the mountain, in which there echoes a deep joy-in-the-world, a joy in the golden moments, which frolic around the edges of imperfect flowers.


Yunge vintlekh kumen fun der pashe shver un zat un foyl. Zey leygn zikh ineynem mit di sametene biklekh un loshekes af dem nidrikn barg-tsfusns, vos klingt shtil in zikh arayn a tife hanoe fun der velt, fun di goldene minutlekh, vos hipn arum af di rendldike bleter-flekn.


166th Nadirism:


Uncle Itsik says: “Don’t strike the pig, how is it his fault he’s a pig? God created him that. It’s hard enough for him that we’re not allowed to eat him…”


Der feter itsik zogt: “shlog nisht dem khazer, vos iz er shuldik, az er iz a khazer? Got hot im azoy bashafn. S’iz af im genug rakhmones, az m’tor im nisht esn…”


167th Nadirism:


I only had to know that what I was doing was good and sweet--for that reason it had to be bad and bitter! I felt, like every “Jewish child,” that anything which gives pleasure must be bad, and that the jealous eye of “God” would see, take note, and--punish.


Ikh hob nor gevust, az dos vos ikh tu itst, iz gut un zis--derfar biter un shlekht! Vi yeder “yidish kind,” hob ikh gehat s’gefil az altsding vos git dem mentshn fargenign iz a shlekhte zakh, un az dos nisht-farginendike oyg fun “got” zet dos, fartseykhnt un--shtroft.*


168th Nadirism:


My uncle’s words are profound and wise...a load is taken off your chest, your worries fall away...my fear of one day having to become a “bar mitzvah” and shoulder the “burden of Jewishness” vanishes--like a mouse, who quietly sneaks through the night and vanishes as soon the light turns on!...


Der feter redt tife un kluge reyd...dos harts vert gringer, der takhles falt arop...di shrek far der tsayt, vos ikh vel vern “bar-mitsve” un nemen af zikh dem “yokh fun yidishkayt,” antloyft--vi a moyz, vos hot shtil gegrablt baynakht, antloyft az me tsindt-on a likht!...


169th Nadirism:


At night, the moon extinguishes the day with buckets of cold milk. The world, the shtetl, becomes milky-blonde and childish!

A small, agile melancholy hangs around, like a matchmaker making matches. It is pale, quiet, and reliable.

“Listen up, boy. This and that! You want it?”

“Why wouldn’t I want it?”

And you can’t remember exactly what you want. It is forgotten as soon as morning comes...


Baynakht lesht di levone dem tog mit sheflen kalte milkh. Vert blond-milkhik un kindish di velt, dos shtetl!

A kleyner, rirevdiker umet dreyt zikh arum, vi a shadkhndl, un redt, shadukhim. Er iz blas un shtil un bagleybt.

“Her nor, du, yingl. Azoy un azoy! Vilst?”

“Ikh vil, farvos nisht?”

Un m’ken zikh nisht dermonen akurat, vos men vil. Vayl m’vet es ersht morgn fargesn…


170th Nadirism:


The foot of the mountain! Often to this day I try, before falling asleep, to untangle the roads leading to it. I intentionally follow--in my memory--the side roads, by the “German Cobbler,” then I run past the broom-makers house, which is so low that the straw roof all but touches the ground. Then I try another road, and another, and another...I can never tire of the mountain’s beauty, the mountain that is so much taller than many taller mountains!...because it’s my mountain, in my shtetl, in my youth!

Rivers run down the mountain calling “I know! I know!” while the cemetery above says “My corpses weep through the earth. Be careful, or you to will die.”


Der barg tsufusns! Nokh haynt pruv ikh oft, eyder ikh ver antshlofn, oysplontern di vegn vos firn tsu im. Ikh gey umisne--in gedank--mit di zaytike geslekh, lebn “daytshn shuster,” dernokh loyf ikh farbay dem bezem-makhers shtibl, vos iz azoy niderik, az der shtroyener dakh ligt kimat bay dr’erd. Dernokh pruv ikh an andern veg, un nokh an andern veg, un nokh an andern...Ikh ken zikh nisht onzetn mit der sheynkayt fun dem barg, vos iz hekher fun a sakh hekhere berg!...vayl s’iz mayn barg, in mayn shtetl, in mayn yugnt!

Funem barg loyfn vasern un zogn: “veysikh-vos, veysikh-vos!” ober dos beysoylem fun oybn zogt: “dos veynen mayne meysim fun unter dr’erd afir. Hit zikh, zolst nisht shtarbn.”

Nu, gey hit zikh!


171st Nadirism:


Friday. Outside, evening comes in velvet slippers. The everyday is like the scales of a fish--scraped off and thrown away…

The window panes catch the light from the candles blessed...echoing it in thin, golden squares...it is sweet and bright, still and purified...it smells of saffron and mountain and summer and Song-of-Songs...and fish with pepper.

It is shabes!


Fraytik. In droysn kumt on der farnakht in sametene pantefelekh. Di vokhedikayt iz vi di sholekhts fun di fish--avekgeshobn, aroysgevorfn…

Di fentster-sheyblekh khapn-uf dem opglants fun gebentshte likht...tseklingen es af dine goldene kvadratn...es iz zis un likhtik un shtil un gelaytert...es shmekt zafran un barg un zumer un shir-hashirim...un fish mit fefer.

Es iz shabes!


172nd Nadirism:


Choose whether to believe me or not, but when I say the word “hope-n” I am no local, no vulgar American with my own shtender (lectern) in the the monumental synagogue of celebrity, with finely manicured nails, with high culture, genteel “table-and-bed-manners”--instead, I am there...there!...just look and...and see, how everything burns blue--like an alcohol fire. Like the whole world was a table where my father stands, saying havdole...and like the table was doused with the whiskey for havdole, and father is wetting his eyes with that fire and filling his pockets...and we, the children, are standing there too delighting--in the quiet, blue fire, in our good father, in our dear mother, in the arrival of the week...in the beautiful song of life, which is a fiddle, on which you can play what you want.


Ir megt mir yo gloybn tsi nisht gloybn, ober az ikh zog aroys dos vort “hopn”--bin ikh nisht keyn higer, keyn amerikanets, mit a shtender in der groyser shul fun bavustkayt, mit geputste negl, fayner kultur, eydele “tish un bet-manirn,” nor ikh bin dortn...dort!...tut a kuk un...un zet, vi altsding brent bloy--vi a fayer fun spirt. Vi di gantse velt volt geven a tish, bay velkhn der tate makht havdole...un der tish volt geven ongegosn mit havdole-bronfn, un der tate “netst” zikh di oygn mit ot-dem fayer un nemt-on derfun fule keshenes...un mir, kinder, shteyen arum un freyen zikh--mitn bloyen, shtiln fayer, mitn gutn tatn, mit der tayerer mamen, mit dem geheyliktn onkumen fun der indervokhn...mit dem sheynem gezang funem lebn, vos iz vi a fidl, un m’ken deruf shpiln vos m’vil.


*- The term for “jealous” (nit farginen) is most literally rendered as “being unable to tolerate the fact that someone is enjoying something.” This is much more precise, but quite the mouthful.



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