Chaya Herszberg: ‘A Kale Meydl’ Transliteration and Glossary

I was born in a pack of eight
and Mum, she plait her khale
with six strands, two
gracefully ordained our table when
the clock chimed
Shabes

Behind candles Bobby loves me,
she said, “a zis meydl, a sheyn meydl!”
But now she says, “a kale meydl,
du vest zayn a kale meydl”
Ikh vil nisht zayn keyn kale meydl!
I don’t want to be! I don’t want to be!

I tried to suck the parve out
my big brown eyed existence
Blew the dust off a Gemore and
followed in painted nails
Nisht keyn yingel?

When Peysakh came around we
swam in the theatrics of bondage,
celebrated loosened fetters and
mourned ancient knots untied.

We collected Nana’s tears and
soaked a potato in it.
A swastika in nightmares
an overstocked fridge by day.

I’ll grow old in rolled kneydelekh
and my Bobby’s dying wish,
composed in a left-handed language
ikh veys nisht, ikh veys nisht


Glossary

A Kale Meydl: (Lit. A Bride Girl) A term attributed to adolescent girls when seen to be blossoming into an adult ready to be married.

Shabes: The Sabbath

Bobby: Variant of Yiddish term “Bube” which means Grandmother.

a zis meydl, a sheyn meydl: A sweet girl, a pretty girl

a kale meydl, du vest zayn a kale meydl: A bride girl, you will be a bride girl

Ikh vil nisht zayn keyn kale meydl: I don’t want to be a bride girl

Pareve: A Yiddish word denoting foodstuffs made without milk, meat or other derivatives, and therefore permitted to be eaten with both dairy and meat dishes according to dietary laws. Sometimes it is used colloquially to indicate something monotonous or plain.

Gemore: A rabbinical commentary on the Mishnah, forming the second part of the Talmud —traditionally studied by men.

Nisht keyn yingl: Not a boy

Peysakh: Passover

Kneydelekh: Matzah-balls—a traditional Jewish food eaten on the festival of Peysakh.

Ich veys nisht, ich veys nisht: I don’t know, I don’t know. Often repeated in a sighing manner

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