Chaya Herszberg: אַ כּלה מיידל (A Kale Meydl)

Chaya Herszberg reading ‘A Kale Meydl’

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

Behind candles Bobby loves me,
she said, אַ זיס מיידל, אַ שיין מיידל
But now she says, אַ כּלה מיידל
דו וועסט זײַן אַ כּלה מיידל
!איך וויל נישט זײַן קיין כּלה מיידל
I don’t want to be! I don’t want to be!

I tried to suck the פאַרעוו out
my big brown eyed existence
Blew the dust off a גמרא and
followed in painted nails
?נישט קיין ייִנגל

When פּסח 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 קניידלעך
and my Bobby’s dying wish,
composed in a left-handed language
…איך ווייס נישט, איך ווייס נישט


Transliteration and Glossary


Chaya Herszberg is a passionate and curious aspiring writer, currently studying at the University of Melbourne working towards a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Philosophy and Creative Writing. Chaya was born to a Habad family and has lived in Melbourne, Australia all her life. She attended school at Beth Rivkah Ladies College and spent a year in Israel prior to university learning Talmud, Bible and Jewish philosophy at Midreshet Lindenbaum. Chaya received first prize in the Glen Eira City Council’s My Brother Jack Secondary School Poetry Award in 2012 and a commendation for her poem ‘Memories of a Colder April’ as part of the 2015 My Brother Jack Caulfield Park Community Bank Branch Open Poetry Award.

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