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Moishe (Moshe) Kaufman Holocaust Poems

Born in Grodno, Belarus, in 1908, Moishe Kaufman has lived in Buenos Aires since 1928. He worked as a furniture finisher, then as a Yiddish teacher. He was published in Rokhkind’s Antologye fun Yiddishe Literatur (“Anthology of Yiddish Literature”), Buenos Aires, 1944 and published Fun Alle Mayne Heymen (“From all my Homes”), 1944. He worked for the Buenos Aires Yiddish Press and was its chief editor after 1974.

Biter Lebn ("Bitter Life")

Oh life, my bitter life
what have I taken from you?
What can you give in return?
Thorns without rose petals.
Now I want nothing from you,
nor do I seek happiness.
I have just one small request:
that which you gave me, take back.

Carry Me Little Boat

Carry me, little boat!
Carry me fast and faster!
Whoo, whoo, the whirlwind shouts!
The sky is wrapped in shrouds, all black.
On this perilous journey, who can turn back?
Life's a disaster!

Wild water crashes wave on wave.
I beg you, small boat, please don’t break on the way!
Carry me, fast!, to that final shore
where life finally comes to an end.
The ocean churns, the cyclone storms
And life is fearful, uncertain.
Faster, faster, hurry along
To where death unfolds its black curtain!

Nevermore shall I offer up sweet prayers of love
as quiet evenings fall.
But I'll wrap myself up in black veils of night
and bury dead day in my heart.

Biter ist der Vayn ("The Wine is Bitter")

I neither laugh nor cry,
I neither hate nor love
life is hard for me
sickening and bleak.

I see no sun in daylight
nor any dream at night
They’ve caged me in iron bars
like a beast caught in the wild

So what is the use of living
does it matter this life of mine
I don’t want the golden goblet
when bitter is the wine.

My Last Request

Peacefully, I want to die
on the breast of my beloved
when the red-hued sky
sadly mourns the dying day.

When the sun sinks in final flames
tired, weak from wrestling death,
then I’ll want to be with her
and sing for her with my last breath.

When the sky veiled in black
will surround the world with sorrow
then let my heart open
to disclose my sacred feelings.

Accompanying me are stars
and a sad song from afar
as the tears of my beloved
bring me to peace, eternal rest.

Let her come to me
each morning before sunrise,
cloaked in sadness and black flowers.
Let her place them on my grave.

Then let flow the pearly tears
of longing on cold stone,
and in my grave I will hear
my beloved’s tender weeping.

Let her cry be quiet, softly,
her sad sounds shall open my grave
and let her tears flow over me
(last line missing)

Nisht Geklibn ("Not Chosen")

Not sought out, not chosen
take from life all it can give.
In the blink of an eye
everything passes by.

Seek no tomorrow, seek no friends;
this day alone belongs to you;
grasp, take without concern
before life slips away.

Laugh at laws, morality;
they’re merely papers, pay no heed ...
written by human vampires.
To Hell with them!

You’ll not live, not enjoy;
know this now:
in the blink of an eye
you’ll die anyhow.

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