In the Hot Wind


Celia Dropkin

I Sing You

You didn't sow a child in me,
you sowed yourself.
Now you grow in me, every day
more defined, larger.

There's already no more room for me in me,
and my soul lies like a dog at your feet
becoming weaker and weaker
but, as I die through you, as before,
I sing you my serenades.

My Hands

My hands, two little bits
of my body I'm never
ashamed to show. With fingers—
the branches of coral,
fingers—two nests
of white serpents,
fingers—the thoughts
of a nymphomaniac.

I Absorbed

I absorbed the sky,
the woods of my old home.
I bathed in drifts of snow
in the fields of that home.
By the foot of the old ranch,
I came under the moon's spell.
On our wide river, my oars
stole gold from the moon.
By the old castle,
my young lust quietly sated itself.
And because of all this
I am able to write down
a few words of love for you.

The Border

The border between life and death is so thin—
as thin as the difference between greens
at dusk, which change under the sky's blaze
from deep viridian to dead mold.

I stand on the edge of the charmed earth,
and if I reach out my hand I can touch death.
Of course I live a complete life—
yet how easily I can float it away.

When the sky is golden-red
the call from death can charm  you;
the sea is blue and the tree is still green,
—the border between life and death is so thin.

translated from the Yiddish by Faith Jones, Jennifer Kronovet and Samuel Solomon

Read the original in Yiddish

Celia Dropkin was born Zipporah Levine in Bobruisk, White Russia in 1888.  She began writing as an adolescent in Russian, and, while studying in Kiev, received encouragement from the Hebrew novelist U.N. Gnessin.  With socialist Shmaye Dropkin, whom she married in 1909, she moved to New York and began writing in Yiddish.  She had six children, five of whom survived, and died in 1956.  In her lifetime, she published many stories and poems in Yiddish journals, and one collection of poems, In Heysn Vint (In the Hot Wind).  Her singular contribution to Yiddish literature was the introduction of a bold literary discourse of sexuality.  Her pastoral poetry is equally marked by ecstatic, despairing, and even grotesque elements.

Faith Jones is a librarian in Vancouver, Canada, and a graduate student investigating Yiddish print culture in Winnipeg. Her writing has appeared in Canadian Jewish Studies, The Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, Publishing Research Quarterly, The Forward, and Bridges: a Jewish Feminist Journal, where she also served as Yiddish editor.

Jennifer Kronovet is the author of the poetry collection Awayward (BOA Editions, 2009). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Boston Review, Fence, The Nation, Ploughshares, A Public Space, and elsewhere. She is currently Writer-in-Residence at Washington University in St. Louis.

Samuel Solomon is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California.  His dissertation reads 1970s innovative British lyric in relation to socialist-feminist organizing and ideologies and practices of literary education.