Leib Kvitko

Translator’s Note on Leib Kvitko’s Work:

Leib Kvitko was a prominent Yiddish writer who was executed by Stalin on August 12, 1952, a date that has come to be known as “the night of the murdered poets.” His work is among the most acclaimed Yiddish poetry that has come out of Russia in the early to mid-twentieth century. 


Rose Waldman (translator) is an MFA candidate and a writing instructor at Columbia University. Her work has appeared in Pakn Treger, The MacGuffin, Ami Magazine, Meorot, and elsewhere. Her translation of a Yiddish I. L. Peretz story is forthcoming from Back Pages Books.


A Silence  

When no one is in my room
I become sprightly
Smile to myself
And dance a silence with the stillness
We spin in secret, easy wildness
We spin – I and stillness 

She clings to me, blows into my ear
Intoxicates me with her grey appearance
I become a simpleton
I spin, effortless, my body spins itself
But soon in stillness’ corners
A whisper dissolves
It moves me
I recognize her, my stillness
We dance with easy wildness
In the dark air, like dark cloths
We dance, I and stillness
A deep light silence
It happens—
Sometimes I appear
And stillness refuses to recognize me
I seek my reflection in her eyes
I see: my temples burning
I turn back
She steals a glance
And pounds both me and the door
I startle
And bow to her
When I awake
The sky is already a black roof
I and stillness stand, embrace
Eyes moist, cheeks warm
Soon we sing a ballad
Of nights and rains
And dance a silence light and long

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