Long and mild are the dawns of Tammuz and Av, When I hold my wakeful head On a brown, sunburned hand: Husband, I have kept a place for you near me, a cherished place, But I have not kept any peace or place for myself. Through closed eyes, my tears fall slow and warm, And stillness spreads, Like drowsy hares around my bed. Soon the first cry of day will sound, And they will scatter, And I will rise to a long, hard way.
National Poetry Month On a Poem by Leyb Kvitko by J.D. Arden, M.L.I.S. candidate, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History
Inscrutable Cat by Leyb Kvitko (c.1890-1952), translated from Yiddish by A. Mandelbaum & H. Rabinowitz
This poem is taken from The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse, published in 1987, and is one of many such books available in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History.
Inscrutable cat! I am as still, as still as you, Although you tread with shadow-steps - The peace of distant worlds within your gaze So softly in the shadows of my rage… I am as still, as still as you… Along my meager island shore - The island of my memory - where ruins flicker faintly through Awareness with its waves, its fog, On that pathetic island At times there creeps an ancient frog. Lazily he looks about, lazily he croaks - At all that was, the old, the shriveled heretofore. Then lazily he turns around; he croaks another croak - At the insane, the stolen here and now. In me the present and the past are soon to speak no more. Only the croaking will be etched into my island shore. I start to sink into a shapeless torpor And - I am as still, as still as you…
Addressing a memorial for the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire [held in the Metropolitan Opera House on April 2, 1911], Schneiderman (1866-1972), organizer for the ILGWU and the Women’s Trade Union League presented this speech. First published in The Survey, April 8, 1911.
I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting.
The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth. We know what these things are today; the iron teeth are our necessities, the thumbscrews are the high-powered and swift machinery close to which we must work, and the rack is here in the firetrap structures that will destroy us the minute they catch on fire.
This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in the city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred. There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death.
We have tried you citizens; we are trying you now, and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers, brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.
Public officials have only words of warning to us—warning that we must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back, when we rise, into the conditions that make life unbearable.
I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement.
On March 25, 1911, fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, killing 146 employees, most of them women.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three; the oldest victim was 48, the youngest were two fourteen-year-old girls.
Because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a common practice at the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks – many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors to the streets below. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers. (via Wikipedia)
Late on this, but a little over a week ago was the 102nd anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Going to reblog some relevant content.