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  • Mame-Loshn Speaks!
  • Jane Seitel (bio)

He who comes into inheritance is often made to pay for the funeral.

Yiddish Proverb

1. Mame-Loshn Upstream

Mame-Loshn wakes to find she's landed upstream,a thumb's breadth East of West Nyack. She teeters on a rickety rockledge. Mame-Loshn shakes Hudson mist off her mongrel coat;baby pigeons and red herrings fly out of a mouse-hair wig.Old bube yawns after a half-century nap. Itchy mama stretches,scratches the fuzz under her right armpit and finds a buried tick.Bitsy bube flicks the tick with a middle finger into the great zaftigbeyond. Feh ! Grandmother says and for good measure—Feh!

Mame-Loshn's head spins. She's a Molly Picon reincarnation, impish,her scrawny pretzel thin legs dangle over the rocky ledge of Palisade.She scours the Hudson for Hebrew-Yiddish letters. Where are my vavs? [End Page 77]

My nuns —elongated letters like Jewish gazelles, my ballet dancerson tiptoes? And have you seen my ballsy sons—their round memsand heavy bets left dangling just below their innies and outies?Does Heaven's Kingdom still reflect off the tops of buffed Florsheims?

Mame-Loshn misses her darlings. She misses words that sing; missescalico kitzels purring chat and tuba bands farting Putz! Sha! Putz!She oyes the loss of old vords and Yiddish-American vords—beysbol and futsbol.Yiddisha Mama kicks off her black bube shoes and rubs pop-eyedbunions which sprouted a couple centuries after Rome sent her packingto treyf hamlets in Turkey, Morevia and Meissen. Other bunions bloomed later,being kicked out of Minsk and Pinsk She shlepped to America, West and East,South Bronx to South Hampton. Mame-Loshn pins/unpins words to her dress,words written in charcoal smudges, illegible glyphs in the long worn down.

2. The Mame Rappels the Mount

Bube clings to her bindle stick, but where's her pushcart raft? Half-in, half-out of the water? Below it bobs in flotsam eddies of Arm and Hammer soap scumamidst buoys of Dr. Pepper cans and conventions of tinfoil and Handiwrap.Oy, Oy, Oy! My stuff of stuff, cries Mame-Loshn, Gib mir may stuffn! Aft!

Mame thinks fast—unwrapping her rag-bundle lickety-split. One cufflink.A piece of tongue jerky from Ratner's Deli on Delancey—a portion of Tums,a yarmulke from the bar mitzvah of Robert Allen Zimmerman, God bless him.

Aft! Phylactery from the second-hand store. A nice long piece of calf leather,Mama Yiddish remarks and converts her truss into a climbing harness, uses a safety pinas a hitch and protects her valuable kop with a Brooklyn Dodgers batting helmet.

Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Geronimo! Mame-Loshn departs Mount Goyim.Mame-Loshn lifts like Elijah on Passover or a matinee Flying Wallenda.Gravity cooperates. Gravity interferes. Down she plunges with a shriek, a potch,with a plunk, landing, thank God, on a red 1950 Castro Convertible sofa.

3. The Dowry of Mame-Loshn

Between slats of the water-logged pushcart, fragments. [End Page 78] In the mess of the long worn down, strewn random papers,worthless as a hundred million Weimar marks—preciousas the whispered shema on the lips of a dying husband.

Mame-Loshn sighs, spreading scraps. Rivers flow backwards,drying blue ink, from knuckle to elbow to neck into the scrawny chest.Arthritic hands smooth crumples. A shande, a shame,

she says, For the children, a sorrow. She finds a tidbita stained Hebrew text, handwritten, lifted from Deuteronomy.And you shall teach them to your children and speak of them... Mama Yiddish scrolls this paper into her breast pocket.

Grandmother gathers up her papers. She reads throughprisms of ground glass embossed with greasy fingerprints:A poem by Rosenfeld "Mayn Yingele" —"My Little Boy"—a bit from Singer's classic "Gimpel the Fool."

Old mother finds a page from a comedy in kuglshprakh,the low language. Drama Mama discovers a playbill for Learby the great Yid dramatist, Ze'eb Shakespeare. Squinting,Mame-Loshn's eyes cross the Sabayon in search of missing Jews.

4. Mame-Loshn's Shiva Caller

A...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9552
Print ISSN
1046-8358
Pages
pp. 77-81
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-06
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2012
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