Froyen shtime (Excerpts)
Women's Voices
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Four songs from Helen Greenberg’s cycle Froyen shtime (Women’s Voices) are presented here. In Ikh hob a shvalb gezen (I Have Seen a Swallow), to a poem by Dora Teitelbaum, initial naïve expectations of inextinguishable, irreversible romantic love or its reciprocation are defused by the reality of change of heart, finiteness, and mortality of feelings. The swallow that the speaker thought would continue in flight forever has her heart wounded in flight; a rose she thought might bloom forever is eventually plucked; a flourishing tree is eventually bent by a storm; and the dream she allowed herself to spin comes to an end. Yet her childlike, trusting spirit allows her to be “ready to love again.” In Mit a nar (With a Fool), the poet Malka Heifetz Tussman reminds us of the ramifications and dangers of consorting with fools: “With a fool I am more foolish than the fool.” Dremlen feygl (Dreaming Birds), to a poem by Leah Rudnitzky, is a lullaby in which the mother refers to a stranger sitting by her child’s cradle and singing to him—or helping to sing to him—to sleep. She is singing from afar, perhaps from death. The child’s father, too, is absent—perhaps killed in battle: “I have seen your father running under a hail of stone, his desolate cry flying over fields.” Vos tuen vayber? (What Do Wives [women] Do?), a setting of a poem by Berta Kling, seems to be a woman’s lament about an unhappy marriage or an undesirable husband. One woman asks herself whether another, pretty one, would be “so radiant if she had a husband like mine.”

By: Neil W. Levin