"My Grandfather from Kobyl'nik".
A letter from: Phillip Kullback
Dated: 26 May 1988
My uncle, Moishe Kulback, was a very famous Yiddish writer, poet and was born in Smorgon (1896-1940);
his wife Zelda (Edkin) (1897-1973)
Moishe's father, Shlomo Kulback (1867-1942), was either born in Smorgon or Kobyl'nik;
his wife Shima (Ashenofsky) (1869-1942)
Moishe's grandfather, Itzchok Kulbak (1843-1918) was from Kobylnik;
his wife Ita Block (1845-1916)
From The Golden Peacock A worldwide Treasury of Yiddish Poetry
Compiled, translated and Edited by Joseph Leftwich
New York Thomas Yoseloff London
permission to reproduce obtained
When my grandmother died
The birds sang.
The whole world with her kind deeds
And her good heart rang.
When they lifted my grandmother from her bed,
And laid her on the floor,
Everybody wept, because
The kind old lady was no more.
My grandfather walked up and down the room,
With anger in his eye,
Because he had promised grandmother,
He would be the first to die.
When they bore her into the town,
And the Christian folk cried,
And the Greek Catholic Priest lamented,
That such a good woman had died.
Only when the Shamash took his knife,
To cut in their clothes the mourning slash,
My uncles and my father cried aloud,
Like prisoners under the lash.
My grandfather in Kobylnik is a plain man,
A peasant, with a fur skin coat, an axe and a horse,
And my sixteen uncles and their brother, my father,
Are plain folk, like cods of earth, lumpish and coarse.
They float rafts on the river, haul timber from the forests,
Toil hard like beasts of burden all day,
They eat supper together, all out of one basin.
Then fall into bed, and sleep like lumps of clay.
My grandfather can hardly manage to crawl
To his corner on the stove; he falls asleep there.
His legs carry him on their own to the stove.
They know the way, this many a year
My grandfather came home at night from the field,
Made his bed, and said the Prayer of those about to die.
He stared hard at the world around him,
Saying to all his last goodbye.
My uncles and my father, his sons, stood silent,
Their hearts were heavy; they couldn't speak,
grandfather sat up in his bed, slowly,
And addressed them in a voice trembling and weak.
And this is what grandfather said to his sons,
The big, burly fellows, the sturdy ones:
You, Ortche, my eldest, you are the prop of the family,
The first in the field, and the last to come home,
The earth knows the feel of your plough,
Like in rich soil may your seed grow.
Rachmiel, who can compare with you in the meadow?
Your scythe works like fire in the corn,
The snakes know you in the swamps, and the birds in their nests,
May you be blessed in stable and barn.
You, Samuel, man of the river,
Always with a net and fish in your hand,
You have the smell of the fisherman about you,
Be blessed on the water, and on the land.
Night was falling, the sunset glow
Came through the window. No one stirred.
My uncles and my father stood dumbly,
Listening to my grandfather's last word.
Then my grandfather drew his knees together,
And lay down in the bed,
And closed his eyes for ever,
Not one tear my father and my uncles shed.
A bird sang in the forest.
The sunset glow went out.
And my father and my uncles stood there,
With their heavy heads bowed.