Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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ia lo st o t zk y
— M
orr is
o s e n f e l d
his standards in order to simplify and make it clear. Perhaps
these lapses occurred because his poems were published in the
daily press, the
Arbeter Zeitung,
and the
Th is explains why some of his work lacks refinement. We know,
of course, tha t he had the ability to rise above commonality and
In his lyric poems we find evidence tha t Rosenfeld transformed
himself into whatever he depicted. If, for example, he saw a
“pale operator” he himself became a pale operator. When he
looked at a worker’s dark flat, he became the dark flat; he saw
himself as a windowless house. Th is capacity for poetic trans-
formation and the faculty to merge with the environmental im-
age is a transcendent function of poetry. Objects become sym-
bolic for Rosenfeld; they create a vision. Here is an example.
T h e poet saw a lonely tree growing on a run-down, depressed
East Side street. For him i t was no tree; it was a symbol. T h e
tree is the lonely poet; it is the enslaved worker desolate and
sad away from his old-country Jewish environment; it is the
Jewish people among the peoples of the world. Th is motivated
his poem “T he Ghetto T ree .” He asks, “Where is the green
forest? Where are the song birds? Where are the refreshing
breezes?” He describes how the tree sighs.
The Ghetto Tree
In New York’s teeming ghetto
There stands a gnarled old tree.
Unheard in all tha t tumult,
I t sighs: Oh, woe is mel
I t looks around in wonder
And murmurs with a sigh:
How wretched and neglected,
How p itiful am I!
I have quoted this poem to illustrate Rosenfeld’s breadth of
imagination, his lyricism and poetic involvement. Let me cite
another example, where the poet sees night descending on an
old tenement. Inside, in crowded airless cells, poor workers’
families are gasping for air. Viewing the scene, he continues this
fine poetic imagery:
Gray ragged clouds, pieces of mold
Are suspended in air polluted and dead,
T he sky’s asleep like some beggar of old
W ith a cover of patches over his head.
(Trans. Aaron Kramer)