Victor Packer's "Subvey"

Victor Packer was born in Bialystock, Poland, in 1897 and grew up with that city’s emerging Yiddish theater. While still a child, he took part in amateur theatricals of the works of writer Sholom Aleichem. In his teens he formed a multi-lingual vaudeville troupe (Yiddish, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian) which helped quell that city’s anti-Semitism. In 1924 Packer came to America to join Maurice Schwartz’s famed Yiddish art theater then creating some of the most innovative and influential theater in New York. From 1936-1942 Packer worked at New York radio station WLTH single-handedly producing 16 unique live quarter-hour Yiddish programs daily, from dramatized Yiddish novels, children’s music programs, man-on-the-street interviews and quiz shows, among many others. For 15 minutes each Tuesday and Thursday, Packer would read his “rytmishe resitatsyes” (“Rhythmic Recitations”), rollicking Dadaist sound poems dynamically reflecting the day-to-day soundscape of his New York listeners. Themes included baseball, trains, jazz and four epic poems about Coney Island. When WLTH went off the air in 1942, Packer went back to theater, touring Yiddish speaking communities throughout the US and Canada until his death in 1958. Packer’s poems were never published, created solely to be performed live, so no print copies survive. Instead, transcription and translations direct from the original aluminum radio studio disc were required to recover Packer’s verse.

Victor Packer was featured in the 2002 Peabody award winning NPR series “The Yiddish Radio Project,” which I produced together with Dave Isay. For more on Packer, visit http://www.yiddishradioproject.org/exhibits/packer/, or check out this episode from the Yiddish Radio Project:


Here's Victor Packer performing his rytmishe resitatsye, "Subvey."

 

Henry Sapoznik

 

Gasn,

Gasn.

Evenyus un gasn

Gasn shnaydn evenyus

Evenyus shnaydn gasn.

Aher a gas ahin a gas

Ahin a gas aher a gas

Me yogt zikh un a drey

Eyner krayet in tseytns veg

Eyner krayet in tseytns veg

Hooha Hooha Hooha Hoo ha

Tuml a geshray

Mentshn Mentshn Mentshn

Ay ay ay yay vifl mentshn?

Oy oy oy oy vifl mentshn?

Vayse, shvartse, broyne, gelle

A meshigine kapele

Loyft n’loyft, n’iloyft

Farlirt di zinen

Nor zi nor di mashinen

Oytos

Troks

Masnvegelakh

Kindervegelakh

Oyvnban

Untnban

Ferd zenin oykh faran

tramvayn

pushkarts

mener froyn makhles kinder

ale loyfn vi a vinder

me flikt aher me flikt a hin

me ratevet fin a mashin

fin eyn zayt afn tsveytn

un ambulansn (tuy, tuy)

shmekt shen mit a teytn

oy vey oy vey oy vey oy vey

in fayer lesher in der mit

aaaaaWAAAAAAAAAAAaaaa

oyyyyyyyyyyyveyyyyyyyyyyyy

Oytos tumlen “aHAW! aHAW!”

Tramvayn klingn

Clingcling clingclingcling

Clingcling clingclingcling

Un fun ale zaytn

Kinder shrayen

Raysn di hooHA! hooHA!

Un fin di stors un kromen

Shrayen

Kvitshn

Tumlen

Ritshen

Raysn zikh in gas aroys

Shtoln eldzer fin di

radios, radios, radios, radios

un fun di gramafonen (varsity)

un in der zelber tsayt

a nayer tumler

hert men dokh fun der

tsveyter zayt

a heyzeriker yidish ektor

fin a vikterola shrayt:

ee AA, oo AA, ee AA, oo AA

Diggi diggy zay diggy diggy zu

Un in Union Square

Of yeydn vinkl pedlers tumlen

“zokn, shnipsn right here

“zokn, shnipsn right here”

"3for50/3for50/3for50/3for50

an emese metsiye!"

der gramafon er zhuyet ersht

"Angela mia, you are my angel dear

the heavens sent you down to me

from up above..."

A giltsaray a zuneray

mir ken say vi nisht hern

A gevaldik tumlaray

poshet toyb tsu veren

Un in mitn tuml in mitn tuml

in mitn tuml

A mentsh A mentsh

A yid a yid

Shteyt un dreyt zikh

Shteyt un dreyt zikh

Shteyt un dreyt zikh

Shteyt un dreyt zikh

Zukht epes Zukht epes

Mentshn loyfn im farbay

Er vil zey epes fregn

nor keyner hert nisht

say vi say

nishtu kayn tsayt

Me fort, me yogt

Men darf makhn a farmegn

Hey!

Ssssss

Hey!

Sssssss

Hey! Sssssss Sssssss

Hey! Sssssss Sssssss

"Please! Please. Please.

"Please! Please. Please.

The subway, please the subway, please, the subway, please Ha?

Where is it the subway?" Where is it the subway?"

The subway? The subway?

Ahin. Ahin.

Oy, a gezunt af aykh

a lebn af aykh

a’ vus zugt ir? Vu hin?

A gas aher a gas ahin

A gas aher a gas ahin

Un nokh af rekhts a drey

Un nokh af rekhts a drey

Azey? Azey?

Azey! Azey!

Un shtrom mitn shtrom

Un tuml mitn tuml

A shtup bay im a shtup by er

Er shlept ahin er shlept aher

Triptroptriptroptriptroptriptrop

Trep arof un Trep arup un

Trep arof un Trep arup

Nu gey, nu gey

Nisht shtey, nisht shtey

Un vider a geshrey

“MIRROR, TIMES,

BASEBALL, RACES,

WOILD NEWS”

vus?

Oy, nisht mikh, nisht mikh

Oy, oy di zayt, di zayt

Oy det’s all right, det’s all right

Oy det’s all right, det’s all right

S’a shtipn s’a shtoysn

S’a yogn s’a roysn

Vos yogt men zokh,

vi yogt men zokh

Vos yogt men zokh,

vi yogt men zokh

Yogt zikh Yogt zikh

Yogt zikh Yogt zikh

Un me blabt ahin

Yogt zikh Yogt zikh

Yogt zikh Yogt zikh

yogt zikh tsu der slot mashin

A nikl varft er dort arayn

A nikl varft er dort arayn

In der gaytsege mashin

Zi shlinkt es alts un kayen

Zi shlinkt es alts un kayen

Di slot mashin is kleyn un din

Ken zi shlign nikls bloyz

Di subvey ober dik un groys

Vi der sho rabo

Mentshn gantsn shlinkt zi ayn

Efent mayler un a tsol

Shlinkt ayn toyzend mit a mol

toyzend mit a mol

Shlinkt zey ayn un

shpayt zey oys

Azey tug ayn un azey tog oys

Shtup zikh Shtup zikh

Shtup zikh Shtup zikh

Shtup zikh shtup men

shtup zikh shtark

Shtupt zikh Shtupt zikh

Shtupt zikh Shtupt zikh

Khapn im baym karg

Hey Mister Mister

Mister vatch your step!

Mister Mister

vilstu khapn klep

Vus zol zayn, vus zol zayn

Mentshlekh khapt zikh shneler

ay a zetz in zayt

a klap in kop

nito kayn tsayt

HariOOP

Me mayt zikh un

Me khapt zikh un

Me shtupt zikh un

me klapt zikh

nito ken tsayt nito ken tsayt

nito ken tsayt nito ken tsayt

di subvey loyft di subvey flIt

kep af kep iz es nisht git

mentshn vern shir dershtikt

a halbn arbel o’geflikt

Di hant un noz tsuklapt

Defar, a strap gekhapt

Halt zikh Halt zikh

Halt zikh Halt zikh

Halt zikh say s’iz kayn room

Halt zikh Halt zikh

Halt zikh Halt zikh

Ven di mentshn faln shtum

Excuse me Excuse me.

Di subvey dreyt zikh vi

a shlang

Un mentshl khapt zikh nor tsum bank

Excuse me Excuse me.

Excuse me Excuse me.

Oyoyoy oyoyoyoy

Oyoyoy oyoyoyoy

Vus zukhtse mister,

Vus zukhtse mister,

Ir hot epes forlorn?

Ir hot epes forlorn?

Oyoyoy oyoyoyoy

Oyoyoy oyoyoyoy

Nemt arop dem fus,

Ir sheyt zikh of mayn corn

Oy oyoyoyoy Oy oyoyoyoy

A dare meydl A dare meydl

Hot zikh arayn geshtokhn

Mit a shpitz fin elenboygn in a zayt a do

A dike negerte, farshlofn iz zi eyne, ot dem kop farvorfn of ir brust to do

A fet-ter daytsh mit a ferdlikhn boykh

Varemt im di zayt un mit a perene to do

A hoykher Irishman

Tsuleygt er zikh

tsuleygt er zikh

mit zayn American

of zayn kapalush

gemakht im a stender

a to do, to do

Oyoyoy oyoyoy

Oy di hant

Oy di fus

Oy di zayt

Oy di kop

Sop

Sop

Sop

Veyyyyyy
Streets.

Streets.

Avenues and streets.

Streets divide avenues

avenues divide streets

here a street, there a street

there a street, here a street

they go this way and that.

People in other’s way

People in other’s way

Hoo ha! Hoo Ha! Hoo Ha! Hoo Ha!

A holy racket

People people people

Ay ay, ay, how many people?

Oy oy oy, how many people?

White, black and brown and yellow

every different kind of fellow.

Running, running, running, running

What does this mean?

Machines!

Cars,

trucks,

city buses

school buses,

elevated trains,

subway,

horses still in the way

trolleys,

pushcarts,

men and women children going

cars are stopping horns are blowing

You go right here and not too far

someone was missed by a car

from one side to the other

Ambulances (God forbid!)

With the stink of the dead

Oy vey, oy vey, oy vey, oy vey

And fire engines in the mix!

aaaaaWAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaa

Oyyyyyyyyyyyy, veyyyyyyyyyyyy

Autos trumpet “A-HaW!” A-HaW!”

Trolleys clang

Clingcling clingclingcling

Clingcling clingclingcling

From every side

kids are screaming

at the top of their lungs HooHA! Hoo HA!

And from the stores and shops

the cries

the sighs

screeching

beseeching

spilling out into the street

the tinny electrical bleat of

radios, radios, radios, radios

and from the gramophones

But wait, beware!

Another racket

suddenly erupts

from over there

a hoarse Yiddish actor

from a Victrola blares

ee AA, oo AA, ee AA, oo AA

Diggi diggy zay diggy diggy zu

And out on Union Square

every corner has a peddler

Socks and neckties right here,

socks and neckties right here

"3for50/3for50/3for50/3for50

truly what a bargain!"

Another gramophone spits out:

"Angela mia, you are my angel dear

the heavens sent youdown to me

from up above..."

Such a sound, such a din

the thing that you’re most fearing

That if it keeps up much longer

you’ll surely lose your hearing.

And in the tumult in the tumult

in the tumult,

a person. A person

A Jew. A Jew.

He twists and turns

and twists and turns

and twists and twists

and twists and turns

looking for something, for something

Everyone passes him by

He has something to ask

But no one listens,

not at this pace

There is no time.

They’re all coming, going.

He must get right up in their face

Hey!

Ssssss

Hey!

Sssssss

Hey! Sssssss Sssssss

Hey! Sssssss Sssssss

"Please! Please. Please.

"Please! Please. Please.

The subway, please the subway, please, the subway, Please Ha?

Where is it the subway?" Where is it the subway?"

The subway? The subway?

Over there! Over there.

Oy, a blessing on you,

good luck to you,

so where did you say it was?

A street ahead, A street behind

A street ahead, A street behind

Make a right and there you go

Make a right and there you go

That so? That so?

Yes, so. Yes, so.

And din atop of din

And tumult atop tumult

A shoving here, a shoving there

He drags here, he drags there

TriptropTriptropTriptropTriptrop

Steps ascending, steps descending,

steps ascending, steps descending

So go, so go

Not slow, not slow

And then another bellow:

“MIRROR, TIMES,

BASEBALL, RACES,

WORLD NEWS”

What?

Oh, not me, not me!

Oy! Oy! My side! my side!

That’s alright, that’s alright!

that’s alright! that’s alright!

What a shoving, what a milling

what a crowding What a killing

Why are they rushing?

Where are they rushing?

Why are they rushing?

Where are they rushing?

Rushing rushing,

rushing rushing

rushing like you’ve never seen.

Rushing rushing

rushing rushing

rushing to the slot machine.

He puts a nickel,

puts in a nickel

In a machine

Which doesn’t chew, just swallows,

doesn’t chew just swallows,

The slot machine is small and thin

And swallows nickels solely

But the subway, huge and long

Like an ox

devours people wholly

in countless yawning maws

Swallows thousands if not more

thousands at a time.

Swallows them and

spits them out

Day in and day out

Pushing pushing

pushing pushing

People pushing pushing

day and night

Pushing pushing

pushing pushing

Are you itching for a fight?

Hey, Mister Mister

Mister, Watch your step!

mister, mister

don’t give me no lip.

What’ll happen? What’ll happen?

People rush by so fast

A stab in my side

A slug in the head

There is no time

Hurry up,

They shove without end

they stomp,

they run

and romp

There is no time there is no time

There is no time there is no time

The subway runs the subway turns

Cheek to jowl, my stomach churns

people all nearly gagged

And my sleeve is torn and dragged

You’ve hurt your nose and wrist? Don’t grab the strap in your fist.

Hold on hold on

hold on hold on

even though there is no room

Hold on hold on

hold on hold on

Everybody seems deaf and dumb

Excuse me. Excuse me.

The subway wriggles like

a snake

A seat is all they want to take

Excuse me Excuse me.

Excuse me Excuse me.

Oy oy oy oy oy oy oy oy

Oy oy oy oy oy oy oy oy

What’re you looking for, Mister?

What’re you looking for, Mister?

Have you lost something!"

You look so forlorn!"

Oy oy oy

Oy oy oy

Get off my foot,

you're standing on my corn.

Oy oy oy oy oy oy oy oy

A thin girl A thin girl

stuck her pointy elbow

in my ribs right here

A large black woman, sleeps with

Her head upon her chest right here

A big fat man, with an enormous gut

warms himself with a fur rug right here

A big, tall Irishman

Manspreads himself

Manspreads himself

With his hat set

At a rakish tilt

Overseeing the car

right here

Oy, oy, oy Oy, oy, oy

Oy, the hand,

Oy, the leg,

Oy, the side,

Oy, the head

Pant

Pant

Pant

Paiiiiiiiiiiiin