by Abraham Chalfi, translated from the Hebrew by Atar Hadari
Prayers of a Heretic
My hat is fallen on its side
And the world – a shadow of nothing.
Everything is just the rain
Which doesn’t know where it’s falling.
I’ll stick a rose in my hand,
Red its seven petals
Against the seven skies.
In them my right, to get lost in the rain
For that’s a hot walk for the heart –
And no constable will ever guess where I’m bound
In this rain.
By the Way
(in parentheses, this poem has no future)
Nodding over an empty glass
He who emptied the glass
In the coffee house that evening
On a piece of crumpled paper towel I drew his face
And sunken cheeks
And one or two lost dreams
Like a halo round his head
All this (in parentheses and by the way)
Was in not particularly illustrious weather
That particular evening
I’ll Dress You in Silken Wings
I’ll dress you in silken wings
Coloured perhaps bird-green
And perhaps a legendary crimson
And you’d be so beautiful
Children of man.
Laugh lots, children,
Till the liberation of spring bursts
The sad Jewish autumn.
I’ll call your mother
My little angels
To return from wherever she’s gone
And she’ll reign with you
When she was the Queen.
And they’ll hear your laughter from afar
And you won’t be
You will not be
Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of Hayim Nahman Bialik (Syracuse University Press, 2000) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Pen Translates award-winning Lives of the Dead: Collected Poems of Hanoch Levin appeared in 2018 from Arc Publications.
Abraham Chalfi (1904–1980) was born in Lodz, Poland, and arrived in Israel in 1924 to work in agriculture, construction, and road building. He joined the worker’s theater, Ohel in 1925 and became a member of the Tel Aviv Cameri municipal theater in 1953. He published the first of several volumes of poetry in 1933. Many of his poems were set to music and became chart hits.