Poem of the Week

A Farewell to Charms

In Anat Zecharia’s vision, someone much like Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer prime minister.

AP

Mr. Prime Minister

Anat Zecharia

 

Mr. Prime Minister,

I'm reflecting on the coasters,

the flower arrangements, the light of the scented candles,

the gleaming knives,

the clean tablecloths on your dinner table,

your favorite pistachio ice cream,

(a luxurious flavor you can’t find everywhere)

your wife's favorite fruit sorbet

depending on the season

strawberries for now, lemon-mint in summer

the vanilla must be for the kids.

Mr. Prime Minister,

you must be very proud of your country

as you watch it with your eyes shut.

Forget the terror and the fire

living on the edge actually invigorates,

motivation, nothing to fear.

And the occupation is so trifling

see how much beauty there is in plants climbing a terrace or

clinging to a fence.

And it also gives us a reason to stand in the square for years

and sing.

Mr. Prime Minister,

it doesn’t matter how much we take

how much we feel

how much we fight

how much we fall, how much we pray

how many knock-out victories you promise

how much we revive.

Someone once said: The Temple Mount is ours

The Temple Mount is ours, over,

and another answered: Well done, well done

(All forces hold fire)

entrusting us with the future

leaving our heads held high

our body in the fissures, between the fractures,

It's been that way for years, for years.

Mr. Prime Minister,

farewell

and as you leave the residence

put on a sweater, or at least tie it around your neck.

N.B. Pistachio ice cream lovers are straightforward individuals and -- to put it mildly – it's best not to mess with them. They have a unique personality, they like to set themselves apart and they enjoy their idiosyncrasy. They also have a wonderful sense of humor and being around them is a lot of fun.

Translated from Hebrew by Vivian Eden

Today, February 17, is the day of the Haaretz Conference on Democracy, with sessions on freedom of expression and the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Today is also the day of State Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s report in on the “seemingly excessive expenditures” at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residences.

The prime minister is certainly a believer in freedom of expression. Alongside other world leaders, he marched fearlessly for that freedom and against terror in Paris this January  – would he or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have participated had they only selectively supported the agenda of that august gathering? Moreover, he defends press freedom as practiced by the freebie daily Israel Hayom and despite all the urgent issues on his plate, in his love for the written and spoken word, he has found time to purge undesirables from the Israel Prize for literature and cinema juries.

Possibly neither the Haaretz conference nor the comptroller’s report will deter voters from giving Netanyahu another term, but given his record on free speech, he would no doubt be the first to defend a poet’s – or anyone’s – Jewish and democratic right to imagine a different outcome, as here.

In genteel language of valediction – bidding farewell, not to be confused with harsh malediction – the poem opens with reflection on the charms of the “sophisticated European” ambience at the prime minister’s homes, presided over by his wife, whom Benny Ziffer describes as “an erotic woman.” Like a style page reporter, the poet ponders which frozen dessert is for whom, and when.

Having dealt with the fluff, she gently exhorts the prime minister (and us) to “forget” the big issues -- thereby reminding us of them: terror, the Carmel fire, the occupation, Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination (“a reason to stand in the square for years and sing”) and everything that has gone wrong since the Six Day War (“The Temple Mount is ours”).

Finally, as though in a democracy that limits the number of terms a head of state can serve, the poet bids the prime minister farewell, tenderly advising him to take a sweater.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1974, poet and photographer Anat Zecharia has published two volumes of poetry. Among her awards are the Sha’ar Prize for Young Poets in 2005 and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Hebrew Literature in 2014.

Musings: Why is the N.B. in prose? Why is the ladylike tone at least as devastating as biting satire?

*Bonus: A sophisticated European “So Long, Farewell