Poem of the Week / Seduction, a Family Affair

Originally untitled in Hebrew, this poem became a popular song performed by Arik Einstein and others.

Your Brow is Crowned

Avraham Chalfi

Your brow is crowned with golden black.
(I can't recall: Was this said in a poem?)
Your brow rhymes with eyes and with light.
(I wonder: Has this been rhymed in a poem?)
But the man you are with,
His life is a poem.

Your robe of pink is woolly and soft.
You wrap yourself in it, always, at night.
I don't want to be like a brother to you,
Nor a monk who prays to an angel aloft
Dreaming gloomy, dreams of holiness –
While here you are – O woman.

You love to be silent and sad
to listen to tales of things distant and near
And I, silently gazing at you,
voiceless and mute,
am wholly oblivious of others.

My soul dwells within the walls of your room
And captive there, takes leave of me
when I, in my body, take leave of you.
My dream is spread out like a rug at your feet.
O my love, walk upon its blooms.
Don your pink robe tonight
I shall come to you very soon.

And your brow,
crowned with golden black,
will come to my lips like a rhyme to a poem
And then I shall whisper till dawn,
As though I were drunk
With golden black your brow is crowned.

From “Avraham Chalfi, Poems,” vol. 1, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1986. Translated from Hebrew by Raquel Chalfi, Daniel Tadmon Chalfi, and Chaim Tadmon, December 7, 2012.

***

This poem was written in the late 1950s; it is untitled in the original but because it has become a popular song performed by Arik Einstein and others, it is generally referred to by the beginning of its first line, "Attur Mitzhekh."

When poet Raquel Chalfi, whose latest volume is entitled “China,” sat down to translate this poem, she was quickly joined by her husband, broadcaster, writer and poet Chaim Tadmon and their son, Daniel, an English teacher. It is appropriate that the project became a family affair, as Raquel is Avraham’s niece and sole heir, while the connections between the Chalfi family and the Einstein family stretch back to the previous generation: Avraham Chalfi and Yaakov Einstein, Arik’s father, were actors at the Ohel Theater in Tel Aviv and enjoyed a strong friendship. Indeed, shortly after Arik’s birth in 1939, Avraham sent his parents a quatrain congratulating them for “designing” the baby well and wishing them “many children for the State of Israel."

Arik Einstein recorded many of Chalfi’s poems. On his recently unveiled tombstone at the Trumpeldor Cemetery in Tel Aviv, Einstein’s family chose to inscribe a short verse by Avraham Chalfi:

I reduce myself
into an anonymous
dot –
so my body won’t bother
kingdoms


Raquel Chalfi translated this too, and noted: “It seems there is an allusion to Kabbalah here, paraphrasing a description of God reducing himself into a dot, so as to let Creation take place. This coincides in a way with the Big Bang theory.”

“Your Brow is Crowned” braids a love lyric with ars poetica. Statements about the beauty of the beloved alternate with thoughts about poetry, and by the end of the poem the two are thoroughly combined. “The man you are with,” according to Chalfi family lore, refers to Chalfi himself, who never married.

The pink, soft and woolly garment (haluk in Hebrew) is apparently a bathrobe, an item not of the sort of lingerie associated with seduction but rather with long familiarity and a comfortable sort of eroticism – it’s what she always wears before bed.

Einstein first recorded Atur Mitzhekh (with Corinne Allal and Yehudir Ravitz) in 1977 to music by Yoni Rechter on his album “Eretz Yisrael Hayeshana Vehatova, Part 3,” and subsequently, in 1988 in a slightly different adaptation devoted to Chalfi’s works. Listen to him sing the earlier version:

Musings:

*Why are there so many poems about new love and relatively few about long-established love? 

Courtesy of Raquel Chalfi
David Bachar