31 January 2011

Letter of Recommendation, I

A Letter of Recommendation

On summer nights I sleep naked
in Jerusalem.  My bed
stands on the brink of a deep valley
without rolling down into it.

In the daytime I walk around with the Ten
Commandments on my lips
like an old tune someone hums to himself.

Oh touch me, touch me, good woman!
That's not a scar you feel under my shirt, that's
a letter of recommendation, folded up tight,
from my father:
"All the same, he's a good boy, and full of love."

I remember my father waking me for early prayers.
He would do it by gently stroking my forehead, not
by tearing away the blanket.

Since then I love him even more.
And as his reward, may he be wakened
gently and with love
on the Day of the Resurrection.

--Yehuda Amichai


Benjamin Resnick said...

One good Amichai poem, deserves another. Just don't show it to Nathan, it might be disturbing for him.

ראש עיר \ יהודה עמיחי

עצוב הוא להיות
ראש העיר ירושלים,
נורא הוא.
איך יהיה אדם ראש עיר כזאת?
מה יעשה בה?
יבנה ויבנה ויבנה.

ובלילה יקרבו אבני ההרים מסביב
אל הבתים,
כמו זאבים הבאים לילל על כלבים
שנעשו לעבדי בני האדם

Its sad being
the mayor of Jerusalem,
its terrible.
How can a man be the mayor of a city like that?
What can he do with her?
Build and build and build.

And at night the stones of the mountains drawn near
and surround the houses,
Like wolves
come to howl at the dogs,
who have become the slaves of men.

Andy Bachman said...

thanks Ben. There is in fact very little that can disturb Nathan, except maybe the various dog-owner fashion cliques in early morning hours in Prospect Park.

Shapiro said...

My father was God and didn't know it. He gave me
the Ten Commandments not in thunder and not in anger,
not in fire and not in a cloud, but gently
and with love. He added caresses and tender words,
"would you" and "please." And chanted "remember" and "keep"
with the same tune, and pleaded and wept quietly
between one commandment and the next: Thou shalt not
take the name of thy Lord in vain, shalt not take, not in vain,
please don't bear false witness against your neighbor.
And he hugged me tight and whispered in my ear,
Thou shalt not steal, shalt not commit adultery, shalt not kill.
And he lay the palms of his wide-open hands on my head
with the Yom Kippur blessing: Honor, love, that thy days
may be long upon this earth. And the voice of my father--
white as his hair. Later, he turned his face to me for the last time,
as on the day he died in my arms, and said, I would like to add
two more commandments:
the Eleventh Commandment, "Thou shalt not change,"
and the Twelfth Commandment, "Thou shalt change. You will change."
Thus spoke my father, and turned and walked away
and disappeared into his strange distances.
Yehuda Amichai

Shapiro said...

Hey Andy,
You're poem inspired me to include one of my favorites
My father was God and didn't know it.
David Franklin