It is no coincidence that a nation mourns the passing of Arik Einstein and how familiar it feels when we think of Yitzhak Rabin. This is not about politics. This is about a nation, a people, an idea and a work in process.
A fragile piece of Israel, of modern Jewish culture, fractured, broke off and dispersed like broken glass on the ground. Irredeemable. And when we look down at the shattered remains we see beauty and pain, modesty and magic, depth and humanity.
For those who are not familiar with the Hebrew language, with Hebrew poetry with literature and the work in process which is a pivotal part of what we are today, it is my hope that somehow it finds resonance. It reaches back from the scriptures. It moves through a troubled yet rich diaspora tradition and takes a form of centrality of what Jewish identity means today.
I searched for a piece of Arik Einstein to bring in translation the pathos and humanity. One of the many wonderful things he gave us was to bring to life classic Hebrew poetry in song, and that of lesser known poets forgotten in books on dusty shelves whose verses were to become part of the national soundtrack of our life here in Israel.
My wish was to reveal this somehow and I searched for a translation of the poem written by Avraham Halfi, taken into song by Arik Einstein who collaborated with Micky Gabrielov in creating a gem. One of many. Its title transliterated is “Song of the parrot Yossi.” My search for translation revealed nothing. Possibly it’s out there and I missed it. Possibly, a translation simply didn’t exist. Now one does.
So here is my small work of translation with a lot of poetic license and humble apologies to the poet as one can never fully bring the native form and meaning through to the other side.
Song of the parrot Joey
I’ll purchase a parrot, his name will be Joey
We’ll talk, we’ll confide, Joey and I
And then I will tell him, I’ll say Joey – listen
Melancholia’s a glass of embittered wine
From a soul whose vines harvest brine
Know this, parrot Joey, you’re a lyrical child
Your death shall be silent,
And then in my grief I shall smile
To walls, Joey’s gone, Joey’s gone
Your ashes will go from the cage to the ground
From your white wire prison to a yellow dust plain
No parrotess will bear your descendant
You’re forbidden to love or share pain
Such as you
You were born to chirp, to mimic and please
Poets filled with fire and rage
Amongst indifferent hearts that sin with ease
Like them you are merely a toy
An amusement for children at play
Sing on dear Joey
Comfort me with your song
My heart is empty today
Original poem in Hebrew: Avraham Halfi
Translation: Jonathan Zausmer
Dedication: To Arik Einstein 1939 – 2013