Jonathan Zausmer

Dead poets. A dedication.

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,

So calm.

And then in my grief I shall smile

I’ll whisper

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

Remain loveless



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


About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.