Anonymous in the Rain

Avraham Chalfi
Translated from the Hebrew by Atar Hadari

First we cry.Then the tears turn to stone.Then we remember just one thing:The death of a son.And nobody says a thing.Or talks about the rain and how's it going.And another thing and another thing.And the ear is in any case past hearing.But we keep still.And rise from the chair. And sit. And rise. Again.And know just one thing:He will not come again.                                    §Master of nonsenses in the heartAnd deeds in action,Father of tortures for the hungry bodyFeed me life                            and then I'll knowThere's a great sun in your heavenAnd much of its gold lights upon me.Here I'll stretch out my hand to you—Make a donation.                                §I drew myself the kingdom of heavenIn green—In memory of all my dead.And they hear me calling their namesAnd answer me with a grin.It's sad without them in the roomsWhere they left their voices echoing.I give them life—All of my dead.And they live it againAnd for all time.But it is sad without them in those rooms.                                §Without enfolding words.In the rough. Like a hard stone. Bare.Things being what they are.The sun plays at rise and set,Rise and disappear.But such and such—not otherwise—Are things.And the body hurts itself the hurtOf the entire world.Let rain fall. Like a rainy autumnThat's awkward as a beast.And then to stand before the face of God:This is not your face. Not this.                                §A deep night that knows all,Sees—hears all—Maybe prayer is goodOn this night.You say itBut not with your mouth open.Nor with lips that sing.You keep it very silentIn the lonely form.

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Avraham Chalfi (1904-1980) was born in Lodz, Poland. He then studied at a Russian high school in the Ukraine, where he began acting in an amateur theater group. He arrived in Eretz Israel in 1924 and worked in agriculture, construction and road construction. He joined the worker’s theater, Ohel, when it opened in 1925, and in 1953 he became a member of the Tel Aviv Cameri municipal theater. He began publishing poems in 1933. Many of his poems were set to music and became popular songs.

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.

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Seattle, Washington

Center for Religious Humanism
Seattle Pacific University

Editor in Chief
James K.A. Smith

Poetry Editor
Shane McCrae

Founding Editor
Gregory Wolfe

Image was founded in 1989 to demonstrate the continued vitality and diversity of contemporary art and literature that engage with the religious traditions of Western culture. Now one of the leading literary journals published in English, it is read all over the world—and forms the nexus of a warm and active community.

We believe that the great art that has emerged from these faith traditions is dramatic, not didactic—incarnational, not abstract. And so our focus has been on works of imagination that embody a spiritual struggle, like Jacob wrestling with the angel. In our pages the larger questions of existence intersect with what the poet Albert Goldbarth calls the “greasy doorknobs and salty tearducts” of our everyday lives.

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