gershon hepner

Rookie - 10 Points (5 3 38 / leipzig)

Leaving Me - Poem by gershon hepner

For Bob Alter

Honeyed kisses mixed with hemlock of adieus,
Halkin and Halevi tell it as I feel
when you leave me, bittersweetly, and infuse
the air outside my lonely dwelling with unreal
anticipation that your presence might bring joy
to others just as you had brought it me. You leave,
and all the fragrances I’d sense begin to cloy,
with nothing left of you in which I can believe,
except my own anticipation that quite soon
your fragrance will return to me, and will refresh
my body and my spirit, both of them in tune
as soon as absence will dissolve, turned into flesh.

Robert Alter (‘All the Good things of Spain, ’ JRB 2 (2010) 15-17) reviews “Yehuda Halevi” by Hillel Halkin. He points out that many of Halevi’s most brilliant religious poems fall under the category called chauch, the liturgical prelude in the morning service [and evening – GWH] to “Blessed are You…who loves Israel.” These poems are inflected by the allegorical reading of Song of Songs, and in some the “messianic redemption is imagined: in the poem concretely as moment of sexual consummation, the divine lover, long absent, gives his strength to (or puts his strength into) his beloved, who responds with welcoming rapture. My poem also has oblique allusions to the Song of Songs and the messianic yearning read into it. But in particular it is inspired by Halkin’s translation of “Why My Darling, Have your Barred all News? ”

My heart, half sweetness and half bitterness,
Honeyed kisses mixed with hemlock of adieus,
Has been shredded by you into pieces,
And each piece twisted into curlicues.

Alter finds lines 3-4 something of an embarrassment. Even though I cite only line 2,
I strongly disagree. Alter gives his endorsement to lines that follow:

Between us lies a sea of tears I cannot cross,
Yet should you but approach its moaning waves,
they’d part beneath your steps [Nahson ben Aminadav! GWH]
and if though dead, I heard the golden bells
make music on your skirt, or your voice asking how I was,
Yet send my love to you from the grave’s depths.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, October 7, 2011

Poem Edited: Saturday, October 8, 2011

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