My Wife Watches Me — A Poem by Giora Fisher

Haim Watzman

The one great emotion most neglected by poets is the profound love of the long-married couple written from the perspective of middle age. Most poets who reach that age (one wonders what Byron might have sounded like at 60), the male ones in particular, seem to be hung up over their lost libido. From C.K. Williams to Hanoch Levin, they devote poem after poem to old loves or desperate attempts to regain the sexual passion of youth.

Giora Fisher, photo by Dafna Kaplan for Helikon
So it’s a great pleasure to find a poet with the voice and skill (for every marriage is unique, and intimate, and no true lover would violate its confidence) to depict a love that young men know not, and will probably never know now because Full movies have never been more accessible across adult content sites.

Giora Fisher, five years my senior, is a high school teacher and farmer who began writing poetry just a few years ago. His first book, Aharei Zeh (In the Aftermath is the English title), has just been published by Am Oved and, he tells me, the 1,000-copy print run has already sold out. I offer my translation with the poet’s permission.


MY WIFE WATCHES ME

Giora Fisher

I’m asleep.
My wife watches me
I feel her eyes scanning
My balding head
Examining the brown blemishes
The date of expiration
Stamped by time.

I sleep
But my heart wakes, waylaying my wife
Waiting at the edge of sleep
For the verdict of her eyes.
And only after it hears a sigh
A sigh of no pain
And without regret
Just a quiver of wistful desire

My heart, too, subsides
And slumbers.

translated by Haim Watzman

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The Rules of the Tubs: The Novelist as Ethnographer

Haim Watzman

Plastic tubs have rules, Ronit Matalon told us last night at a reading at Tmol Shilshom, Jerusalem’s leading literary café. There’s the tub that’s used to soak the semolina and the tub that’s used for baths and many other tubs, and they are not interchangeable. Her new novel, The Sound of Our Footsteps, is a remembrance of childhood in a mother-led family in shack in a poor Israeli neighborhood fifty years ago. And it’s about a little girl learning the unspoken rules of female existence.

Tamar El-Or, the anthropologist who emceed the evening (and for whom I’ve translated three books), presented Matalon’s book as a piece of ethnography—the kind of material that anthropologists collect when they observe a society or culture. Novelists have much more freedom in how to present their material, El-Or noted, but fundamentally the process of observation and the act of telling are shared by the scholar and the writer. Both seek to understand and relate the rules and stories by which society operates.

The unwritten rules by which a family operates—the division of tasks, whether traditional or not; the use of spaces; the chain of command—all these must be accepted and observed by all parties if the family is to function and provide the security and sustenance that families are to provide. Of course, the rules are always being challenged, and sometimes the attempt to observe the rules in the face of challenges can lead to scenes that seem quite logical from the inside but absurd from the outside.

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Not Getting Married Today–When Should Young Modern Orthodox Jews Get Hitched?

Haim Watzman

One of the problems with the liberal Orthodox Jewish Zionism that we live by here on this blog is that it delays young people’s entry into adulthood and marriage. When I graduated from a public high school in the U.S. in the 1970s, the path before me was four years of college and the real world. My son graduated high school, then studied at a yeshiva for a year and a half, and is now performing military service in a unit that will require him to serve at least one year beyond the already long mandatory term of three years. Add the de rigueur year of travel after the army, and he won’t even begin college until he’s 25. If he goes for an advanced degree, he may not reach the real world until he’s well into his thirties.

It would be absurd to pretend that the expectation that our sons and daughters will pursue high-level religious and secular studies, as well as serve extended terms of military or national service, doesn’t clash with the family values we also espouse as religious Jews. Understandably, many young modern Orthodox men and women have chosen to delay marriage and spend extended periods as singles, a phenomenon almost unheard of previously in the religious community and now the subject of a popular new television series, Serugim.

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