The Tents Produce Poetry

Haim Watzman

My friend from Kehilat Yedidya, Nir Levy, has been commemorating the current protest movement with a poem a day. Levy, who writes under the penname Nahir Libi, is the author of a fine first book of poetry, Mahol HaNefesh, which he’s also turned into an intriguing and moving show integrating readings of his poems, autobiographical passages about his struggle with schizophrenia, and music.

To preserve something of the original’s music and form I’ve taken liberties—perhaps too many liberties—with the original meaning. But Nir has consented to allow me to post the translation here. I add the original Hebrew below so that those who know the language can criticize my approach.

How Goodly are Thy Tents
The current Balaam lives in a luxury high-rise
Out of sight of the people whom the tycoons now curse
From his penthouse the people cover the city like flies
Not like ants, but a crowd churning, shouting, and worse.
Will he be the one who’ll seek to revile but whom God prevents?
Why risk chortling: Israel, how goodly are thy tents?

מה טובו אוהליך יעקב

בלעם של היום הוא דר במגדלים.

בלי העם אשר אותו עתה ‘טייקונים’ מקללים.

ומ’אקירוב’ הציבור נראה כמכסה את עין העיר

לא כנמלה,אלא כהמון,רוחש,גועש,רועש,מסעיר.

ומי אותו יבוא לגדף יִימַצֵא מברך אותו ברחוב

ומקלסו בפה מלא: “מה טובו אוהליך יעקב”.

כ”ט בתמוז תשע”א / 31/7/11