Initially included in his first volume of poetry, Akshav u-ve-yamim aherim, the deftly concise but remarkably incisive poem “My Father’s Death” deals with one of Amichai’s most pervasive themes—the labyrinthine implications of death on the experience of life. The brilliant translation of the poem included by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav in their definitive retrospective, Yehuda Amichai: A Life of Poetry: 1948-1994, preserves the whimsical, childlike diction of the Hebrew version but also reveals a poem that is remarkably seasoned and deeply introspective.
Rhyme schemes are rare in Amichai’s poetry, which, generally speaking, is pointedly modernistic in its avoidance of traditional poetic devices. However, “My Father’s Death,” although ominous in theme, employs a series of rhymes, such as “places/ spaces,” “bow/ now,” “soon/ moon,” and “endeavor/ forever,” that are more evocative of Mother Goose than of William Carlos Williams. Nonetheless, the effect is both stunning and appropriate; Amichai masterfully uses a child’s language to disarm his readers of their adult defenses. He then proceeds to reinform those readers’ reckoning of one of life’s most tragic but inevitable experiences—the death of a father—in deft and startlingly perceptive terms. Of himself and his grownup siblings, all struggling to make sense of their father’s passing, the speaker remarks “We went to call [our father’s]...
(The entire section is 411 words.)