from I Foretell the Days of Yore

by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld, translating from the Hebrew by Yehuda Amichai

copyright ©2000 by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

1

The flight attendants of the next millennium came to me and said:
You can still get a seat on the third millennium before liftoff.
Come with us, dead or alive, we’ll take you along. We have no malice,
no defenses, but we’re strong and mobile as constellations,
our eyes are closed but we can see.
We are women who glide between life and death.
You with your seat belts and gear belts and buckles that click shut,
you, sir, you with the noise of a door closing,
we with our voices of glide and whisper.
Our belts are not for safety or holding up our clothes,
they are snakes, they are not decoration. Gliding spirals,
we are acrobats looping the loops of wish and would.
You with your warm worries and emotions
heavy as cow dung in the field,
you with the sweat of your death like an afterlife perfume.

Notes on the Poem

Do the opening line and first stanza of "I Foretell the Days of Yore", Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld translating Yehuda Amichai's poetry in Hebrew in "Open Closed Open", draw you in to the rest of the poem? If so, how? If not, well ... First lines in prose and poetry regularly - if somewhat unfairly - can make or break the reader's commitment to continuing with a work. Singular and captivating lines are often remembered, revered, cited, and propel the reader on to successive lines, stanzas, paragraphs, chapters and on through a work. That opening can set the tone, set the pace, ask a question, pose a puzzle or predicament the reader is eager to absorb more of or solve. Proof of the power of first lines in poetry can even be found via indicators such as the #1stLine hashtag on Twitter. In fact, the sly title of this poem starts the intrigue even before the first line. What does Amichai mean - exactly, ironically - in declaring tht he prophecies the past? As the reader continues through the stanza, what is it about those flight attendants that fascinates? "We are women who glide between life and death." As attendants, they'll ably prepare us and safeguard us on this flight. Or will they? "Our belts are not for safety", it turns out. And where is this flight taking us? Are they angels ... or something else? What in this first line and first section entices you to continue through all 12 sections of the poem?

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