Monday, February 8, 2010

The Soul has no Body but the Body has a Soul

Could a poem bearing the Valentine's-Day-appropriate title "You are my Girlfriend" be scandalous? Yes, if it's written in Hebrew. In the ancient tongue of Moses, all second-person references are gender specific. "You are my Girlfriend", by late Israeli poet Yona Wallach, is written for a man.

It also features the Hebrew equivelants of such words as "pussy" and "prick". When the ministry of education caught word that a teacher in sleepy suburban Kfar Saba was teaching it to 12th graders, they reprimanded her strongly. Her students were shocked that their favorite teacher, the one who actually got them to love literature, was under fire. They quickly formed a guerilla cell and launched a media attack.

The story got exposed in "Haaretz" and made powerful enough waves that Gideon Sa'ar, The Minister of education, felt obliged to comment. He came to the teacher's defence, while maintaining that the poem should not be taught. "There are limits", he said.

This in turn stirred further wrath among Wallach's fans. Today's Haaretz editorial sharply criticizes the minister. I find that while the poem really can't be mistaken for anything by Beatrix Potter and may not be the poet's finest (a translation is provided) I side with the paper.

I too was taught texts by Wallach (pronounced Vollach) in high school, and they are why I believe in Hebrew poetry. They taught me that poetry is a living creature, that it is the most dangerous, fantastic form of art there is. Yes, Wallach's poetry is lewed, it's as lewed as the language these kid's speak, which is why they would find it credible, which is why they would believe other poets, which is why they will end up writing poetry themselves.

Wallach's fearless use of language and blurring of gender lines are part of what makes her great (a peek into my previous post will clarify my position on woman who challange gender cliches), but it's only a part of it. She's great because she is profound. If the ministry of Education can't deal with profound poetry, than literature shouldn't be taught here at all. Minister Sa'ar recently initiated a program featuring visits by military officers to schools. I think we should forget about teaching the kids how to read, and just have do with teaching them how to kill. That's not considered so controversial around these parts.

You are my Girlfriend / Yona Wallach

You are my girlfriend
You've got the head of a girl
And you are a girl girl
Like that sweet kid
Said to me in appreciation
You are a guy girl
Or otherwise a girl guy
Because to begin with
Women are undervalued
But your crooked head
Makes you live with a girl
Maybe she's really a guy girl
But you don't talk about it
You live an established life
"Comme il faut"
Similar to all other lives
But entirly empty
Open only outwards
Without content that isn't there
Isn't there
Because your essences are different
And they are silent and paralized
And censored
She may not know
And may not ever know
That she's a lesbian who prefers guys
And you are a gay man who prefers girls
And you are a girl
She's a guy
It kind of works together
It's the mind that matters after all
Not the bodily form
Imagined testicles
Concealing a desiring pussy
Or a pussy
Concealing testicles
A bit of of beauty, of vain charm
Brings about preciseness, the balancing of deviance
Which awakens regardless
With the excessive honesty
Drawing a line down from the mouth
Lack of humor, trecherous charm
In a language as if that of simple teaching
That fails to consider the existance of lie of trechery
With all its complex charmingness lightness cunningness
That must be fought that is essintial
A funny little empty demon
But me I have exact feeling
I hear your fucking voice
Smokey scorched cynical
And I know by the angle of the harm you inflict on me
The voice of the gay man
Tat caught me on accident and is exploiting her to the end
In order to trick me lurking for me waiting for me to give all
Really really whatamistake I thought of you as a guy
I called him you
Girl, you take advantage of the oppurtunity rising over my momentary ignorance
And you crucify me instantly
Forgetting yourself and the main problem of your life
Perhaps recalling them via my forgetfullness above me rests a face
That awaits unconscious sensativity of me so as to look
without thinking that I can learn something of this in replay
to set you a more cleaver trap next time
and forgetting that you, girl, are like everybody else
You wish to advance stay alive
To draw a contineous line of experience
It's feminine wickedness I'm suddenly recruiting to the aid of my understanding
And grabbing the prize dear me something here can be precieved
Really a typical feminine structure feminine wickedness
And to always be you
My girlfriend sweet one with testicles
And the body of a guy
The first girlfriend I've had who taught me how a girl's head works
To be acquainted with what is central in life
To the personality forming from one moment to the next to your own lack of awareness
To not knowing who you are in you
With sexual essence its center but as character not sex
Something that can be seperated and heard in a clear voice
That can't be played if unknown
As if we are not
There is no pussy between the legs, no prick there
A spirit wothout a body is moving about the house
Which explains beliefs in the eternal nature of the soul its independance from body and consciousness
The soul has no body but the body has a soul
Facial expressions deny the existance of body
All the time the soul and God speak to us and that is very good
Otherwise we'd forget that we exist and are alive
Otherwise all would be lost without the seperation by a third party
In this case the adoption of an impossible but sufficiantly suspicious identity.

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