The late flowering of a Syrian-born poet

You’re never too old to become a poet, as The Jerusalem Post reports. (With thanks: Lily)

“Before the age of 70, Abraham Cohen had hardly ever written a line of poetry. There was a youthful effort, a poem about the curfews in Tel Aviv during the War of Independence, and some love poems he had written to his wife when they first met. But that was it.

“Cohen, now 72 and for many decades a successful psychotherapist in Manhattan, doesn’t know exactly why the switch suddenly flipped. Why, unexpectedly, after years of being a voracious reader of Hebrew poetry – of Bialik and Altman and Amichai, among many others – he began to write himself.

“But it happened. And after two years of stealing hours and minutes in between sessions with his patients at his Upper East Side office, he has managed to produce a slim volume of Hebrew poetry, Reddening Leaf (not yet translated into English). It is a collection of almost 50 short poems written in a lyrical style – some even rhyming – and touching on a range of moods from nostalgia to the frustration of unrequited love. Most tell highly personal and often tragic stories drawn from an eventful life lived in three very different places.

“Cohen was born in Aleppo, Syria, or, as he calls it, by its original name, Chaleb, named after the Hebrew and Arabic name for milk. (It is said that Abraham stopped in the city to milk his cows). Cohen’s family was part of the small Sephardic community that traced its origins back to Andalusia via Salonika. His father was a successful merchant, importing and selling cutlery and perfumes, and Cohen grew up in the closed world of the Jewish neighborhood, attending a local Talmud Torah and then a French Catholic school.

“In 1945, when Cohen was 12, misfortune struck his family. Both of his older brothers, one 18 and the other 17, died within a month. “First Rachamim, the older brother, fell ill with dysentery, lost a lot of blood and died in a few days,” said Cohen. “Then the younger brother, Moshe, who already had a heart condition and who my parents had just taken to Palestine, to Hadassah Hospital, to be treated, suddenly died also. My father was just about to shave his 30-day mourning beard for the elder brother.”

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