Yehuda Amichai 1924-2000

We are always seeking inspiration to further our muse. We can look at a photograph and write a poem. We can read a poem and be prompted to tell a related story. Such is the case with these readings. The first, one of my favorite poems written by a man considered to be the pre-eminent Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai. “A Man in His Life” has caught my eye and heart and in this reading it takes on a life of its own.

From this poem, I had been moved to write a short story about an estranged father and son, who reunite after a trying time in both lives.

“A Man in His Life” by Yehuda Amichai / Procrasti-nate by Walter J Wojtanik

  “A Man in His Life” by Yehuda Amichai – Read by Walter J Wojtanik

A man doesn’t have time in his life
to have time for everything.
He doesn’t have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes
Was wrong about that.
A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment,
to laugh and cry with the same eyes,
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them,
to make love in war and war in love.
And to hate and forgive and remember and forget,
to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest
what history
takes years and years to do.
A man doesn’t have time.
When he loses he seeks, when he finds
he forgets, when he forgets he loves, when he loves
he begins to forget.
And his soul is seasoned, his soul
is very professional.
Only his body remains forever
an amateur. It tries and it misses,
gets muddled, doesn’t learn a thing,
drunk and blind in its pleasures
and its pains.
He will die as figs die in autumn,
Shriveled and full of himself and sweet,
the leaves growing dry on the ground,
the bare branches pointing to the place
where there’s time for everything.

“Procrasti-Nate” written and read by Walter J. Wojtanik

Nathan Shell was a good man, to hear his Mama tell it. “My son, the screenwriter” she would proclaim. But, all the same she loved her Nate. Unfortunately, Mama wasn’t around to make proclamations any more.

In the living room of his lifeless abode, Nathan Sheldon Jr. sat, staring at photographs on the wall… the grandfather clock… the sunbeam that danced across his morbid hardwood floor. He exhaled deeply, trying to expend every last breath of grief from his worn, tired chest. Nathan’s gaze focused on one last portrait. “MY SON, THE PUTZ!” he shouted loudly for no one to hear. “That woman loved you! You bastard! Not even for her funeral?” he hissed.

He missed his son as much as he missed his Reva. She had been buried only a few days; Nathan only made it home once a year since moving to Los Angeles. It may as well have been an eternity.

“I need to be close to the business, Papa.” Nathan begged off during their last conversation.

“She’s not a well woman! She needs you around.” Sheldon pleaded. “I need you” he admitted inwardly.

His son perplexed him. The senior had gotten over the fact that he changed his name to “Shell”. No one but Nate really minded that his name sounded “ethnic”. But he never had time anymore. No time to visit; too busy to call. Never time to write something for which he wouldn’t be paid.

“Who has time?” the elder resigned.

“REVA!” he called out, “This house is so empty without you.”


“Your memorial service, it was nice, no? So many friends. Important to so many people. They loved you. They respected you. Important to so many! But not to THAT SCHLEMIEL! YOUR SON, THE SCREENWRITER!”

Nathan’s anger boiled. He leaned over his armchair and spit, soiling the magnificent Persian rug Reva took so much pride in. No sooner did his sputum hit the floor covering that Nathan recoiled in regret.

He fell out of his recliner and to his knees, handkerchief in hand, blotting at the stain. Tears streamed from his sad eyes as his pleas for forgiveness fell upon the deafness of his vacant home.

“It’s only a rug” he heard in his head. “Only a rug.” Reva’s words came back to him hauntingly. Like the time he had spilled his coffee and soiled the arm of his chair.

“It’s only a chair, Nathan. Only a chair.” she always repeated. Words so important they had to be said twice.

The tears came freely now. Loud shivering sobs overwhelmed Nathan. He hadn’t cried like this since he was a schoolboy. Not when his Poppa died. Not when his younger brother Sol was consumed by the cancer. And this, the first tears that finally came for Reva. Loud shivering sobs.

He hadn’t noticed that the spot on the rug had vanished. He paid no attention to the fact that the sunbeam had transformed into the street lamp’s luminance. Nathan did not hear the resound of his door chime. There was knocking now.

“Papa?” the door voice called. “Papa, it’s me. Let me in?”

“Who?” the elder Nathan replied. “What do you want?”

“Papa, it’s Nate. Please Papa. I need to talk.”


“Papa?” Nate said softly now.

“What do you want? WHAT DO YOU WANT?”

The sound from behind the bolted door came almost as a whisper. Humble. Serene. A hint of shame lacing his expression.

“Forgiveness, Papa.” Nate apologized. “I’m sorry Papa, please forgive me.”

Nathan swiped a meaty hand across his brow, furrowed and spotted with flecks of brown. Again, with the voices, his head spun. Memories flooded. Reva filled his thoughts.

“Nathan, your brother Sol is here.”

“What does he want? I have nothing to say to that SCHIESTER!”

“Nathan. Your brother. Your own blood. He has something to tell you. Talk to him.”

“I have no time for him. I have no time for… talking!”

“Nathan?” she pleaded with her stubborn mule.


“Forgiveness, Nathan. Sol asks your forgiveness.”

“I have no time for for…” Nathan began, only to be silenced by her bony finger pressed against his thick lips.

“My sweet man. There is always time for forgiveness.” She smiled, now caressing his cheek.

“Always time for forgiveness” Nathan muttered, as he touched his face where her gentle hand once landed. He reached for the deadbolt.

His hand gave the doorknob a slow turn, opening to reveal his son. Nate stood contrite; literally with hat in hand, eyes lowered to the floor.

“I am sorry, Papa!” he demurred. “I am sorry.” he repeated. Words so important they had to be said twice.

“So, now you can make time for me in the time I have left?” Nathan prodded through squinted eyes.

“I have time for you Papa. I’ve put you off for too long. I have all the time you need. I’m home now, Papa!”

They came together in a thunderous embrace. Together again, for Reva’s sake. And it was about time.

Strive to find different resources to inspire your writings!