I am a city of bones
deep inside my marrow,
a song in electric chords,
decrescendo to mute, rise
to white noise, half silences
in a blank harmony as all
comes to nothing, my eyes
the central fire of my soul,
yellow, orange, red—gone
in an instant and then back
when I am, for a glimpse,
as precise as a bird’s breath,
when I am perfect, undone
by hope when hope will not
listen, the moon wasting
to where I need not worry
that bones turn to ash,
a brittle staccato in dust.
It wasn’t for love of having
children that I had a child.
Rather, I simply didn’t know how a person
could cross, fully shoeless, a bed of coals
and not burn, and I needed
someone to pass this to.
I needed my obtuseness to survive me.
But I never accounted for our thwarting era.
Every day, the paper
runs a remembrance
of a child, the notice struggling to sing the few
years lived: He never sketched the Earth without
its hatch of latitudes. She did
not like to try new foods.
translated by khaled mattawa
told us about raids
and deaths avenged,
but they never told us about martyrs.
The bells of the flock
the bleating of copper
that never ceased its ringing.
And the rivers and oases
that slipped from under
the hooves of their horses at night!
Night and horses—
is this what history is all about?
A fly wounds the water but the wound
soon heals. Swallows tilt and twitter
overhead, dropping now and then toward
the outward-radiating evidence of food.
The green haze on the trees changes
into leaves, and what looks like smoke
floating over the neighbor’s barn
is only apple blossoms.
But sometimes what looks like disaster
is disaster: the day comes at last,
and the men struggle with the casket
just clearing the pews.
translated by radu ioanid and matthew zapruder
A bird is a seed with wings
but the earth does not love her
she sprouts only by spreading her leaves
in skies plowed by the wind
She’s in the first booth left of the planters.
She’s been waiting an hour now.
She’s been waiting at the Watertown Family Buffet
with her little girl who’s dreamed up
some kind of a costume:
giant glasses, backwards cap, taffeta gown
which is clearly for him, for Al who’s
just now arriving, finally, and now
he’s seen them, and now
he’s walking over, and now
he’s standing there, standing there,
husband and father, or boyfriend and father,
or boyfriend and father figure, except
he’s way too late,
he’s too late times two and the party’s over
thank-you, and, no, they’re not having,
not the grin, not the story, not the hug.
The woman gets up, and then, face baggy with patience,
she nods to the girl who scoots out too,
and they exit together.
So over the chips and spilt dip,
over the drained Pepsi and big white cake
with “AL” in caps and quotes
he watches them go,
looks out at the parking lot,
opens his book.
Here’s the waitress with her pad and pen.
And what in hell is he reading?
translated by chana bloch and chana kronfeld
I passed by the school where I studied as a boy
and said in my heart: here I learned certain things
and didn’t learn others. All my life I have loved in vain
the things I didn’t learn. I am filled with knowledge,
I know all about the flowering of the tree of knowledge,
the shape of its leaves, the function of its root system, its pests and parasites.
I’m an expert on the botany of good and evil,
I’m still studying it, I’ll go on studying till the day I die.
I stood near the school building and looked in. This is the room
where we sat and learned. The windows of a classroom always open
to the future, but in our innocence we thought it was only landscape
we were seeing from the window.
The schoolyard was narrow, paved with large stones.
I remember the brief tumult of the two of us
near the rickety steps, the tumult
that was the beginning of a first great love.
Now it outlives us, as if in a museum,
like everything else in Jerusalem.