David Lehman |
Some people find out they are Jews.
They can't believe it.
Thy had always hated Jews.
As children they had roamed in gangs on winter nights in the old
neighborhood, looking for Jews.
They were not Jewish, they were Irish.
They brandished broken bottles, tough guys with blood on their
lips, looking for Jews.
They intercepted Jewish boys walking alone and beat them up.
Sometimes they were content to chase a Jew and he could elude
them by running away.
They were happy just to see him run
The coward! All Jews were yellow.
They spelled Jew with a small j jew.
And now they find out they are Jews themselves.
It happened at the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
To escape persecution, they pretended to convert to Christianity.
They came to this country and settled in the Southwest.
At some point oral tradition failed the family, and their
secret faith died.
No one would ever have known if not for the bones that turned up
on the dig.
How could it have happened to them?
They are in a state of panic--at first.
Then they realize that it is the answer to their prayers.
They hasten to the synagogue or build new ones.
They are Jews at last!
They are free to marry other Jews, and divorce them, and intermarry
with Gentiles, God forbid.
They are model citizens, clever and thrifty.
They debate the issues.
They fire off earnest letters to the editor.
They are resented for being clever and thrifty.
They buy houses in the suburbs and agree not to talk so loud.
They look like everyone else, drive the same cars as everyone else,
yet in their hearts they know they're different.
In every minyan there are always two or three, hated by
the others, who give life to one ugly stereotype or another:
The grasping Jew with the hooked nose or the Ivy League Bolshevik
who thinks he is the agent of world history.
But most of them are neither ostentatiously pious nor
How I envy them! They believe.
How I envy them their annual family reunion on Passover,
anniversary of the Exodus, when all the uncles and aunts and
cousins get together.
They wonder about the heritage of Judaism they are passing along
to their children.
Have they done as much as they could to keep the old embers
Others lead more dramatic lives.
A few go to Israel.
One of them calls Israel "the ultimate concentration camp.
He tells Jewish jokes.
On the plane he gets tipsy, tries to seduce the stewardess.
People in the Midwest keep telling him reminds them of Woody
He wonders what that means.
I'm funny? A sort of nervous
intellectual type from New York? A Jew?
Around this time somebody accuses him of not being Jewish enough.
It is said by resentful colleagues that his parents changed their
name from something that sounded more Jewish.
Everything he publishes is scrutinized with reference to "the
It is no longer clear what is meant by that phrase.
He has already forgotten all the Yiddish he used to know, and
the people of that era are dying out one after another.
The number of witnesses keeps diminishing.
Soon there will be no one left to remind the others and their
That is why he came to this dry place where the bones have come
To live in a state of perpetual war puts a tremendous burden on the
As a visitor he felt he had to share that burden.
With his gift for codes and ciphers, he joined the counter-
terrorism unit of army intelligence.
Contrary to what the spook novels say, he found it possible to
avoid betraying either his country or his lover.
This was the life: strange bedrooms, the perfume of other men's
As a spy he has a unique mission: to get his name on the front
page of the nation's newspaper of record.
Only by doing that
would he get the message through to his immediate superior.
If he goes to jail, he will do so proudly; if they're going to
hang him anyway, he'll do something worth hanging for.
In time he may get used to being the center of attention, but
this was incredible:
To talk his way into being the chief suspect in the most
flamboyant murder case in years!
And he was innocent!
He could prove it!
And what a book he would write when they free him from this prison:
A novel, obliquely autobiographical, set in Vienna in the twilight
of the Hapsburg Empire, in the year that his mother was born.
Marilyn Hacker |
An unwrapped icon, too potent to touch,
she freed my breasts from the camp Empire dress.
Now one of them's the shadow of a breast
with a lost object's half-life, with as much
life as an anecdotal photograph:
me, Kim and Iva, all stripped to the waist,
hiking near Russian River on June first
'79: Iva's five-and-a-half.
While she was almost twenty, wearing black
T-shirts in D.
, where we hadn't met.
You lay your palm, my love, on my flat chest.
In lines alive with what is not regret,
she takes her own path past, doesn't turn back.
Persistently, on paper, we exist.
Persistently, on paper, we exist.
You'd touch me if you could, but you're, in fact,
three thousand miles away.
And my intact
body is eighteen months paper: the past
a fragile eighteen months regime of trust
in slash-and-burn, in vitamin pills, backed
by no statistics.
Each day I enact
survivor's rituals, blessing the crust
I tear from the warm loaf, blessing the hours
in which I didn't or in which I did
consider my own death.
I am not yet
statistically a survivor (that
is sixty months).
On paper, someone flowers
and flares alive.
I knew her.
But she's dead.
She flares alive.
I knew her.
But she's dead.
I flirted with her, might have been her friend,
but transatlantic schedules intervened.
She wrote a book about her Freedom Ride,
the wary elders whom she taught to read,
— herself half-British, twenty-six, white-blonde,
with thirty years to live.
And I happened
to open up The Nation to that bad
news which I otherwise might not have known
(not breast cancer: cancer of the brain).
Words take the absent friend away again.
Alone, I think, she called, alone, upon
her courage, tried in ways she'd not have wished
by pain and fear: her courage, extinguished.
The pain and fear some courage extinguished
at disaster's denouement come back
daily, banal: is that brownish-black
mole the next chapter? Was the ache enmeshed
between my chest and armpit when I washed
rogue cells' new claw, or just a muscle ache?
I'm not yet desperate enough to take
comfort in being predeceased: the anguish
when the Harlem doctor, the Jewish dancer,
die of AIDS, the Boston seminary's
dean succumbs "after brief illness" to cancer.
I like mossed slabs in country cemeteries
with wide-paced dates, candles in jars, whose tallow
glows on summer evenings, desk-lamp yellow.
Aglow in summer evening, a desk-lamp's yellow
moonlight peruses notebooks, houseplants, texts,
while an aging woman thinks of sex
in the present tense.
Desire may follow,
urgent or elegant, cut raw or mellow
with wine and ripe black figs: a proof, the next
course, a simple question, the complex
response, a burning sweetness she will swallow.
The opening mind is sexual and ready
to embrace, incarnate in its prime.
Rippling concentrically from summer's gold
disc, desire's iris expands, steady
with blood beat.
Each time implies the next time.
The aging woman hopes she will grow old.
The aging woman hopes she will grow old.
A younger woman has a dazzling vision
of bleeding wrists, her own, the clean incisions
suddenly there, two open mouths.
their speechless secrets, witnesses not called
to what occurred with as little volition
of hers as these phantom wounds.
of scars, in flesh, in spirit.
by mine in ranks where now I'm "being brave"
if I take off my shirt in a hot crowd
sunbathing, or demonstrating for Dyke Pride.
Her bravery counters the kitchen knives'
insinuation that the scars be made.
With, or despite our scars, we stay alive.
"With, or despite our scars, we stayed alive
until the Contras or the Government
or rebel troops came, until we were sent
to 'relocation camps' until the archives
burned, until we dug the ditch, the grave
beside the aspen grove where adolescent
boys used to cut class, until we went
to the precinct house, eager to behave
I count my hours and days,
finger for luck the word-scarred table which
is not my witness, shares all innocent
objects' silence: a tin plate, a basement
door, a spade, barbed wire, a ring of keys,
an unwrapped icon, too potent to touch.
Emma Lazarus |
Here, where the noises of the busy town,
The ocean's plunge and roar can enter not,
We stand and gaze around with tearful awe,
And muse upon the consecrated spot.
No signs of life are here: the very prayers
Inscribed around are in a language dead;
The light of the "perpetual lamp" is spent
That an undying radiance was to shed.
What prayers were in this temple offered up,
Wrung from sad hearts that knew no joy on earth,
By these lone exiles of a thousand years,
From the fair sunrise land that gave them birth!
How as we gaze, in this new world of light,
Upon this relic of the days of old,
The present vanishes, and tropic bloom
And Eastern towns and temples we behold.
Again we see the patriarch with his flocks,
The purple seas, the hot blue sky o'erhead,
The slaves of Egypt, -- omens, mysteries, --
Dark fleeing hosts by flaming angels led.
A wondrous light upon a sky-kissed mount,
A man who reads Jehovah's written law,
'Midst blinding glory and effulgence rare,
Unto a people prone with reverent awe.
The pride of luxury's barbaric pomp,
In the rich court of royal Solomon --
Alas! we wake: one scene alone remains, --
The exiles by the streams of Babylon.
Our softened voices send us back again
But mournful echoes through the empty hall:
Our footsteps have a strange unnatural sound,
And with unwonted gentleness they fall.
The weary ones, the sad, the suffering,
All found their comfort in the holy place,
And children's gladness and men's gratitude
'Took voice and mingled in the chant of praise.
The funeral and the marriage, now, alas!
We know not which is sadder to recall;
For youth and happiness have followed age,
And green grass lieth gently over all.
Nathless the sacred shrine is holy yet,
With its lone floors where reverent feet once trod.
Take off your shoes as by the burning bush,
Before the mystery of death and God.
Charlotte Bronte |
I've quenched my lamp, I struck it in that start
Which every limb convulsed, I heard it fall
The crash blent with my sleep, I saw depart
Its light, even as I woke, on yonder wall;
Over against my bed, there shone a gleam
Strange, faint, and mingling also with my dream.
It sunk, and I am wrapt in utter gloom;
How far is night advanced, and when will day
Retinge the dusk and livid air with bloom,
And fill this void with warm, creative ray ?
Would I could sleep again till, clear and red,
Morning shall on the mountain-tops be spread!
I'd call my women, but to break their sleep,
Because my own is broken, were unjust;
They've wrought all day, and well-earned slumbers steep
Their labours in forgetfulness, I trust;
Let me my feverish watch with patience bear,
Thankful that none with me its sufferings share.
Yet, Oh, for light ! one ray would tranquilise
My nerves, my pulses, more than effort can;
I'll draw my curtain and consult the skies:
These trembling stars at dead of night look wan,
Wild, restless, strange, yet cannot be more drear
Than this my couch, shared by a nameless fear.
All blackone great cloud, drawn from east to west,
Conceals the heavens, but there are lights below;
Torches burn in Jerusalem, and cast
On yonder stony mount a lurid glow.
I see men stationed there, and gleaming spears;
A sound, too, from afar, invades my ears.
Dull, measured, strokes of axe and hammer ring
From street to street, not loud, but through the night
Distinctly heardand some strange spectral thing
Is now uprearedand, fixed against the light
Of the pale lamps; defined upon that sky,
It stands up like a column, straight and high.
I see it allI know the dusky sign
A cross on Calvary, which Jews uprear
While Romans watch; and when the dawn shall shine
Pilate, to judge the victim will appear,
Pass sentenceyield him up to crucify;
And on that cross the spotless Christ must die.
Dreams, then, are truefor thus my vision ran;
Surely some oracle has been with me,
The gods have chosen me to reveal their plan,
To warn an unjust judge of destiny:
I, slumbering, heard and saw; awake I know,
Christ's coming death, and Pilate's life of woe.
I do not weep for Pilatewho could prove
Regret for him whose cold and crushing sway
No prayer can soften, no appeal can move;
Who tramples hearts as others trample clay,
Yet with a faltering, an uncertain tread,
That might stir up reprisal in the dead.
Forced to sit by his side and see his deeds;
Forced to behold that visage, hour by hour,
In whose gaunt lines, the abhorrent gazer reads
A triple lust of gold, and blood, and power;
A soul whom motives, fierce, yet abject, urge
Rome's servile slave, and Judah's tyrant scourge.
How can I love, or mourn, or pity him ?
I, who so long my fettered hands have wrung;
I, who for grief have wept my eye-sight dim;
Because, while life for me was bright and young,
He robbed my youthhe quenched my life's fair ray
He crushed my mind, and did my freedom slay.
And at this houralthough I be his wife
He has no more of tenderness from me
Than any other wretch of guilty life;
Less, for I know his household privacy
I see him as he iswithout a screen;
And, by the gods, my soul abhors his mien !
Has he not sought my presence, dyed in blood
Innocent, righteous blood, shed shamelessly ?
And have I not his red salute withstood ?
Aye,when, as erst, he plunged all Galilee
In dark bereavementin affliction sore,
Mingling their very offerings with their gore.
Then came hein his eyes a serpent-smile,
Upon his lips some false, endearing word,
And, through the streets of Salem, clanged the while,
His slaughtering, hacking, sacrilegious sword
And I, to see a man cause men such woe,
Trembled with ireI did not fear to show.
And now, the envious Jewish priests have brought
Jesuswhom they in mockery call their king
To have, by this grim power, their vengeance wrought;
By this mean reptile, innocence to sting.
Oh ! could I but the purposed doom avert,
And shield the blameless head from cruel hurt!
Accessible is Pilate's heart to fear,
Omens will shake his soul, like autumn leaf;
Could he this night's appalling vision hear,
This just man's bonds were loosed, his life were safe,
Unless that bitter priesthood should prevail,
And make even terror to their malice quail.
Yet if I tell the dreambut let me pause.
What dream ? Erewhile the characters were clear,
Graved on my brainat once some unknown cause
Has dimmed and rased the thoughts, which now appear,
Like a vague remnant of some by-past scene;
Not what will be, but what, long since, has been.
I suffered many things, I heard foretold
A dreadful doom for Pilate,lingering woes,
In far, barbarian climes, where mountains cold
Built up a solitude of trackless snows,
There, he and grisly wolves prowled side by side,
There he lived famishedthere methought he died;
But not of hunger, nor by malady;
I saw the snow around him, stained with gore;
I said I had no tears for such as he,
And, lo ! my cheek is wetmine eyes run o'er;
I weep for mortal suffering, mortal guilt,
I weep the impious deedthe blood self-spilt.
More I recall not, yet the vision spread
Into a world remote, an age to come
And still the illumined name of Jesus shed
A light, a clearness, through the enfolding gloom
And still I saw that sign, which now I see,
That cross on yonder brow of Calvary.
What is this Hebrew Christ ? To me unknown,
His lineagedoctrinemissionyet how clear,
Is God-like goodness, in his actions shewn !
How straight and stainless is his life's career !
The ray of Deity that rests on him,
In my eyes makes Olympian glory dim.
The world advances, Greek, or Roman rite
Suffices not the inquiring mind to stay;
The searching soul demands a purer light
To guide it on its upward, onward way;
Ashamed of sculptured godsReligion turns
To where the unseen Jehovah's altar burns.
Our faith is rottenall our rites defiled,
Our temples sullied, and methinks, this man,
With his new ordinance, so wise and mild,
Is come, even as he says, the chaff to fan
And sever from the wheat; but will his faith
Survive the terrors of to-morrow's death ?
* * * * *
I feel a firmer trusta higher hope
Rise in my soulit dawns with dawning day;
Lo ! on the Temple's roofon Moriah's slope
Appears at length that clear, and crimson ray,
Which I so wished for when shut in by night;
Oh, opening skies, I hail, I bless your light !
Part, clouds and shadows ! glorious Sun appear !
Part, mental gloom ! Come insight from on high !
Dusk dawn in heaven still strives with daylight clear,
The longing soul, doth still uncertain sigh.
Oh ! to behold the truththat sun divine,
How doth my bosom pant, my spirit pine !
This day, time travails with a mighty birth,
This day, Truth stoops from heaven and visits earth,
Ere night descends, I shall more surely know
What guide to follow, in what path to go;
I wait in hopeI wait in solemn fear,
The oracle of Godthe soletrue Godto hear.
Emanuel Xavier |
“Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars;
see that ye not be troubles;
all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet”
I escape the horrors of war
with a towel and a room
to Palestinian and Jewish boys
as a ‘piece’ to the Middle East
when I should be concerned with the untimely deaths
of dark-skinned babies
and the brutal murders
of light-skinned fathers
I’ve been more consumed with how to make
the cover of local fag rags
than how to open the minds
of angry little boys
trotting loaded guns
Helpless in finding words
that will stop the blood
from spilling like secrets into soil
where great prophets are buried
I return to the same spaces
where I once dealt drugs
a celebrated author gliding past velvet ropes
while my club kid friends are mostly dead
from an overdose or HIV-related symptoms
Marilyn wears the crown of thorns
while 4 out of the 5 weapons used to kill Columbine students
had been sold by the same police force
that came to their rescue
Not all terrorists have features too foreign
to be recognized in the mirror
Our mistakes are our responsibility
The skyline outside my window
is the only thing that has changed
Men still rape women
and blame them for their weaknesses
Children are still molested
by the perversion of Catholic guilt
My ex-boyfriend still takes comfort
in the other white powder-
the one used solely to destroy himself
and those around him
Not the one used to ignite and create carnage
or mailbox fear
It is said when skin is cut,
and then pressed together, it seals
but what about acid-burned skulls
engraved with the word ‘faggot’,
a foot bone with flesh
and other crushed body parts
It was a gay priest that read last rites
to firefighters as towers collapsed
It was a gay pilot that crashed a plane
into Pennsylvania fields
It was a gay couple that was responsible
for the tribute of light
in memory of the fallen
Taliban leaders would bury them
to their necks
and tumble walls to crush their heads
Catholic leaders simply condemn them
having offered nothing but sin
Queer blood is just rosaries scattered on tile
Heroes do not always get heaven
We all have wings .
some of us just don’t know why
Yehuda Amichai |
You mustn't show weakness
and you've got to have a tan.
But sometimes I feel like the thin veils
of Jewish women who faint
at weddings and on Yom Kippur.
You mustn't show weakness
and you've got to make a list
of all the things you can load
in a baby carriage without a baby.
This is the way things stand now:
if I pull out the stopper
after pampering myself in the bath,
I'm afraid that all of Jerusalem, and with it the whole world,
will drain out into the huge darkness.
In the daytime I lay traps for my memories
and at night I work in the Balaam Mills,
turning curse into blessing and blessing into curse.
And don't ever show weakness.
Sometimes I come crashing down inside myself
without anyone noticing.
I'm like an ambulance
on two legs, hauling the patient
inside me to Last Aid
with the wailing of cry of a siren,
and people think it's ordinary speech.
Robert Pinsky |
A monosyllabic European called Sax
Invents a horn, walla whirledy wah, a kind of twisted
Brazen clarinet, but with its column of vibrating
Air shaped not in a cylinder but in a cone
Widening ever outward and bawaah spouting
Infinitely upward through an upturned
Swollen golden bell rimmed
Like a gloxinia flowering
In Sax's Belgian imagination
And in the unfathomable matrix
Of mothers and fathers as a genius graven
Humming into the cells of the body
Or cupped in the resonating grail
Of memory changed and exchanged
As in the trading of brasses,
Pearls and ivory, calicos and slaves,
Laborers and girls, two
Cousins in a royal family
Of Niger known as the Birds or Hawks.
In Christendom one cousin's child
Becomes a "favorite negro" ennobled
By decree of the Czar and founds
A great family, a line of generals,
Dandies and courtiers including the poet
Pushkin, killed in a duel concerning
His wife's honor, while the other cousin sails
In the belly of a slaveship to the port
Of Baltimore where she is raped
And dies in childbirth, but the infant
Will marry a Seminole and in the next
Chorus of time their child fathers
A great Hawk or Bird, with many followers
Among them this great-grandchild of the Jewish
Manager of a Pushkin estate, blowing
His American breath out into the wiggly
Tune uncurling its triplets and sixteenths--the Ginza
Samba of breath and brass, the reed
Vibrating as a valve, the aether, the unimaginable
Wires and circuits of an ingenious box
Here in my room in this house built
A hundred years ago while I was elsewhere:
It is like falling in love, the atavistic
Imperative of some one
Voice or face--the skill, the copper filament,
The golden bellful of notes twirling through
Their invisible element from
Rio to Tokyo and back again gathering
Speed in the variations as they tunnel
The twin haunted labyrinths of stirrup
And anvil echoing here in the hearkening
Instrument of my skull.
William Topaz McGonagall |
Composed, by Special Request, 18th June 1890
Then Pilate, the Roman Governor, took Jesus and scourged Him,
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and thought it no sin
To put it on His head, while meekly Jesus stands;
They put on Him a purple robe, and smote Him with their hands.
Then Pilate went forth again, and said unto them,
Behold, I bring Him forth to you, but I cannot Him condemn,
And I would have you to remember I find no fault in Him,
And to treat Him too harshly 'twould be a sin.
But the rabble cried.
Hail, King of the Jews, and crucify Him;
But Pilate saith unto them, I find in Him no sin;
Then Jesus came forth, looking dejected and wan,
And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man.
Then the Jews cried out, By our laws He ought to die,
Because He made Himself the Son of God the Most High;
And when Pilate heard that saying the Jews had made,
He saw they were dissatisfied, and he was the more afraid.
And to release Jesus Pilate did really intend,
But the Jews cried angrily, Pilate, thou art not Caesar's friend,
Remember, if thou let this vile impostor go,
It only goes to prove thou art Caesar's foe.
When Pilate heard that he felt very irate,
Then he brought Josus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat,
In a place that is called the Pavement,
While the Blessed Saviour stood calm and content.
The presence of His enemies did not Him appal,
When Pilate asked of Him, before them all,
Whence art Thou, dost say from on High?
But Jesus, the Lamb of God, made no reply.
Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest Thou not unto me,
Remember, I have the power to crucify Thee;
But Jesus answered, Thou hast no power at all against me,
Except from above it were given to thee.
Then Pilate to the Jews loudly cried,
Take Him away to be crucified;
Then the soldiers took Jesus and led Him away,
And He, bearing His Cross, without dismay.
And they led Him to a place called Golgotha,
But the Saviour met His fate without any awe,
And there crucified Him with two others, one on either side,
And Jesus in the midst, whilst the Jews did Him deride.
Then Pilate tried to pacify the Jews, they felt so morose,
And he wrote a title, and put it on the Cross;
And the title he wrote did the Jews amuse,
The writing was, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.
This title read many of the Jews without any pity;
And the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city;
And the title was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin,
And while reading the title the Jews did laugh and grin.
While on the Cross the sun refused to shine,
And there was total darkness for a long time;
The reason was God wanted to hide His wounds from view,
And He kept the blessed sun from breaking through.
And to quench His thirst they gave Him vinegar and hyssop,
While the blood from His wounded brow copiously did drop,
Then He drank of it willingly, and bowed His head,
And in a few minutes the dear Saviour was dead.
Then Joseph of Arimathea sadly did grieve,
And he asked if Pilate would give him leave
To take the body of Jesus away,
And Pilate told him to remove it without delay.
Then Joseph took the body of Jesus away,
And wound it in linen, which was the Jewish custom of that day,
And embalmed his body with spices sweet,
Then laid it in a new sepulchre, as Joseph thought meet.
But death could not hold Him in the grave,
Because He died poor sinners' souls to save;
And God His Father took Him to Heaven on high;
And those that believe in Jesus shall never die.
Oh! think of the precious Blood our Saviour did loss,
That flowed from His wounds while on the Cross,
Especially the wound in His side, made with a spear,
And if you are a believer, you will drop a silent tear.
And if you are not a believer, try and believe,
And don't let the devil any longer you deceive,
Because the precious Blood that Jesus shed will free you from all sin,
Therefore, believe in the Saviour, and Heaven you shall enter in!
Yevgeny Yevtushenko |
No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.
I am afraid.
Today I am as old in years
as all the Jewish people.
Now I seem to be
Here I plod through ancient Egypt.
Here I perish crucified, on the cross,
and to this day I bear the scars of nails.
I seem to be
is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
Beset on every side.
Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face.
I seem to be then
a young boy in Byelostok.
Blood runs, spilling over the floors.
The barroom rabble-rousers
give off a stench of vodka and onion.
A boot kicks me aside, helpless.
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
"Beat the Yids.
some grain-marketeer beats up my mother.
0 my Russian people!
are international to the core.
But those with unclean hands
have often made a jingle of your purest name.
I know the goodness of my land.
How vile these anti-Semites-
without a qualm
they pompously called themselves
the Union of the Russian People!
I seem to be
as a branch in April.
And I love.
And have no need of phrases.
is that we gaze into each other.
How little we can see
We are denied the leaves,
we are denied the sky.
Yet we can do so much --
embrace each other in a darkened room.
They're coming here?
Be not afraid.
Those are the booming
sounds of spring:
spring is coming here.
Come then to me.
Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
No, it's the ice breaking .
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar.
The trees look ominous,
Here all things scream silently,
and, baring my head,
slowly I feel myself
And I myself
am one massive, soundless scream
above the thousand thousand buried here.
each old man
here shot dead.
here shot dead.
Nothing in me
shall ever forget!
The "Internationale," let it
when the last anti-Semite on earth
is buried forever.
In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage, all anti-Semites
must hate me now as a Jew.
For that reason
I am a true Russian!
Yehuda Amichai |
On a little hill amid fertile fields lies a small cemetery,
a Jewish cemetery behind a rusty gate, hidden by shrubs,
abandoned and forgotten.
Neither the sound of prayer
nor the voice of lamentation is heard there
for the dead praise not the Lord.
Only the voices of our children ring out, seeking graves
each time they find one--like mushrooms in the forest, like
Here's another grave! There's the name of my mother's
mothers, and a name from the last century.
And here's a name,
and there! And as I was about to brush the moss from the name--
Look! an open hand engraved on the tombstone, the grave
of a kohen,
his fingers splayed in a spasm of holiness and blessing,
and here's a grave concealed by a thicket of berries
that has to be brushed aside like a shock of hair
from the face of a beautiful beloved woman.