THE END OF THE WAR
He came at midnight, both legs lopped off,
Though his old wounds had long since healed.
He came through the third-story window —
I was struck with wonder at how he got in.
We'd lived through an age of calamity;
Many had lost their closest kin.
In streets sown with shredded papers
The orphan survivors were skipping about.
I was frozen as crystal when he came.
He thawed me like pliant wax,
Altered me even as the pall of night
Turns into the feather of dawn.
His bold spirit translucent as mist
That streams from the morning clouds.
SURELY YOU REMEMBER
After they all go home
I remain alone with the poems,
some of my own,
some of others.
Poems that others have written I love best of all.
I remain in the silence
and the choking in my throat relaxes.
Sometimes I wish they would all go home.
Writing poems may be a pleasant thing to do.
You sit in your room and the walls grow taller.
Colors grow bolder.
A blue kerchief turns into the depth of a well.
You wish everyone would leave.
You don't know what's the matter with you.
Perhaps you'll think of a thing or two.
Then it will all pass, and you'll be pure crystal.
And then love.
Narcissus was so much in love with himself.
Only a fool doesn't see that he loved the river too.
You sit alone.
Your heart pains you, but it's not going to break.
The faded dramatis personae are erased one by one.
Then the flaws are erased. Then a sun
sets at midnight. You remember
that dark flowers too.
You wish you were dead or alive or anyone else.
Isn't there even one country you love?
Isn't there even one word?
Surely you remember.
Only a fool lets the sun set at its own pleasure.
It always sets off too early westward for the islands.
Sun and moon, winter and summer will come to you.
IN CHAD AND CAMEROON
By the oases of Chad and Cameroon
European settlers sit around all afternoon,
despairing of life.
They no longer care about manners.
Not far from them a band of lepers
The elders with no fingers.
At eventide, no wind in the sky.
It's as hot as always. But then
a pinkish glow rises from the waters
in Chad and Cameroon
and falls upon the European men.
EVEN FOR A THOUSAND YEARS
I cannot bring a world quite round
and there's no sense trying.
Day unto day and day unto night utter nothing.
Sweet peas, margosas and roses bloom in the spring,
all of them life size and in full color.
The truly original doesn't sprout up here,
not once in ten years.
Whoever wants to breathe attar of roses
let him gather it from the wind,
and whoever wants to plant a tree
let him plant a fig tree
for the benefit of generations to come.
Ask me if I've ever seen beauty
and I'll answer, Yes, quite a bit,
but not where it should be.
Say, that cataract on the river:
Of course I've seen it,
Mighty waterfalls are not such a pleasant sight.
The truly beautiful doesn't stroll around outside,
sometimes it comes to pass in a room
when the doors are locked, the shutters drawn tight.
The truth is, a thing of beauty
isn't a river or a mountain or an ocean view.
I know too much about all of them to delude myself
and think up something new.
What's left after the pain is just curiosity
to see how things turn out.,
what they'll come to in the end,
all those beautiful things.
I know: I don't have to plant a fig tree.
There are other options.
One could always wait for spring, roses and gladioli.
But time makes people grow tough as fingernails,
gray as rocks
stubborn as stone.
It's a seductive prospect, perhaps — to turn into a block of salt.
With mineral power.
To stare empty-eyed at this potash and phosphate factory
even for a thousand years.
DEEP UNTO DEEP
In Jerusalem I had my days of roses.
What is Jerusalem if not one neighborhood after another?
I came to her young and came back years later
like some odd creature.
in a house not my own,
I lifted mine eyes unto the hills
to see if help was nigh.
There before my eyes
clouds reached out to one another,
dark cypresses rustled beneath me.
Suddenly from the ends of the West
an eccentric shard of sun
swooped from on high.
And my longings flooded me like the sea,
sawed in my head kike a cricket,
swarmed like a hornet's nest —
so delirious was I.
POEM OF EXPLANATION
Some people know how to love,
for others it's just not right.
Some people kiss in the street
while others would rather not
— and not just in the street.
I think it's a talent like any other,
that may be its power.
Like the rose of Sharon
that knows how to flower,
like the lily of the valley
that chooses its color.
a rose or a lily in bloom
can dazzle a man's eyes.
I don't mean to offend:
I'm aware there's more than one kind.
Honeysuckers are the loveliest of birds
to my mind,
but if someone is so inclined,
let him go to the sparrow.
Even so, I keep telling myself,
a sparrow that struts and frets,
a ram with three heads,
an apple that never grows red
— no, that's not me.
TWO ISLES HATH NEW ZEALAND
Africa's not the place to go right now.
Plagues, famine — the human body can't bear it.
Brutality. They flog human beings with bullwhips.
Asia — it would make your hair stand on end.
Trapped in the mountains, trapped in the swamps.
The human body can't bear it,
there are limits to the life's force, after all.
As for me,
He shall make me lie down in green pastures
in New Zealand.
Over there, sheep with soft wool,
the softest of wools,
graze in the meadow.
Truehearted folk herd their flocks,
on Sundays they pay a visit to church
dressed in sedate attire.
No point hiding it any longer:
We're an experiment that went awry,
a plan that misfired,
tied up with too much murderousness.
Why should I care about this camp or that,
screaming till their throats are raw,
splitting fine hairs.
In any case, too much murderousness.
To Africa I'm not going
and not to Asia, either.
I'm not going any place.
In New Zealand
in green pastures, beside still waters,
will share their bread with me.
Translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld
Dahlia Ravikovitch (1936-2005), mother, peace activist, and above from her collected poems:
Hovering At A Low Altitude (Norton)