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Home > News & Politics > Israel > Israeli literary giant dies at 76

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Poems by Yehuda Amichai


God Has Pity on Kindergarten Children
God has pity on kindergarten children, He pities school children-less.
But adults he pities not at all.
He abandons them,
and sometimes they have to crawl on all fours
in the scorching sand
to reach the dressing station,
streaming with blood.

But perhaps
He will have pity on those who love truly
and take care of them
and shade them
Like a tree over the sleeper on the public bench.

Perhaps even we will spend on them
our last pennies of kindness
Inherited from mother,

So that their own happiness will protect us Now and on other days.

The Real Hero
The real hero of the Isaac story was the ram, who didn't know about the conspiracy between the others, As if he had volunteered to die instead of Isaac. I want to sing a song in his memory- about his curly wool and his human eyes, about the horns that were so silent on his living head, and how they made these horns into shofars when he was slaughtered to sound their battle cries or to blare out their obscene joy.
I want to remember the last frame
like a photo in an elegant fashion magazine:
the young man tanned and manicured in his jazzy suit
and beside him the angel, dressed for a party
in a long silk gown,
both of them empty-eyed, looking
at two empty places,
and behind them, like a coloured backdrop, the ram, caught in the thicket before the slaughter. The thicket was his last friend.
The angel went home.
Isaac went home.
Abraham and God had gone long before.
But the real hero of the Isaac story
Was the ram.

When I Was A Child
When I was a child
grasses and masts stood at the seashore,
and as I lay there
I thought they were all the same
because all of them rose into the sky above me.
Only my mother's words went with me like a sandwich wrapped in rustling waxpaper, and I didn't know when my father would come back because there was another forest beyond the clearing.
Everything stetched out a hand, a bull gored the sun with its horns, and in the nights the light of the streets caressed my cheeks along with the walls, and the moon, like a large pitcher, leaned over and watered my thirsty sleep.
(translated by Chana Bloch & Stephen Mitchell)

On My Return
I will not be greeted on my return by children's voices, or by the barking of a loyal dog, or by blue smoke rising as it happens in legends.
There won't happen for me any "and he lifted his eyes"-as in the Bible -- "and behold."
I have crossed the border of being an orphan. It's a long time since they called me an ex-serviceman.
I'm not protected anymore.
But I have invented the dry weeping
And who has invented this
has invented the beginning of the world's end, the crack and the tumbling down and the end.
(Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld)

I Studied Love
I studied love in my childhood in my childhood synagogue in the women's section with the help of the women behind the partition that locked up my mother with all the other women and girls. But the partition that locked them up locked me up on the other side. They were free in their love while I remained locked up with all the men and boys in my love, my longing. I wanted to be over there with them and to know their secrets and say with them, "Blessed be He who has made me according to his will." And the partition a lace curtain white and soft as summer dresses, and that curtain swaying to and fro with its rings and its loops, lu-lu-lu loops, Lulu, lullings of love in the locked room. And the faces of women like the face of the moon behind the clouds or the full moon when the curtain parts: an enchanted cosmic order. At night we said the blessing over the moon outside, and I thought about the women.
(Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld)

Reprinted with permission from © JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission


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