Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jerusalem Stone

We're having the annual "Week of the Hebrew Book" this week: a fine gimmick to encourage the sales of books. One evening I just happened to pass by the fairgrounds, totally coincidentially, mind you, and with no prior intention whatsoever I found myself wandering between the booths looking at books. Unfortunately I had my credit card on me, and I felt bad about the poor salespeople standing there with all those books to sell...

Anyway, one of the titles I rescued was a book of Yehuda Amichai's poetry on Jerusalem. Only after I got home did I notice that it's a bilingual edition, the original Hebrew, and an English translation.

So here's a poem, which is even vaguely contemporary:
האבן הירושלמית היא האבן היחידה
שכואבת. יש בה רשת עצבים.
מזמן לזמן מתגודדת ירושלים
להמון מחאה כמו מגדל בבל.
אך במקלות גדולים מכה אלוהים-המשטרה
לתוכה: בתים נחרבים, חומות נפרצות
ואחר-כך תתפזר שוב העיר, תוך מלמולי
תפילות תלונה וצעקות-פה-ושם מכנסיות
ומבתי כנסת וצריחים ממסגד.
כל אחד למקומו
Jerusalem stone is the only stone that can
feel pain. It has a network of nerves.
From time to time Jerusalem crowds into
mass protests like the tower of Babel.
But with hugh clubs God-the-Police beats her
down: houses are razed, walls flattened,
and afterwards the city disperses, muttering
prayers of complaint and sporadic screams from churches
and synagogues and loud-moaning mosques.
Each to his own place.

Poems of Jerusalem (Hebrew Edition)

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