Here lies, buried, precious treasure The future of our beloved land Pride of our fledgling nation Our youth, our joy, our hope, Now turned to sorrowing dust.
They were all young, but children, really In the full flush of youth Such promise for the hungry tomorrow Blessings betrayed and all rules Of nature turned upside down.
The girls gaily giggled The young men, boys, really, Whistled and winked as they strutted about It was all such fun, such youthful fun The words of parents paled beside.
The words of parents, mostly whispered; And even that by but a few. A whole nation looked on, but shirked duty As the future swiftly withered and died.
They were in school, but the teachers taught nothing. Some went to church, but the priests spoke little about daily living; Pie in the sky and peace and bliss hereafter, their only platform.
Gone too, the wisdom of the Old Foresaken, the knowledge of yesteryear That knew and accepted what is only natural Understood the folly that would block the swells of a surging river And knew how all children needed mothers and fathers; Embraced all thildren; charged every man and woman with their nurturing.
‘It takes a village’, belatedly, we now say; at last remembering Faded lessons, traditions hastily discarded in blind pursuit Of progress, of fashion, of assimilation. Now, finally seeing How we ran open-armed, embracing our annihilation. Now, sorrow jogs memory and we join empty hands As we frantically try once more to guide, To lead the new generation as before, To show the way to the House of Adulthood Leaving none behind, losing few as can be.
Eye turned back to a time long forgotten When the measure of a man Was not the fatness of his pocket But his deeds of glory; shunning abomination. When neighbour trusted neighbour; his safety secure at his presence His home, his folk, his property – all sovereign His neighbour, his best protection against all His children, insurance against old age and infirmity. But that was before the nation learnt to bury all its children; See its morrow fade, its treasure interred; The youth, its pride, its hope and joy obliterated. The nation’s tomorrow, no more – ah, sad day, When we buried our most precious treasures!
Welcome to this house your home, here you breathe the bitter cold of that absent breath. Welcome to this house of anger and tears, indeed you can sit where your footsteps run out where your skin dries. The house has changed a bit —you’ll forgive me— but I’ve avoided painting it so that the cracks of time will give it a little bit of that familiar tinge.
It is the same house, don’t be afraid, that same one that we built some time ago, waiting to be alone enough to live in it.
We present this work in honor of the 20th anniversary of the poet’s death.
Heavy are my verses— Stones uphill. I will carry them up to the crag, The resting place. I will fall face down in the weeds, Tears will not do. I will rend my strophe— The verse will burst out crying. Pain cuts into my palm— Nettles! The day’s bitter taste turns All to words.
There was a month I called May. When I buried it in papers, passion streaming down, flooding the tiles of the rooms. Herds of gazelles searching for mercy lap it up…and I wander about in search of a knife to sharpen against my cheekbones, as I turn the pages of these moments. You are a stranger to me, and your eyes are the foam of distances running like rivers between us. Don’t ask me about my evaporating grief; perhaps it has become salt with which to doctor wounds, or maybe seeds I can scatter across the floor, to absorb the words that creep there in search of a story. Perhaps my sorrow was a bedsheet that couldn’t cover its old bed. Its only pretext was to gaze at the sky and snatch up stars. Thus, with no trace of treason. We were sitting on the couch casting glances into the horizon, arrows of light years. Waiting, we dified the hours. Our revolt…ashamed to wear a mask, its savage visage. Our feet stalked insects to crush them, while they flaunted themselves like naked words Determined to gasp their last breaths in our sight. Between us there are also silken buds, fluttering spring butterflies. Their clusters are like the sun’s bashfulness when it gathers the girl’s milk teeth, causing the seasons, and among them you, cunning Spring. Is what’s between us the empire of Ahmad Taha? Or those gleaming golden circles, panting behind steely eyes? I wish I were a leaf, with cells in rows. My splendor, seasons borne by sailboats. My ending the winter, when geckos hide away to dream of new plants growing. From your bandaged wounds, in salt and fog, soaring across riverbanks the morning of erupting promises, running from shore to quay like a short story collapsing breathless on the streets, Does anyone forbid fabrication?
Or might those cities that swallow fog conjure the word away too? The same palm outstretched to God, the same bare feet. The same eyes, sparkling with poetry’s delight. Is this why you tremble, dreading the city’s pages? Is this why you left the streets, to seek refuge in the nightmares of years? Will you take comfort in the disgrace of seasons, and the vagrancy of lone words on the sidewalks of meaninglessness?
Your love was like moonlight turning harsh things to beauty, so that little wry souls reflecting each other obliquely as in cracked mirrors… beheld in your luminous spirit their own reflection, transfigured as in a shining stream, and loved you for what they are not.
You are less an image in my mind than a luster I see you in gleams pale as star-light on a gray wall… evanescent as the reflection of a white swan shimmering in broken water.
To be a Jew in the twentieth century Is to be offered a gift. If you refuse, Wishing to be invisible, you choose Death of the spirit, the stone insanity
Accepting, take full life. Full agonies: Your evening deep in labyrinthine blood Of those who resist, fail, and resist; and God Reduced to a hostage among hostages.
The gift is torment. Not alone the still Torture, isolation; or torture of the flesh. That may come also. But the accepting wish, The whole and fertile spirit as guarantee For every human freedom, suffering to be free, Daring to live for the impossible.
We present this work in honor of the 25th anniversary of the poet’s death.
In my garden, roses: I don’t want to give you roses that tomorrow… that tomorrow you won’t have.
In my garden, birds with crystal song: I do not give them to you; they have wings to fly.
In my garden, bees craft a fine hive: A minute’s sweetness… I don’t want to give you that!
For you, the infinite or nothing: what is immortal or this mute sadness you won’t understand… The unnamable sadness of not having something to give to someone who carries on the forehead a portion of eternity.
Leave, leave the garden… Don’t touch the roses: things that die should not be touched.