Thursday, 2 November 2017

3 Poems by Yehuda Amichai, for the Balfour Centenary

Today marks 100 years since the famous "Balfour Declaration" - the statement issued in a letter by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour pledging British support for the aim of re-establishing the ancestral home of the Jewish people.  I felt this would be an appropriate time to share a few of my favourite poems by Yehuda Amichai,  who was born in Wurzburg, Germany, died in Israel in September 2000, and was often been regarded as the foremost poet writing in Israel. The short poem below is somewhat typical of his accessible style of writing - but underscored by a deceptive simplicity, crystallizing manifold metaphors.

Yehuda Amichai (1924 - 2000)


In a modern museum
In an old synagogue
In the synagogue
Within me
My heart
Within my heart
A museum
Within a museum
A synagogue
Within it
Within me
My heart
Within my heart
A museum 



 A night drive to Ein Yahav1 in the Arabah.
A drive in the rain. Yes, in the rain.
There, I met people who grow date palms.
There, I saw great tamarisk trees2 and great risk trees
There, I saw hope3 barbed like barbed wire
And I said to myself: It is the truth. Hope must be
Like barbed wire to keep out our despair.
Hope must be a minefield.



Not the peace of a cease-fire
not even the vision of the wolf and the lamb,
but rather
as in the heart when the excitement is over
and you can talk only about a great weariness.

...let it be
light, floating, like lazy white foam.
A little rest for the wounds – who speaks of healing?
(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation
to the next, as in a relay race:
the baton never falls.)

Let it come
like wildflowers,
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.

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