Category Archives: Poetry?

Pontoù ar bed

Dindan an oabl gris, e gortoz kormoraned ha gwennili
ar baradoù avel ha glav daouganet evit fenozh.
Emaont war dossen maen Natural Bridges, evel amphorennoù kozh, lufr ha gweñv.
Bagadoù evned mor, uhel, a glask ar gwasked aboe ar beure.
Glas gwer eo ar mor, lent ar gwagennoù.
En em gejañ a raio hirie da nozh neizhioù dastumet pell, dreist d’hon bed,
Hon c’halonoù a vo glannaet gant tonnoù, pouner awalc’h da freuzañ ar reier.
Stouet eo an aod, pladennoù maen-raz prest da c’hoari.
Pik! Tiritariii… e-pad ma debr e verenn ur familh, hec’h-unan, e-kreiz an draezhenn divent.

Amen

Short commentary on Amichai’s poem I posted yesterday:

What one can imagine to be a billet-doux by the woman has turned into a question and a prayer. The street on a summer evening is now the western wall, remainder of the destroyed temple, where petitioners slip small folded scraps of paper into the cracks of the stones. The locked door is this impenetrable wall which separates the world into the two irreconcilable spheres of the living and the dead. A message in the form of a reminder, command or objurgation already sticks to it, though rolled and locked, not folded: the mezuzah. The faces of the woman or man are invisible to the urban moses and poet who has abandoned a certain religious life but still climbs daily sinais in the hope of catching a glimpse of a reality beyond words, yet never sees face to face, not even what is written on the piece of paper. What is written: scripture, the writings, or inscriptions on tombstones, to be revealed later in an oral torah of sorts, conversations, reminiscences and poems, and to be enshrined or entombed on doors, hands, and foreheads, inside wallets or diaries and history books.
Entombed lives are marked by erect stones that erode, fracture, or are broken, even desecrated. The single word “I believe” is enough to remember them. An amen of endurance and permanence. From within that firm assurance and singular ground of trust in a promise, before that inscribed mute stone, the poet writes on the paper laid out flat on his table. No matter where he turns, the words are carved deep in the heart, echoes and reminders of what was and cannot return except in this enduring acceptance of a language, a history, a people. From within that single declaration of fierce trust and humble acceptance, a soft song rises. Acceptance of a will, it doesn’t say whose but I make it mine. Everything passes, humans and their languages and inscribed stones. New languages come into being and resurrect from the dead, wholly other, yet heirs to promise and trust. New tongues, new lips that build an eternity with love letters.

Prayers remain forever

I’ve often been moved by Yehuda Amichai’s poems. Here is the unpointed text of Yehuda Amichai’s poem Gods change, the prayers remain forever, from the web (for instance here). My translation below. There are many translations of this and other poems of Amichai. For instance Open closed open: Poems, translation by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld (Harcourt, 2000), which I cannot see at my local bookstore’s website (Bookshop Santa Cruz) but is available at other places. The website I just indicated lists The selected poetry of Yehuda Amichai in paperback from UC Press (1996), which features translations by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell, only with English text as far as I can see.

אלים מתחלפים, התפלות נשארות לעד

,ראיתי ברחוב, בערב קיץ
ראיתי אשה שכתבה מלים
,על ניר פרוש על דלת עץ נעולה
.וקפלה ושמה בין דלת למזוזה והלכה לה
ולא ראיתי את פניה ולא את פני האיש
שיקרא את הכתוב
.ולא ראיתי את המלים
“,על שלחני מונחת אבן שכתוב עליה ”אמן
שבר מצבה, שארית מבית קברות יהודי
.שנחרב לפני כאלף שנים, בעיר שבה נולדתי
מלה אחת ”אמן“ חרותה עמוק באבן
,אמן קשה וסופי על כל שהיה ולא ישוב
,אמן רך ומזמר כמו בתפלה
.אמן ואמן, וכן יהי רצון
,מצבות נשברות, מלים חולפות, מלים נשכחות
,שפתים שאמרו אותן הפכו עפר
,שפות מתות כבני אדם
,שפות אחרות קמות לתחייה
,אלים בשמים משתנים, אלים מתחלפים
.התפלות נשארות לעד

Gods change, the prayers remain forever

I saw in the street, one summer evening,
I saw a woman who wrote words
on paper laid out on a locked wooden door,
folded it and put it between the door and the mezuzah and went off.
And I didn’t see her face or the face of the man
who would read the jotting
and I didn’t see the words.
On my table a stone rests on which is written “Amen”,
a tombstone’s fragment, remainder from a Jewish cemetery
that was destroyed a thousand years ago, in the city of my birth.
One word “Amen” carved deep in the stone
A hard and final amen on all that was and will not return,
A soft and singing amen like in a prayer,
Amen and amen, and may it be —‘s will.
Tombstones shatter, words change, words get forgotten,
Lips which said them turned to dust,
Tongues die like human beings,
Other tongues rise and resurrect,
Heavenly gods change, gods alternate,
The prayers remain forever.