Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai
Autobiography in the Year 1952
My father built a great worry around me like a dock
Once I left it before I was finished
And he remained with his great, empty worry.
And my mother—like a tree on the shore
Between her arms outstretched for me.

And in '31 my hands were merry and small
And in '41 they learned to use a rifle
And when I loved my first love
Read Poem

A Child is Something Else Again
A child is something else again. Wakes up
in the afternoon and in an instant he's full of words,
in an instant he's humming, in an instant warm,
instant light, instant darkness.

A child is Job. They've already placed their bets on him
but he doesn't know it. He scratches his body
for pleasure. Nothing hurts yet.
They're training him to be a polite Job,
Read Poem

In the Middle of This Century
In the middle of this century we turned to each other
With half faces and full eyes
like an ancient Egyptian picture
And for a short while.

I stroked your hair
In the opposite direction to your journey,
We called to each other,
Like calling out the names of towns
Read Poem

It's Been a While Since They Asked
It's been a while since they asked, Who lives in between these
And who was he, the last of the last to speak,
And who forgot his coat between these houses,
And who was the one who stayed. Why didn't he flee?

Among the blossomers, a dead tree stands, dead tree.
A long-standing error, a misunderstanding of yore,
The edge of the Land, where an era begins to be
Read Poem

Jews in the Land of Israel
We forget where we came from. Our Jewish
names from the Exile give us away,
bring back the memory of flower and fruit, medieval cities,
metals, knights who turned to stone, roses,
spices whose scent drifted away, precious stones, lots of red,
handicrafts long gone from the world
(the hands are gone too).

Circumcision does it to us,
Read Poem

Like Our Bodies' Imprint
Like our bodies' imprint
Not a sign will remain that we were in this place.
The world closes behind us,
The sand straightens itself.

Dates are already in view
In which you no longer exist,
Already a wind blows clouds
Which will not rain on us both.
Read Poem

A Pity, We Were Such a Good Invention
They amputated
Your thighs off my hips.
As far as I'm concerned
They are all surgeons. All of them.

They dismantle us
Each from the other.
As far as I'm concerned
They are all engineers. All of them.
Read Poem

Poem Without an End
Inside the brand-new museum
there’s an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
is me.
Inside me
my heart.
Inside my heart
a museum.
Read Poem

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.
I know that I know how to kill,
that makes me an adult.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
Read Poem

A Letter of Recommendation
On summer nights I sleep naked
in Jerusalem. My bed
stands on the brink of a deep valley
without rolling down into it.

In the daytime I walk around with the Ten
Commandments on my lips
like an old tune someone hums to himself.

Oh touch me, touch me, good woman!
Read Poem

Sabbath lie
On Friday, at twilight of a summer day
While the smells of food and prayer rose from every house
And the sound of the Sabbath angels’ wings was in the air,
While still a child I started to lie to my father:
“I went to another synagogue.”

I don’t know if he believed me or not
But the taste of the lie was good and sweet on my tongue
And in all the houses that night
Read Poem

The Amen Stone
On my desk there is a stone with the word “Amen” on it,
a triangular fragment of stone from a Jewish graveyard destroyed
many generations ago. The other fragments, hundreds upon hundreds,
were scattered helter-skelter, and a great yearning,
a longing without end, fills them all:
first name in search of family name, date of death seeks
dead man’s birthplace, son’s name wishes to locate
name of father, date of birth seeks reunion with soul
Read Poem

I Wasn’t One of the Six Million: And What Is My Life Span? Open Closed Open
My life is the gardener of my body. The brain—a hothouse closed tight
with its flowers and plants, alien and odd
in their sensitivity, their terror of becoming extinct.
The face—a formal French garden of symmetrical contours
and circular paths of marble with statues and places to rest,
places to touch and smell, to look out from, to lose yourself
in a green maze, and Keep Off and Don’t Pick the Flowers.
Read Poem

The School Where I Studied
I passed by the school where I studied as a boy
and said in my heart: here I learned certain things
and didn't learn others. All my life I have loved in vain
the things I didn't learn. I am filled with knowledge,
I know all about the flowering of the tree of knowledge,
the shape of its leaves, the function of its root system, its pests and parasites.
I'm an expert on the botany of good and evil,
I'm still studying it, I'll go on studying till the day I die.
Read Poem