Yehuda Amichai on Jerusalem- for tisha be-av

If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
Then let my right be forgotten.
Let my right be forgotten, and my left remember.
Let my left remember, and your right close
And your mouth open near the gate.

I shall remember Jerusalem
And forget the forest — my love will remember,
Will open her hair, will close my window,
will forget my right,
Will forget my left.

If the west wind does not come
I’ll never forgive the walls,
Or the sea, or myself.
Should my right forget
My left shall forgive,
I shall forget all water,
I shall forget my mother.

If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
Let my blood be forgotten.
I shall touch your forehead,
Forget my own,
My voice change
For the second and last time
To the most terrible of voices —
Or silence.

Let the memorial hill remember

Let the memorial hill remember instead of me,
that’s what it’s here for. Let the par in-memory-of remember,
let the street that’s-named-for remember,
let the well-known building remember,
let the synagogue that’s named after God remember
let the rolling Torah scroll remember, let the prayer
for the memory of the dead remember. Let the flags remember
those multicolored shrouds of history: the bodies they wrapped
have long since turned to dust. Let the dust remember.
Let the dung remember at the gate. Let the afterbirth remember.
Let the beasts of the field and birds of the heavens eat and remember.
Let all of them remember so that I can rest.

A Touch of Grace:

At times Jerusalem is a city of knives,
And even the hopes for peace are sharp enough to slice into
The harsh reality and they become dulled or broken.
The church bells try so hard to ring out calm, round tones,
But they become heavy like a pestle pounding on a mortar,
Heavy, muffled, downtrodding voices. And the cantor
And the muezzin try to sing sweetly
But in the end the sharp wail bursts forth:
O Lord, God of us all, The Lord is One
One, one, one, one.
(The Hebrew word for “one” also means “sharp” in Hebrew)

Love of the Land
by Yehuda Amichai / Translated by Linda Zisquit

And the land is divided
into districts of memory and regions of hope,
and the residents mingle with each other,
like people returning from a wedding
with those returning from a funeral.

And the land isn’t divided into war zones and peace zones.
And whoever digs a trench against cannon shells,
will return and lie in it with his girl,
if he lives till peace comes.

And the land is pretty.
Even surrounding enemies decorate it
with weapons shining in the sun
like beads on a neck.

And the lands a package-land:
and its well-tied and everything is in it,
and its tightly bound
and the strings sometimes hurt.

The land is very small
and I can contain it inside me.
The erosion of the land also erodes my rest
and the level of the Kinneret is always on my mind.
Therefore I am able to feel it entirely
by shutting an eye: sea-valley-mountain.
And therefore I am able to remember
all that’s happened in it
at once, like a person remembering
his entire life at the moment of death.

Poem #12 Eicha

“How doth the city sit solitary,” the prophet
lamented over Jerusalem.

If Jerusalem is a woman, does she know desire?
When she cries out, is it from pleasure
or pain? What is the secret of her appeal?
When does she open her gates willingly and when is it rape?

All her lovers abandon her, leaving her
with the wages of love necklaces earrings,
towers and houses of prayer
in the English, Italian, Russian, Greek, Arab styles,
wood and stone, turrets and gables, wrought-iron gates,
rings of gold and silver, riots of color. They all give her
something to remember her by, then abandon her.

I would have liked to talk to her again, but I lost her
among the dancers. Dance is total abandon.
Jerusalem sees only the skies above her
and whoever sees only the skies above–not
the face of her lover–truly does lie solitary,
sit solitary, stand solitary, and dance all alone.

“Songs of Zion the Beautiful #21”

Jerusalem’s a place where everyone remembers he’s forgotten something
but doesn’t remember what it is.
And for the sake of remembering I wear my father’s face over mine.
This is the city where my dream-containers fill up like a diver’s oxygen tanks.
Its holiness sometimes turns into love.
And the questions that are asked in these hills
are the same as they’ve always been: “Have you
seen my sheep?” “Have you seen my shepherd?”
And the door of my house stands open
like a tomb where someone was resurrected.

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