Today, a poem from Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), which encapsulates transitions from childhood to war to the pain of after, ending on a note of possibility:
- My father built over me a worry big as a shipyard
- and I left it once, before I was finished,
- and he remained there with his big, empty worry.
- and my mother was like a tree on the shore
- between her arms that stretched out toward me.
- And in ’31 my hands were joyous and small
- and in ’41 they learned to use a gun
- and when I first fell in love
- my thoughts were like a bunch of colored balloons
- and the girl’s white hand held them all
- by a thin string—then let them fly away.
- And in ’51 the motion of my life
- was like the motion of many slaves chained to a ship,
- and my father’s face like the headlight on the front of a train
- growing smaller and smaller in the distance,
- and my mother closed all the many clouds inside her brown closet,
- and as I walked up my street
- the twentieth century was the blood in my veins,
- blood that wanted to get out in many wars
- and through many openings,
- that’s why it knocks against my head from the inside
- and reaches my heart in angry waves.
- But now, in the spring of ’52, I see
- that more birds have returned than left last winter.
- And I walk back down the hill to my house.
- And in my room: the woman, whose body is heavy
- and filled with time.
From The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, ©1986, 1996
Translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell