So open your window to the evening

Dear friends, readers, and lovely strangers who somehow ended up here because of a search term and decided to stay awhile,

Thank you for following my daily posts for National Poetry Month. I hope reading the poems has been as meaningful for you as it has been for me. Rest assured, I will continue to post from time to time…just not every day!

Today, I give you a piece from the great Israeli poet Natan Zach (1930-) via the comprehensive collection of translations recently published by Tavern Books. Here’s to sorrow and honey, the old and the young, to the lost and found…to the wind-shapes and to poetry.

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“A Farewell Song”

The old man holding the oar,
the man in shadows, the miller,
the couple making love in the barn
confirm the distant rumor of life
spoken of in rumors.
Night after night they stand near us,
spirits captive of their past–
once they resembled us
and could, if they so desired, sing.
Look! A youthful evening is falling
and they all return, the old with the young.
Oh, there’s never an end to sorrow,
also there is no sorrow in the world.
Frozen like figures of wax
far from the honey we gathered,
they turn out lives, as well,
in their own way to honey.
So open your window to the evening
and let the wind-shapes enter–
the old man holding the oar,
the man in shadows, the miller,
the couple crying out in the night–
to testify that nothing is lost here
and that nothing is here but what is lost
and that all their wants are laid upon us
and they rest in peace at last.

You gave then took them back

From the Palestinian-American poet and physician Fady Joudah (1971-).

“Travel Document”

It must be like forgetting how to die:
Your grass-grown ruins,
Stonewalls, sadness without eyes.
The body puts on its phantom
Limbs’ pain as true account
Of what happens, and a woman
Who’s worn the wrong size
Shoes, all her life in flight, her toes
Now crooked, calls flowers by names
You gave then took them back.

If it’s the body you want, there is the body
That couldn’t return, there is the one
That wouldn’t. Sullen
Vengeance. An egg’s
Invisible axis rising and sinking
In boiling water, salt
As measure for pickling olives,
Hands without echo’s desire
To be heard. Tell me, what else
Is there to say about land?

language uncommon and agile as truth

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“For This”

If I’ve reached for your lines (I have)
like letters from the dead that stir the nerves
dowsed you for a springhead
to water my thirst
dug into my compost skeletons and petals
you surely meant to catch the light:

-at work in my wormeaten wormwood-raftered
stateless underground
have I a plea?

If I’ve touched your finger
with a ravenous tongue
licked from your palm a rift of salt
if I’ve dreamt or thought you
a pack of blood fresh-drawn
hanging darkred from a hook
higher than my heart
(you who understand transfusion)
where else should I appeal?

A pilot light lies low
while the gas jets sleep
(a cat getting toed from stove
into nocturnal ice)
language uncommon and agile as truth
melts down the most intractable silence

A lighthouse keeper’s ethics:
you tend for all or none
for this you might set your furniture on fire
A this we have blundered over
as if the lamp could be shut off at will
rescue denied for some

and still a lighthouse be

–Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)