But the world is beautifully made for doing good and for resting

A rainy day in Boulder Creek, California. December, 2019.

“A Quiet Joy”
by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)

I’m standing in a place where I once loved.
The rain is falling. The rain is my home.

I think words of longing: a landscape
out to the very edge of what’s possible.

I remember you waving your hand
as if wiping mist from the windowpane,

and your face, as if enlarged
from an old blurred photo.

Once I committed a terrible wrong
to myself and others.

But the world is beautifully made for doing good
and for resting, like a park bench.

And late in life I discovered
a quiet joy
like a serious disease that’s discovered too late:

just a little time left now for quiet joy.


But doubts and loves dig up the world

Today I carry with me, in my pocket and in my heart, these necessary words by the great Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000).


“The Place Where We Are Right”

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

You spoke words in praise of my transient face

It’s always a struggle to choose just one Yehuda Amichai poem to post because so much of his work completely blows me away. His book of collected poems has quickly become one of my favorites in the last year. I was flipping through it again tonight, and this poem was flagged with a small post-it from the past, asking to be shared.

“In the Middle of this Century”

In the middle of this century we turned to each other
with half a face and full eyes
Like an ancient Egyptian painting
For a short while.

I stroked your hair
Against the direction of the march.
We called each other
Like names of cities that one passes through
Along the road.

Beautiful is the world waking up for evil,
Beautiful is the world falling asleep for sin and grace.
In the discordance of our being together, you and I.
Beautiful is the world.

The earth drinks people and their loves
Like wine, in order to forget. Impossible.
Like the contours of the mountains of Yehuda,
We too will not find peace.

In the middle of this century we turned to each other.
I saw your body, casting a shadow, waiting for me.
The leather straps of a long voyage
Are tightened diagonally across my chest.

I spoke words in praise of your mortal loins,
You spoke words in praise of my transient face,
I stroked your hair in the direction of the march,
I touched the heralds of your end,
I touched your hand that never slept,
I touched your mouth that perhaps will sing.

The dust of the desert covered the table,
We did not eat on it.
But I wrote on it with my finger the letters of your name.