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.

You have beautiful love material

From one of the most well-respected and wonderful Israeli poets, Yehuda Amichai.


A stewardess told us to extinguish all smoking materials
And did not detail, cigarette, cigar, or pipe.
I answered her in my heart: You have beautiful love material,
And I did not detail either.

And she told me to buckle up, bind myself
To the chair, and I answered:
I want all the buckles in my life to have the shape of your mouth.

And she said: You want coffee now or later,
Or never. And she passed by me
Tall to the sky.

The small scar at the top of her arm
Testified that she will never be touched by smallpox
And her eyes testified that she’ll never fall in love again:
She belongs to the conservative party
Of lovers of one great love in their life.

Let it be like wild flowers

Tonight, three from Yehuda Amichai, (1924-2000) who is considered one of the finest modern Israeli poets.

“For My Mother”


Like an old windmill,
Two hands always raised to scream up to the sky
And two descending to make sandwiches.

Her eyes clean and polished
As on the eve of Passover.

At night, she puts all the letters
And the photographs next to each other,

To measure with them
The length of God’s finger.


I want to walk in the deep
Wadis between her sobs.

I want to stand in the hot wind
Of her silence.

I want to learn
On the rough trunks of her pain.


She puts me,
As Hagar put Ishmael,
Under one of the bushes.

So she won’t see me die in the war,
Under one of the bushes
In one of the wars.

“Wild Peace”

Not the one of an armistice,
Not even the one of the vision of wolf and lamb,
As in your heart after an excitement:
To talk only of a great weariness.
I know that I know how to kill,
I am grown up.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
How to open and close its eyes and say “Mama.”
Without the commotion of turning swords into plowshares, without
words, without
The sound of heavy seals; let it be light
On top, like lazy white foam.
Rest for the wounds,
Not even healing.
(And the scream of orphans is passed on from one generation
To another, as in a relay race: the baton won’t fall.)

Let it be
Like wild flowers,
Suddenly, an imperative of the field:
Wild peace.

“Again, A Love is Finished”

Again a love is finished, like a successful citrus season,
Or a digging season ofarr archaeologists, bringing up from the depths
Exciting things that wanted to be forgotten.

Again a love is finished. As after the demolition
Of a big house, and the cleaning of the debris, you’re standing
In the square empty lot, saying: How small
The space where the house stood
With all its stories and people.

And from the distant valley, you hear
A lonely tractor working,
And from the distant past, the clatter
Of a fork on a porcelain plate, mixing
And whipping up yoke with sugar for the child,
Clatter, clatter.