Elisha Porat: Four poems

A HAUNTED POET

      to the memory of Abba Kovner
      translated from the Hebrew by Tsipi Keler

Years he smoked, burned, inhaled
filthy butts that wrecked his lungs
with tuberculosis:
muscus, cough and pain.
He didn't cry he didn't shout,
he only groaned in private,
and in whispers dictated notes
to those bending over his bed.
The sound of chimes and bells
interrupted the silence of his last nights
always alerting his heart's flight:
He didn't save from the fires
a loving mother chasing
after him, clinging as he walks,
as if he were a baby again,
holding her ashes
on his last day.

THE LOST SON

     translated from the Hebrew by Asher Harris

He came back, but he came like a stranger.
He came back, looked about and did not
Recall, for to him, all appeared estranged:
The house, the yard, the narrow lane.
Their memory sliced through his heart,
Cut, and he who survived and was favoured
Came back; and he who had sworn back there
That nothing would be forget, estranged though it be:
A dirt path, and the barren field and the ditch
At the edge, and the lemon tree with its bitter fruit.
He felt that his absence was almost ordained:
To come back at last, to come like a stranger
With a shadowy memory that was not estranged,
And an unravelled thread of burning desire
That will never more be made whole.

STRANGE SNOW

      translated from the Hebrew by Riva Rubin

Strange soft snow descends
on the slopes of Jebel-El-Kebir,
chill and silent it falls
on dugouts and vehicles
armored on the screens of memory.
Astray in me in the damp haze
forgotten comrades call
whose lives once touched my life
now grown distant beyond the roads
the roadblocks the rolling hardare.
Once, among them, I saw
such a pure white suddenly crushed;
minced and ploughed under and rearing up
and then subsiding silently absorbing
rent veins an reddening stain.

THREE COLORS

      translated from the Hebrew by Seymour Mayne

On Memorial Day I make my way up
to the small military cemetery.
In the northwestern corner
we've placed a grey basalt rock
and facing the southern corner --
a blanching chunk of chalk.
And between under the loose sand
our red loam
spreads itself all around.

And when the loudspeaker booms out
the memorial prayer
I close my eyes
and see those three colors
descend before me and disappear
into the encroaching shadow of the stones.