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Found in Translation: A 100 Years of Modern Hebrew Poetry

Agnon's Alef Bet

Selected Poems of Leah Goldberg

Sunset Possibilities and Other Poems


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from Found in Translation: A Hundred Years of Modern Hebrew Poetry Edited and introduced by Gabriel Levin. Menard Press, London, 1999.

Clockwork Doll

by Dalia Ravikovitch

I was a clockwork doll that night,
and I turned left and I turned right
and when I fell and broke to bits,
they recomposed my wax and wits.

I was a proper doll once more,
my manner carefully demure;
and yet a doll of another kind—
an injured twig that tendrils bind.

And when they asked me to a ball—
although my steps were rhythmical,
they partnered me with dog and cat.

My hair was gold, my eyes were blue.
I wore a dress where flowers grew.
Cherries blazed on my straw hat.

Toward Myself

by Leah Goldberg

The years have made up my face
with memories of love,
adorned my head
with silver threads
and made me beautiful.

Landscapes are reflected
in my eyes,
the paths I trod
have taught me to walk upright
with beautiful, though tired steps.

If you should see me now,
you would not recognise
the yesterdays you knew.
I go toward myself with a face
you looked for in vain
when I went toward you.

The spinner

by Natan Alterman

Silent the girl at the spindle
spun a scarlet thread.
She has spun me a royal mantle,
a king in his throne-room said.

Silent the girl at the spindle
spun a black midnight thread.
She has spun me a robe for the scaffold,
a thief in his dungeon said.

Silent the girl at the spindle
spun a golden thread.
She has spun me a garment to play in,
a wandering mummer said.

Silent the girl at the spindle
spun an old grey thread.
She has spun us a coat to mourn in,
a beggar and his mongrel said.

She took all the threads from the spindle
for the last robe she would spin.
Then down she went to the river
and washed her pure white skin.

And she put on the robe of her weaving—
no brighter ever was seen.
And now she is thief and beggar,
and she is mummer and queen.

Lightly a slight shadow

by Hayim Lenski

Lightly a slight shadow floats on the March snows.
Look! A starling is making its swift flight.
The horizon is pierced by its bill. A chick
from the crack of eggshell-thinness pecks its way.

Another day! Another day!
The stream bursts through its carapace of ice,
and the first thunder
shatters the silence of fields.
To their old nests birds return with a song.
My land, I shall see thee, I will see thee yet.

The monasteries lift gold domes . . .

by Yocheved Bat-Miriam

The monasteries lift gold domes . . .

The monasteries lift gold domes,
crosses, crosses. I weary, seeing them.
I speak in parables and they are strange;
otherwise, I could not meditate.

The memory of the ancient generations
rises like a vision: a temple strong and splendid.
The roads are humming like encircling rivers,
an exultant throng draws near.

We have fled, today, the parables of Mount Hermon,
of Mount Gilboa and the fields of Carmel;
Sharon and Galilee mourn only in the adage,
the lordly cedar only in the proverb.

Left with my poverty, I envy
every sown valley rising like a song.
An exile, strange to every wind,
may I be given field and fallow land.

Oh may my home be like a kneeling camel,
my days move onward like yoked mules;
my silent soul howls like the jackals,
and cries out like the sea!

Summer is dying

by Haim Nachman Bialik

Summer is dying in the purple and gold and russet
of the falling leaves of the wood,
and the sunset clouds are dying
in their own blood.

In the emptying public gardens
the last strollers break their walk
to lift their eyes and follow
the flight of the last stork.

The heart is orphaned. Soon
the cold rains will be drumming.
'Have you patched your coat for winter!
Stocked potatoes against its coming?'

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