Three Poems by Amir Or

 

Tomorrow

One generation goes and another comes and our eyes are still open
to see what the tomorrow we wish for will bring;
and again we reach our hands out to touch it,
hungering for sights that we have not seen.

We hunger and thirst for sights we’ve not seen,
for our lives have long since emptied of our lives;
and without the spirit’s food, the soul has died
to ask for mercy upon us.

How can we still ask for mercy, my brothers?
We’ve walked our lives in a world of ghosts.
Our hearts have grown big on the fat of sacrifices,
and we’ve put our trust in weapons and gold.

We’ve put our trust in lies, in the morals of bandits;
Our feelings have worn out, our minds have gone blunt,
and our hearts have known the truth of the dead:
all that we’ll be has already been.

For all that we’ll be is all that we’ve bitten:
flesh of paupers, of migrants, of Arabs, of elders;
and we have no I other than what we are –
where we asked for mercy but found none.

About eaters from trash-heaps, beggars for pensions,
about refugees we’ve expelled beyond borders,
about a girl at the checkpost, for a mother and sister,
about uprooters of olive-trees and despoilers of fields –

don’t say: it wasn’t our hands that did the grabbing
it wasn’t our mouths calling out in the cheering crowd
it wasn’t our hands that raised whip and steel here
we’ve just watched silently from the balcony above.

For silence is mire that seals up the soul –
If your hearts don’t cry out, stones will cry out.
When our home falls and collapses on all of us –
from every mouth will come a cry, and blood on everyone.

What tomorrow have you left here, fathers to sons?
Not to build means: to destroy.

 

A Song of Farewell

and when they commanded us in our own tongue
we no longer knew when
the barbarians had come to us

Farewell to you, land of swamps and desert
whose days we renewed as of old
Farewell, land of redemption and ardor
where the whole soul aspired for freedom

Farewell to you, hope of peace and equality,
the land of the people made free
Farewell, land that was like a vision
sanctified by the innocence of youth.

Farewell to you, homeland of the handsome,
dream of comradeship and of blood,
Farewell to you, our country, and thanks for being
before you became theirs.

 

When We Remember

Where, my brothers, will we find peace and tranquility?
How will we raise our bowed heads?
Where will we light the light of equality and freedom
anew in the now-emptied heart?

Where will we find again compassion and dream
to build an abode for our souls?
Where will we sing the songs of Zion, my brothers?
Where will we go from here?

 

Translated from the Hebrew by Richard Flantz 150223

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