by Yehuda Amichai
On a roof in the Old City
laundry hanging in the late afternoon sunlight
the white sheet of a woman who is my enemy,
the towel of a man who is my enemy,
to wipe off the sweat of his brow.
In the sky of the Old City
At the other end of the string,
I can’t see
because of the wall.
We have put up many flags,
they have put up many flags.
To make us think that they’re happy
To make them think that we’re happy.
Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind the heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel’s Tomb and Herzl’s Tomb
And on the top of Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust over our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.
Once I sat on the steps by a gate at David’s Tower. I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. “You see that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there’s an arch from the Roman period. Just right of his head.” “But he’s moving, he’s moving!” I said to myself: “redemption will come only if their guide tells them, ‘You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it, left down and a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.’”
Ecology of Jerusalem
The air over Jerusalem is saturated with prayers
like the air over industrial cities.
It’s hard to breathe.
And from time to time a new shipment of history
and the houses and towers are its packing materials.
Later these are discarded and piled up in dumps.
And sometimes candles arrive instead of people
and then it’s quiet.
And sometimes people come instead of candles
and then there’s noise.
And in enclosed gardens heavy with jasmine
like wicked brides that have been rejected,
lie in wait for their moment.
From Poems of Jerusalem by Yehuda Amichai. Tel Aviv: Schocken Publishing, 1987.