More work by this writer can be found in Poetry International #4 (San Diego State University 2000), and on the UN Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry website pages 706-716.
Author's note: In 1997, Hilmi Shusha, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy, was clubbed to death with a rifle by Nachum Korman, an Israeli settler. Korman served eight months in jail on a charge of manslaughter.
The Day of Blood
For Hilmi Shusha
We wanted to drop our hearts
off the porch; we knew the hearts of the old people
would reach the ground first, then the middle-aged ones,
and the children's last. But the bad man's smile
stretched out above us and in his presence we didn't dare compete with suffering.
We closed the shutters. All night we heard him laughing
outside the house, slowly, patiently,
one struck so hard on the mouth by angels
that his body forgot how to store its humanity,
and eluded the growing weight of pain.
We didn't dare step outside. We pretended we forgot
where we put our hearts,
red, humiliated, unable to cover their own nakedness.
I hardly know your name, but
I have seen a green flower in frost
cover your face with victory.
Before life caught up with you
the bad man was there, the one with no need
for animals, for he has the neighbor's children.
Night begins to stride, I follow
silently. When he bends
over the child's mouth, the hart's ears freeze.
My fear and the most anxious of animals
hear nothing. The child refuses to say
to whom he belongs. Only night waits
A child stands at the doorway. No. Not exactly
the doorway. A child frozen
on the verge of consciousness, the arm of a chair
the eye of a needle. I see, not with my eyes, but
with the fourth, the fifth eye
the lidless one, thrust in the back,
seeing those who stand and do not cross the threshold.
You don't want to leave and I don't want you to go.
Through me you see a tree hung in the window
and the sun leap onto the blue backs of the birds
through me you see
a dead little girl
appearing suddenly in the public park,
her mouth torn out and thrown into a hedge
and night, still half-hidden in the earth,
gripping her naked body,
climbing on her ankles, leaving red
stripes on her stomach.
I was smuggled away like a precious doll wrapped in rags
from the land of one God to the land of idols,
a large and beautiful silence galloped alongside me —
it took you on its back
when you were flung aside, nauseous, like a bitter green fruit,
to ride far away from the day of blood.
You are moving toward me now, your arms blue with the effort
to grab my hair — look I am turning
toward you and all my years rebel, look a naked girl rises
from the hedges, look I present you with the body I didn't know
was mine, with which I could not stop,
then as now,
the death of another,
which is also mine.
Translated from the Hebrew by Lisa Katz