...that sort of poetry which seems as if sculpture or painting were just forced or forcing itself into words. The gulf between evocation and description, in this latter case, is the unbridgeable distance between genius and talent.
When I Banged My Head on the Door
By Yehuda Amichai
When I banged my head on the door, I screamed,
"My head, my head," and I screamed, "Door, door,"
and I didn't scream "Mama" and I didn't scream "God."
And I didn't prophesy a world at the End of Days
where there will be no more heads and doors.
When you stroked my head, I whispered,
"My head, my head," and I whispered, "Your hand, your hand,"
and I didn't whisper "Mama" or "God."
And I didn't have miraculous visions
of hands stroking heads in the heavens
as they split wide open.
Whatever I scream or say or whisper is only
to console myself: My head, my head.
Door, door. Your hand, your hand.
--Translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell ~ Book
It was so simple: you came back to me
And I was happy. Nothing seemed to matter
But that. That you had gone away from me
And lived for days with him—it didn’t matter.
That I had been left to care for our old dog
And house alone—couldn’t have mattered less!
On all this, you and I and our happy dog
Agreed. We slept. The world was worriless.
I woke in the morning, brimming with old joys
Till the fact-checker showed up, late, for work
And started in: Item: it’s years, not days. Item: you had no dog. Item: she isn’t back, In fact, she just remarried. And oh yes, item: you Left her, remember? I did? I did. (I do.)
Whoever has no home now will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander along the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.
--Version based on a translation by Stephen Mitchell ~ Book
...Also in Hell,
I do not doubt it, there exist these opulent gardens
With flowers as large as trees, wilting, of course,
Very quickly, if they are not watered with very expensive water. And fruit markets
With great heaps of fruit, which nonetheless
Possess neither scent nor taste. And endless trains of autos,
Lighter than their own shadows, swifter than
Foolish thoughts, shimmering vehicles, in which
Rosy people, coming from nowhere, go nowhere.
And houses, designed for happiness, standing empty,
Even when inhabited. ...