הַבֻּבָּנַאי תּוֹלֶה אֶת בֻּבּוֹתָיו
מִסָּבִיב לַצַּוָּאר, לֹא לַלֵּב
אֶפְשָׁר לְהוֹצִיא שֵׁד
אֶפְשָׁר לְהוֹצִיא בּוּדְהָה
They led me along to the cloisters of the monks,
instructed me to remove the hat from my head,
and I beheld so many images of the Divine.
I almost burst into tears
at the sight of the crucified.
Would that I could have cried,
and told him too of my unbearable pain!…
How you dazzle since I realized
On my solitary wanderings
How your spirit so resembles
Indigo spring evenings.
And the moon — proud as your head;
And the tree — how like your stature;
And the grass — soft as your breast
On indigo spring evenings.
A fun, complex rhyme scheme that doesn’t work in English. C’est la vie.
Your meek one foresees cruel temptations
But trusts in your most holy name;
Living God, pray, how long shall you slumber
Through Edom and Araby’s glad exultations?
Oh dove, you whose hopes lie with me
I see how in bondage you dwell;
Exult freely in glory, forget your distress
Await me, my daughter, your reward is with me!
Your nesting dove sets out and flies
Beset by the ice and the cold;
In the desert the crows lie in wait for the dove;
God, redeem me! her heart wails and cries.
Those who seek me should hold their heads high,
For monarchs come bearing a gift;
My flock I’ll bring in, my shrines I’ll rebuild,
I’ll seek out the root of the son of Yishai.
Oh build up your Temple, reclaim
Zion’s towers, to weaken my strife,
Restore her; I’ll dwell, a choice lamb from the flock,
With you in your halls to extol your great name.
…for bound by my heart is my anguish
With edicts it will not appeal —
My sigh; and my mute sorrow’s wellspring
To you my lament won’t reveal.
Don’t ask me to tell of my wand’rings,
How much my own strength would afflict me,
What turmoil and chaos it was that
I feared so, that chased me and pricked me
To shelter beside you…— But be
Like a star for me in the void: calm,
May you brightly illume me with solace,
And wordless my wasted soul balm.
Then I’d gratefully welcome your kindness,
My daughter, your shadow caressing
Shall be where I dwell, your bosom my rest,
Where weary I whisper my blessing.
When dimly my day fades and darkens,
Soul shuttered by Night, dun and drear,
You’ll have my bequest, so long treasured
and hoarded — you shall inherit my tear…
Not that one.
Two things night brought me:
a withered leaf, a blighted scrap of rot,
lush spirit fled upon
the passing storm,
fell in death’s grip through my window
to bedshrouds soaked with my desolation
and spoke: it’s cold beneath the slabs of the tomb,
cold and damp…
then, ha-ha-ha, knocking at the window like glad tidings,
came a gleeful peal of laughter, born of a girl’s warm breast,
intimating nighttime secrets, the creases
in a black dress,
bounding like a gazelle through my blood,
drawing to my lips a thirsty tremble,
crying: desire! desire!
then banished to the night,
like the clear peal of a snowy bell
in blackening distances.
On my bedshrouds fluttered the leaf.
Dress me, pious mother, in a splendid coat of colors
Lead me with the dawn unto my toil.
Light enfolds my country in a talles.
Houses stand as if tefillin.
Hand-paved highways tumble down like straps.
A gleaming city lifts a morning prayer unto her Maker.
And among the makers:
Abraham your child,
Poet-paver son of Israel.
In the twilight of the evening
Father comes back from his labors,
Like a prayer he warmly whispers:
Abraham, my dearest child:
Flesh and bones and sinews.
Dress me, pious mother, in a splendid coat of colors,
Lead me with the dawn
Unto my toil.
The gulls within my heart
are pecking, squawking, urging me towards the sea.
The creaking, groaning ships,
the rolling waves,
the errant breezes breathing salt and sulfur
and sailors bustling, poets with their curses.
No yoke of times gone by, no fresh decrees.
The blur of ageless mists,
the chains of place and time dissolving.
I am pulled away.
Gulls within my heart.