February 2000

Yehuda Amichai


Yehuda Amichai Yehuda Amichai was born in 1924 in Germany and emigrated to Palestine in 1936. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages including Chinese, Estonian and Albanian. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Israel Prize, his country's highest honor. Open Closed Open was published in Israel in the original Hebrew in 1998, and will be published by Harcourt in spring 2000. This is his first appearance online.
Introduction to the work of Yehuda Amichai by Chana Bloch 


Ein Yahav    Click to hear in real audio

A night drive to Ein Yahav in the Arava Desert,
a drive in the rain. Yes, in the rain.
There I met people who grow date palms,
there I saw tamarisk trees and risk trees,
there I saw hope barbed as barbed wire.
And I said to myself: That's true, hope needs to be
like barbed wire to keep out despair,
hope must be a mine field.



Yad Mordechai   Click to hear in real audio

Yad Mordechai. Those who fell here 
still look out the windows like sick children
who are not allowed outside to play. 
And on the hillside, the battle is reenacted
for the benefit of hikers and tourists. Soldiers of thin sheet iron
rise and fall and rise again. Sheet iron dead and a sheet iron life
and the voices all—sheet iron. And the resurrection of the dead,
sheet iron that clangs and clangs.

And I said to myself: Everyone is attached to his own lament
as to a parachute. Slowly he descends and slowly hovers
until he touches the hard place.



A Jewish Cemetery in Germany    Click to hear in real audio

On a little hill amid fertile fields lies a small cemetery,
a Jewish cemetery behind a rusty gate, hidden by shrubs, 
abandoned and forgotten. Neither the sound of prayer 
nor the voice of lamentation is heard there 
for the dead praise not the Lord.
Only the voices of our children ring out, seeking graves
   and cheering 
each time they find one—like mushrooms in the forest, like
   wild strawberries. 
Here's another grave! There's the name of my mother's 
mothers, and a name from the last century. And here's a name, 
and there! And as I was about to brush the moss from the name—
Look! an open hand engraved on the tombstone, the grave 
   of a kohen,
his fingers splayed in a spasm of holiness and blessing,
and here's a grave concealed by a thicket of berries 
that has to be brushed aside like a shock of hair 
from the face of a beautiful beloved woman.

— translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

Chana Bloch (Jerry Bauer)Chana Bloch, author of the prize-winning Mrs. Dumpty and co-translator of The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai and the Song of Songs, directs the Creative Writing Program at Mills College.

Chana KronfeldChana Kronfeld, teaches Hebrew and Comparative Literature at U.C. Berkeley. She writes about Amichai in her book, On the Margins of Modernism, winner of the MLA Scaglione Prize.



Yehuda Amichai: Poetry
Copyright 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 10The Cortland Review