Two poems by Yehuda Amichai, considered Israel's finest poet.
My Mother on Her Sickbed
My mother on her sickbed with the lightness/
and hollowness of a person/
Who has already said goodbye at an airport/
In the beautiful and quiet area/
Between parting and takeoff.
My mother on her sickbed
All she had in life is now
Like empty bottles in front of the door
That will show once more with colored labels
What filled them with joy and sadness.
Her last words. Take the flowers out of the room,
She said seven days before her death,
Then she closed her eyes for seven days,
Like the seven days of mourning.
But even her death created in her room
A warm hominess
With her sleeping face and the cup with its teaspoon
And the towel and the book and the glasses,
And her hand on the blanket, the same
hand that felt my forehead, in childhood.
I, may I rest in peace – I, who am still living, say,
May I have peace in the rest of my life.
I want peace right now while I'm still alive.
I don't want to wait like that pious man who wished for one leg
of the golden chair of Paradise, I want a four-legged chair
right here, a plain wooden chair. I want the rest of my peace now.
I have lived out my life in wars of every kind: battles without
and within, close combat, face-to-face, the faces always
my own, my lover-face, my enemy-face.
Wars with the old weapons – sticks and stones, blunt axe, words,
dull ripping knife, love and hate,
and wars with newfangled weapons – machine gun, missile,
words, land mines exploding, love and hate.
I don't want to fulfill my parents' prophecy that life is war.
I want peace with all my body and all my soul.
Rest me in peace.
From Open Closed Open, by Yehuda Amichai
Copyright © 2000 by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld