Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poets against War- Dahlia Ravikovitch, Israeli poet

On the wonderful website Poets Against War I am introduced to the powerful poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch who was considered one of the great Hebrew poets. I was not familiar with her work but find myself overwhelmed with the power of her poem Hovering at a Low Altitude described by one reviewer in the following way:
"The image of low-altitude hovering over an atrocity is an . . . effective emblem of the situation of the ordinary Israeli, knowing but choosing not to see certain terrible acts perpetrated by other Israelis, or even in the name of the nation; more generally, it is a parable of the moral untenability of detached observation in [the] political realm." This parable is more timely now than ever"


I am not here.
I am on those craggy eastern hills
streaked with ice
where grass doesn't grow
and a sweeping shadow overruns the slope.
A little shepherd girl
with a herd of goats,
black goats,
from an unseen tent.
She won't live out the day, that girl,
in the pasture.

I am not here.
Inside the gaping mouth of the mountain
a red globe flares,
not yet a sun.
A lesion of frost, flushed and sickly,
flickers in that gorge.

And the little one rose up so early
to go to the pasture.
She doesn't walk with neck outstretched
and wanton glances.
She doesn't adorn her eyes with kohl.
She doesn't ask, Whence cometh my help.

I am not here.
I've been in the mountains many days now.
The light will not scald me. The frost cannot touch me.
Nothing can amaze me now.
I've seen worse things in my life.

I tuck my dress tight around my legs and hover
very close to the ground.
What could she be thinking, that girl?
Wild to look at, unwashed.
For a moment she crouches down.
Her cheeks soft silk,
frostbite on the back of her hands.
She seems distracted, but no,
in fact she's alert.

She still has a few hours left.
But that's hardly the object of my meditations.
My thoughts, soft as down, cushion me comfortably.
I've found a very simple method,
not so much as a foot-breadth on land
and not flying, either —
hovering at a low altitude.

But as day tends toward noon,
many hours
after sunrise,
that man makes his way up the mountain.
He looks innocent enough.
The girl is right there, close by,
not another soul around.
And if she runs for cover, or cries out —
there's no place to hide in the mountains.

I am not here.
I'm above those savage mountain ranges
in the farthest reaches of the east.
No need to elaborate.
With a single hurling thrust one can hover
and whirl about with the speed of the wind,
make a getaway and take comfort in saying:
I haven't seen a thing.
And the little one, her eyes start from their sockets,
her palate is dry as a potsherd,
when a hard hand closes over her hair, grasping her
without a shred of pity.

by Dahlia Ravikovich

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