Thursday, November 12, 2015

Aharon Shabtai and 'the dirty military spots that stain our hearts'

Keats called it negative capability. I call it a capacity for sustenance — to sustain and be sustained, which is to say, to continue. And to continue means to always make and say something different.”
Aharon Shabtai

These creatures in helmets and khakis, / I say to myself, aren’t Jews,”
Aharon Shabtai

The Israeli poet
Aharon Shabtai  writes about the "dirty military spot that stains our hearts".

And when it’s all over,
my dear, dear reader,
on which benches will we have to sit,
those of us who shouted “Death to the Arabs!”
and those who claimed they “didn’t know”?

from Nostalgia by Aharon Shabtai

Shabtai is an outspoken critic of Israel's policies in the Palestinian territories who has written:

"In the name of the beautiful books I read/
in the name of the kisses I kissed/
May the army be defeated."

Aharon Shabtai writes about the cruelty of the "Israeli" war machine.

"In time of war
I side with the villages
with the mosques
in this war
I side with the Shiite family
with Sour (Tyre)
with the mother
with the grandfather
with the eight kids in the mini van
with the white silken headscarf".

Translated by: Adib S. Kawar

Aharon Shabtai

What nerve
These empty people have!
They've taken the word
"peace" by the hair
dragged it out
of its humble bed,
and turned it into their whore
beside the Central Bus Station.
After they had their way,
they turned the State
into a couch
upon which she screws around the clock.
In the morning she sucks off a sniper in uniform,
and at evening he returns
and proudly displays
the X he etched
into the butt of his rifle,
after he'd shot dead
a young woman, age 19,
who was hanging laundry
on her roof in Hebron.

“…we belong / to a single body – / Arabs and Jews. / Tel Aviv and Tulkarem, / Haifa and Ramallah – / what are they / if not a single pair of shoulders, / twin breasts?”

Aharon Shabtai is one of the Hebrew language’s leading poets, as well as a translator of Greek drama into Hebrew. Shabtai is an outspoken critic of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories, and of human rights violations against Palestinians.

Shabtai was married to Tanya Reinhart an distinguished anti-Occupation activist, moral thinker and world renowned linguist, until her death in 2007 (see here).

Of her he wrote

     “Tanya was gorgeous”
       I tell Moishe

       and he raises his head
       over the bowl of bean soup

       and just as he did ten years ago
       he looks at me and says:

       “Not everyone thinks so.”

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