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By Yehuda Amichai

Translations from the Hebrew of the good Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, with an advent through Ted Hughes.

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Without payment they enter the synagogue , With black paper skullcaps Which they have taken from a box at the gate. Gilded atonements turn silently from the ceiling Over empty benches with no sinners in them , or sin. Leftovers of prayers stick to the walls Like the crust of limestone in an old kettle. Who are they, that have come from waterless places And have become crossers of many bridges In countries whose railway stations' names Are always "Entrance " or "Exit "? After that they liquidate meat In restaurants with knife and fork With sad table manners.

Who are they, that have come from waterless places And have become crossers of many bridges In countries whose railway stations' names Are always "Entrance " or "Exit "? After that they liquidate meat In restaurants with knife and fork With sad table manners. Who are they? Sometimes one of them In a moment of calm absent-mindedness Will look at his wrist to see time , But there is no watch. "I think that a return ticket Is a very exciting thing," the woman said, "And full of promising love. " The Synagogue in Florence Tender spring in the courtyard, A tree blossoming, four girls playing Between two lessons of the sacred language In front of a memorial wall Made of marble: Levi, Sonino, Cassuto And others In straight lines, as in a newspaper Or in the scrolls of the Torah.

Out of the earth emerge All I wished never to see again : Pillar and window sill, cornice and jug, broken pieces of wine. ) And at night, to stir with that Blind golden scepter In pleasures. With the weight of kingdom and tiredness. 42 Outing at Some Beautiful Place With a Jewish girl Who has American hope In her eyes and whose nostrils are still Very sensitive to anti-Semitism. " Eyes like those one does not receive at birth­ So much color, so much sadness. She wore the coat of a soldier, discharged Or dead-by victory or defeatIn some worn-out war.

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Amen by Yehuda Amichai


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