Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday Poem: "The End of War"















The End of War
by Dahlia Ravikovitch (1936-2005)

He came at midnight, both legs lopped off,
through his old wounds had long since healed.
He came through the third-story window--
I was struck with wonder at how he got in.
We'd lived through an age of calamity;
many had lost their closest kin.
In streets sown with shredded papers
the orphan survivors were skipping about.

I was frozen as crystal when he came.
He thawed me like pliant wax,
altered me even as the pall of night
turns into the feather of dawn,
his bold spirit translucent as mist
that streams from the morning clouds.
(Translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfield.)

Israeli poet Dahlia Ravikovitch was active in the peace movement. The poem with its unmistakeable historical context is an elegy, a dream poem, a vision. The dead man--I take him to be a mortally wounded soldier--comes back from the grave and the speaker in the poem comes to life. It is mysterious how an elegy can also be a resurrection. If only that were true in life. Yet daily "the pall of night/ turns into the feather of dawn."

10 comments:

  1. Although I can't speak any Hebrew I would love to hear it in that language. It's beautiful in its imagery. I love the ending:

    'He thawed me like pliant wax,
    altered me even as the pall of night
    turns into the feather of dawn,
    his bold spirit translucent as mist
    that streams from the morning clouds.'

    There's a roughness/softness motif (the pall of night turning into the feather of dawn) that's mesmerising. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  3. mim, i recall ( i think) that you posted some of her work before--a discovery for me; such strong, unsentimental writing: his legs "lopped off"--so casual, and the shock lingers.

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  4. Dear Mim, I'd just been reading some of her work--powerful stuff. Thanks for bringing her in.

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  5. I like the way calamity stands side by side with wonder. How crystal becomes pliant with boldness.. Thank you for this poem, Miriam.

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  6. I was frozen as crystal when he came.
    He thawed me like pliant wax...
    thank you...

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  7. A friend of mine once said, "Every woman needs an angel." The wounded one in this poem has angel-like power. It's unusual to find a wounded muse.

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  8. I find this poem startling. It leaves my heart pounding and my ears ringing.

    Thank you, Mim.

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