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Agi Mishol

To the Muses
Translated from the Hebrew by Lisa Katz

Forgive me, goddesses,
for disturbing you with our history
repeating itself

exactly the way the smart weeds return,
and the purple loosestrife spreads over my lawn;
itís suddenly hard to be gratified by beauty
whose entire aim is itself.

Heavenly women, floating among gauze scarves,
ivory combs in your golden hair,
what do you have to do with the old women in the Kandahar hills
gathering crab grass to feed the swollen-bellied children,
or with the women bending over the rubble in Rafahó
like poisonous black mushrooms rising from the ruins.

How well I know the language of your wild flowers!
I wonít trouble you in the middle of the night
to sneak away to pet laboratory monkeys,
or plant compassion in the heart of the farmer
blasting the horns off a calfís skull.

But donít turn my eyes today
toward the pink edge of the cloud castle,
donít signal eternity
with the birdsí triumphant V.

 

Mishol, winner of the first Yehuda Amichai Prize, is a renowned poet (9 books) whose New and Selected Works is to appear in Israel in May 2002. The translator, Lisa Katz, recently completed her dissertation on the poetry of Sylvia Plath at Hebrew University, where she teaches. Her work appears in the current Reading Room/3 (NYC), Leviathan Quarterly (England), and in the Blip Magazine Archive Prize 2000 Issue (finalist); her translations have appeared in The New Yorker and other magazines. More information on and poetry by Agi Mishol is available at www.thedrunkenboat.com .

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