Thursday, April 8, 2010

Once a Great Love - Y. Amichai

#4 from Yehuda Amichai.  For the others, "click" on his name on the left column in the "Poets and Categories" section.)  It's poems like this one that make me read him in small doses.  There is no shade from its light and heat.  You are exposed because he has exposed himself, as that is the contract: to get the most from the gift of the poet's experience, the reader must also be willing to stand naked.

The first time I read this poem was just before a great love.  It had light, but little heat: I had no reference point.   The second time, its heat was unbearable: not enough years had passed after my life was cut in two.  Even now, before reading it, I gird myself first, like a furnace-worker putting on an asbestos suit.  

Note: This translation from Hebrew is noteworthy because Amichai worked with Ted Hughes, the English poet, who will forever be better-known as having been Sylvia Plath's husband than for his own writing....

Once a Great Love

Once a great love cut my life in two.
The first part goes on twisting
at some other place like a snake cut in two.

The passing years have calmed me
and brought healing to my heart and rest to my eyes.

And I’m like someone standing in
the Judean desert, looking at a sign:
“Sea Level.”
He cannot see the sea, but he knows.

Thus I remember your face everywhere
at your “face level.”
                                                                                       Yehuda Amichai - Israeli

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