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Three poems by Meir Wieseltier

June 30, 2010

Guest post by ADITYA SARKAR

Here are three poems by a remarkable Israeli dissident poet Meir Wieseltier. Over and above anything else, they’re beautiful poems, but they might also have something to say about the recent attacks of Gaza and the West Bank, even though they address much earlier events and times If nothing else, they might be a reminder that the kinds of issues related to Israel/Palestine that have been discussed on Kafila and elsewhere are in no sense new – each poem seems absolutely contemporary, even though they were written in 1973, 1978 and 1986 respectively. They might remind readers that far from being a ‘tragic mistake’, as the BBC and other liberal apologists have it, the attack on the flotilla represents the mainstream, indeed the only, dimension of Israeli state policy.

The last of the three poems was actually reprinted in The Nation on 15 April 2002, four days after the Israeli massacre of Palestinians at Jenin, which killed fifty people – another absolutely typical act of ‘Israeli self-defense’ that most accounts blank out.

CALL-UP

So they’ll call the Little Prince

stick a submachine gun in his hand and say:

you might have come from another star

but now you’re here

and that’s not an elephant you see

from under the painted hat, but a tank.

The lamplighter’s a terrorist

and if you don’t wipe out those sheep

it’ll be your head instead.

That’s how it is, little prince.

(1973)


TO BE CONTINUED

War is the continuation of politics,

and South Lebanon is the continuation of Upper Galilee:

Therefore it’s all too natural for a state

to wage war in Lebanon.

Youth is the continuation of childhood,

and South Lebanon is the continuation of Upper Galilee:

Therefore it’s all too natural for boys and young men

to shoot at each other in Lebanon.

Grave-digging is the continuation of the rabbinate,

and South Lebanon is the continuation of Upper Galilee:

Therefore it’s all too natural for the Army Rabbinical Burial Corps

to dig fresh graves in Lebanon.

The Press is the continuation of idle blabber,

and South Lebanon is the continuation of Upper Galilee:

Therefore newspapers discuss with high solemnity

the achievements of the war in Lebanon.

Poetry is the opposite of statement

in South Lebanon as well as in the Upper Galilee.

Therefore what was stated is as good as unstated

and again we’ll wage war in Lebanon.

(1978)

SONNET: AGAINST MAKING BLOOD SPEAK OUT

If I die one day from the bullet of a young killer -

a Palestinian who crosses the northern border -

or one day from the blast of a hand grenade he throws,

or in a bomb explosion while I’m checking the price

of cucumbers in the market, don’t dare say

that my blood permits you to justify your wrongs -

that my torn eyes support your blindness -

that my spilled guts prove it’s impossible

to talk with them about an arrangement -it’s only possible

to talk with guns, interrogation cells, curfew, prison,

expulsion, confiscation of land, curses, iron fists, a steel heart

that thinks it’s driving out the Amorites, destroying the Amalekites.

Let the blood seep into the dust; blood is blood, not words.

Terrible – the illusion of the Kingdom in obtuse hearts.

(1986)

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