In the Chariot of Fire (1947–1951)
Mirrors of Stone
If you wish, just once, to see eternity
Face to face
And, maybe, not die —
Hide your eyes,
Like wicks in your skull,
And, ignited inside yourself,
Go where till now the time
Of your wanderings
Could not encounter it —
Then, gape open,
Facing the stone mirrors of Yerushalayim.
On the Road to the Wailing Wall
On the road to the Wailing Wall,
In a leaning well of clay,
A Jew, hairy as an owl,
Sits and etches a chalice.
Of his mute lips question
Watching over the roofs:
When will He come walking toward us?
And he etches the answer on the chalice.
Thus he may have sat
On the road to the Wailing Wall
In biblical days and nights,
When the Prophet
Jeremiah with the yoke around his neck
Hammered of himself a monument.
Thus he may have sat
When no mother's son was left after the battle.
Today, in nineteen hundred and forty eight,
At the downfall of states,
He still sits there, the goldsmith, in the same garments,
In the same leaning well,
Against the same cloud over the roofs
And etches the answer on the chalice.
Like juicy rubies of a pomegranate,
Shot through with summer lightning,
Shines his face.
— Will you, grandpa, ever find the secret?
— I have patience, I etch.
Extinguished. No more face.
Cold, blue soot.
Just the hands —
Bony omens of redemption,
Not burned out, etch the chalice.
Extinguished too the fingers, the nails.
Bleeding in the air, the chalice's band.
With a prayer he makes a pilgrimage
To the moon rising in the land.
Jerusalem, January 1948
For David Pinsky
Whence the storm on Mount Carmel?
From a rock.
A cloud-hammer cleave the rock
And from inside its stone burst a storm —
A chariot of fire,
Its wheels — four stars
On blue, diamond axles —
Plowed my body
Under the clouds.
And in the chariot
Looms a figure, into its face are kneaded
The faces of all people, animals, plants …
And it was, as I thirsted out my yearning for the vision,
A wheel of rays engulfed me in its eddy.
And I flew in the wheel
Between sea and clouds —
A star in the talons of an eagle …
And ere my thought filled up my eyes,
And ere my lips bled with a word —
Swam up a city of black pearl-fogs,
A primeval legend, encrusted with volcanic lava.
And I recognized:
The city of all my loved ones,
The city with no one, no one but my tears.
And the city was split asunder
As a moment ago
The rock on Mount Carmel …
And from the earth,
In a chariot of fire,
Rise all my loved ones.
Together with the city
Back to Mount Carmel,
And the figure filled with faces of people, animals, trees,
Blesses all who dwell in the city
As Jacob blessed his sons.
Three hundred donkeys loaded with poems
— As it is told —
The poet Shabazi
Drove them from Yemen
To Eretz Israel.
Three hundred donkeys loaded with poems.
On a white donkey
Among his poems
The poet rode
Into the distance
Chirping like a bird
From his own Siddur.
I envy you —
Your donkeys did not tread in vain.
At your grandson's wedding, your sounds hover
Like doves adorned with golden bells.
And my donkeys,
Not so stubborn,
Did not get here with their songs.
Shall I start from the beginning?
Shall I, a brother,
Smash all the idols?
Shall I let myself be translated alive?
Shall I plant my tongue
Till it transforms
Into our forefathers'
Raisins and almonds?
What kind of joke
My poetry brother with whiskers,
That soon, my mother tongue will set forever?
A hundred years from now, we still may sit here
On the Jordan, and carry on this argument.
For a question
Gnaws and paws at me:
If he knows exactly in what regions
Levi Yitzhok's  prayer,
Yehoash's poem, 
Kulbak's song, 
To their sunset —
Could he please show me
Where the language will go down?
May be at the Wailing Wall?
If so, I shall come there, come,
Open my mouth,
And like a lion
Garbed in fiery scarlet,
I shall swallow the language as it sets.
And wake all the generations with my roar!
The Longing of Yehudah Ha-Levi 
In the sea,
Between the death and birth of waves,
You can sense his longing. Music
Of self-begotten silence. Music
And around the music,
Small as a star
In the distance
And big as a star
Imprisoned storms lie,
With desiring, pearl-bedecked faces,
And hear, and feel —
Can barely yearn up to his yearning —
With its silence
Sunstones fall into seagold. No apologies!
I came here with a group of archaeologists.
Under the white sliced up hill
A city is dreaming, an infant still.
The sleep of a hidden epoch shatters,
The hiding itself endlessly chatters.
Silences smile, eyes shut as in pleasure.
Silence — form, and silence — measure.
Silences dazzle with color dynamics —
The archaeologists find here — ceramics.
Not the souls of humans, of suns —
Somebody finds a shard all at once.
A flash of joy struck the old professor —
Here is a knife of Tiglath Pilasser.
And I want to say, with no apologies,
To the archaeologists:
Nonsense, brothers, vanity of vanities,
Until you find the dream of those humanities.
I saw an assembly of silences, all in blue.
On the purity of their muteness,
As the blood in sealed violins.
Describe them I cannot. Unless my heart stops.
From times and lands they came to hover here —
Souls that cannot die. Here in Eilat
They long for the bodies they once inhabited.
The silences glanced at each other. And I —
Covered my face, lest they hear
My breathing. And between my fingers, I saw:
Unmoving, a snake
With a silvery head.
A deer stands awake
In a dry desert bed —
An enchanted island
By the cool of the sea,
Like a syllable of silence —
Lost, and gentle, and free.
And a breeze from a land
Of invisible sills —
Has lost in the sand
Its red pearls, its frills.
Like a paper burnt to ash
Hangs an eagle in the sky,
And his shadow — a flash —
Lights my dreams and goes by.
But in tigery gorges
Someone moves in this frame.
And the silence that forges
Will remember his name.
Poems from the Negev
The Ascent of Scorpions
Here you are at the workshop of all creation.
Hire yourself out, an apprentice —
Eternity will pay you
With its currency, if your work is good.
To the Ascent of Scorpions, you didn't come late —
Here, Genesis exhibits its art:
The Pillar of Smoke kisses his love —
The Pillar of Fire.
How simple. Not a shred of miracle.
You see the Creator through glass of sand.
Cities in the air: here dwells prophecy,
Not older, not younger — just as you left it.
I saw them: cities of muscled fire,
As yet undiscovered by makers of maps.
Cities unfurled from mighty music,
No one created their form, filled their gaps.
It seems they molded their own foundations,
Poured lava over their shapes like a dome.
Alone with their own will, they affirmed
For naked Adam and Eve a home.
Red-headed cities in the breath of dawn,
Dreams with no people, full-blooded, reach higher — —
In you they will dwell, the red-headed tribes,
Shaped of the same unsated fire.
"Here is where Moses carried the bones
Of Joseph — to home's blue ridge."
My heart weeps: my generation did not
Fulfill a will, restore a bridge.
The bones of Joseph, still warm embers,
Left behind in dead cities, abandoned layers.
And with them — the eternal light of the language.
Came here naked, without grandma's prayers …
The bones of Joseph here, under sand,
The bones of Joseph there, under Poland —
They don't know each other, act like strangers,
And cut like knives, and glow like coals.
And You Don't See the Rain
For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see the wind,
neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water.
(II Kings 3:17)
And you don't see the rain, and you don't feel a drop,
Flaming madness straying in sand;
And streams like warhorses wildly gallop —
From the rocks, into bony wadi' s band!
Where to? From secret regions they rush,
Busting dams, granite locks brought to life,
One stream meets another in a crush
And flows into him a sparkling knife.
Not for long. The juicy streams
Disappear. At the bottom, all that remains —
Grass in the wadi, full-blooded it teems,
Like green, long-trailing comet trains.
Deer at the Red Sea
Stubborn, the sunset insisted on staying
In the Red Sea at night, when they first
Come to the palace of water — the innocent-pink,
Noble deer, to still their thirst.
They leave their silk shadows on the shore.
With violin faces, they lick the rings of gold
In the Red Sea. And there it happens,
Their betrothal with silence — lo and behold!
Finished — they flee. Pink spots
Enliven the sand. But the sunset deer,
Moaning, remain in the water, and lick
The silence of those who will no more appear.
The Last Line
Dark. The last, the primeval last line,
Crystal-unique, quivers on high.
It glitters three times in the air
And teaches me, flickering deep in my eye:
Last is first. My rest is running.
And had not the void been shaped by my rhythm —
You could never have touched the palpable line
That trembles in man and draws him, is with him.
— Line, you are right, be blessed, for in me
Your colorful treasures you sparkle and flutter.
But if I crumble into glowing dust —
Where will you carry my human shudder?
Small Hymns to Sodom
You hewed out of me a smile: In my heart
A blue pyramid of vowels fell apart.
Black suns with twisted mouths — a blaring art.
Soul of salt masked in diamond, oriental stunning,
You fooled the poets, blinded their cunning,
To me alone your mystery not shunning:
Just barely created — the created is lame,
To attain perfection, it must burn in a flame.
You burned. My ancient thought — the same.
Sodom! Since then, your shadow, red of blood,
Passed over times and lands, to the venging God.
You alone are pure, an image of the flood.
The sun — black from too much light,
Polishes my brow till it bleeds…
My first minute is still alive,
Here, under seven layers of heat.
The nonexistent and what exists —
Pupils of eyes on mountains all around.
A sculptor with volcano hands
Left his work unfinished, unbound.
Separate parts lie:
Souls, thoughts, hands, hide — — —
They want to be whole, to heal.
But it's not for them to decide.
A firetree — a personality
Stands on guard at the bottom.
I find a rare similarity
Between my dream and Sodom.
He who in his art has molded angels
Didn't know they would betray him and fall
In love with the beautiful little woman
Whittled of dreamsilver, a toy for his pleasure.
Like lions chasing a hare,
With kindled muscles
Ran after the little woman,
And she beckoned to them,
Though she liked only one.
Then a drop of salt fell from God's eye,
Poured over His creation at the Salt Sea,
Dressed her in a garment of eternal coral.
And so she stands, frozen in mid-running,
Under the coral, still quivering
Her head — turned to her shoulder,
Her eyes — no-and-yes —
Flicker to the pursuing men,
And put temptation in my way …
— — — — — ——
Silence. The men
No longer pursue.
They crouch on their knees.
Roots — tresses of their heads
Baked into the ground.
Wild goats lick the tears off their necks.
I could have made
The following experiment:
See, an ant
Runs at the same Salt Sea,
A little naked Lot's wife —
What if I
Poured over her a burning salt drop —
Will she remain eternal —like the other,
A white cloud under her head?
And there will appear a prophet,
A pen to tell the story in a lightning tongue,
Visionary and viable.
If ants have a Bible.
There is a cave on the road to Masada —
In the depth of a volcano, shunned
Even by a flock pursued by lions.
They call it "the cave of patient suffering."
I entered it against all prohibition:
Honey for me is solitude and terror.
A graveyard of shadows, the cave,
Its bony air —the skeleton of the Creator!
Pure darkness. Timeless silence. Not the slightest
Memory of light. Not a tremor of faith.
I wandered an hour or a year in the dark —
And suddenly the sun appeared from above.
A dewy sun over lips of the crater
Refreshes the skeleton in the bowels of the cave.
Tormented shadows abruptly flutter —
Their blackness polished off by the sun!
Oh Sodom, be blessed! In your cave I shall lie
Until you pour sun on my days and nights.
From the crater, my Sodom melody will flood,
And crows will bring me my daily ration of food.
The Cherry of Remembrance
The city —
As if a lake
Stood on its hind legs
And froze in fear,
Covered with ice scales —
Its hoary violet creases
When my fingers
Ruffled its glass face.
Echo of shadows.
And I walked.
Pillars of light
Like broken stalks.
And I walked.
To find a human breath.
A living word over lips of clay,
A face I could greet with "Good morning!
With you, the world still has a meaning,
And snakes crawl no more from the sleeves…"
And I walked.
Once, hunger dazzled me like Lilith
And I gulped a swallow in the attic.
Now, recalling, the swallow chirped
Out of my eyes her swallow vengeance.
No more tears in them —
Pecked them all out
In mad chirping.
Once, as I lay in a cellar,
With a corpse like a sheet of paper,
Lit from the ceiling by phosphorescent snow —
I wrote with a piece of coal
A poem on the paper corpse of my neighbor.
Now, there is not even a corpse —
Draped with soot.
And I walked.
The snows of yesteryear fell.
Tiny flickers appeared —
Nibbled away by lightning…
I recognized it by the childhood dream.
Like a lock, bolted behind my back —
Pounded into my body
By iron silence.
Straying over the snows in the temple
A hairy man appeared to me,
Bent like me,
Disheveled and bony,
Lit by an over-rotten moon.
— Hey, wanderer, who are you?
And, dully, the hairy man howled:
— Who are you?
— You recognize me?
And he, returning the question:
— You recognize me?
And the hairy man danced closer:
But when I saw the wrinkles on his face,
When I lunged at him in triumph — alas!
Someone seared my skull,
And I fell
On the border of glass.
Commentary on a Face in a Mirror
And if you paint over the image of the Jewish street
With a brush dipped in your new, sunny palette —
Know: the fresh colors will peel
Someday, the old image will attack you with an ax
And wound you so the new will never heal.
I Had a Neighbor
I had a neighbor. In a deaf attic,
Among red sunweb and dreamy doves,
All his life he gathered bread, and bedecked
With bread his attic — gripped by a passion.
No one felt the taste of his stinginess,
Perhaps just the doves, the winged madonnas.
No one felt, no one older or younger,
And protected by bread, he died of hunger.
Tonight, the miser stammered in my dream
And stirred my thoughts: all my life, like him,
I gathered words and bedecked with them
The empty walls of my hut — gripped by a passion.
No one felt with a poet a recluse,
Not even dove madonnas told their gentle secrets.
No one felt, neither older nor younger,
And protected by my words — I am dying of hunger.
The Silver Key
The footsteps on the stars, above our attic,
You think they're human?
An unearthly creature from the stars
Seeks us, human berries in an attic forest.
Strike a match and you'll see:
Over there, it devoured a whole shingle…
My neighbor in the attic strikes a match —
Tshhh, tshhh —
A yellow spot reveals the fog.
Goes out, the wood untouched by fire —
No more oxygen,
Armored in spiderweb, the child who had
Brought life to yellow darkness
With his crying —
To long fingers on his throat,
Fingers of all of us, all of us,
And more than all of us, of God Himself.
With a piece of glass, the young mother caresses her veins.
A moon-dwarf forged in glass —
The man who struck a match
Coos like a dove:
— No death outside.
Death has snuck in inside, among us,
Let us leave him behind in the attic
And he runs first to a corner,
Opens a rooftile and, raving, falls back:
— Jews, we're on fire!
Hide your hair in your pockets!
Hide your hearts, the attic is on fire!!!
A column of purple soot breathes through the crack,
Stains the attic-faces, feathery as owls,
Won't let them flee.
Only the sly spider, like a centipede diamond,
Swings on a column of soot
Shakes his head in farewell —
A little Jew unfolds seven rags,
Pulls out a herring
And draws it like a knife across his throat.
— Let us all, all together
Greet our fiery guest!
A boy, Tsalke, cries:
I've never kissed a girl in my life.
Suddenly, from out of the bodies, a girl unfolds
Blooming like a cherry tree in spring,
Her voice — Goldsound
Of a bird meeting its mother:
— Jews, I have a key
To save us all — — —
Madness like a shadow
Separates from brains.
Eyes — oozing poison —
Blue amazement reigns.
The dead child too,
By curiosity inspired,
Senses the wonderful tidings
Of the girl messiah.
And the shining figure says:
— Yes, yes, I have a key
Of silver. A white clad old man
Gave it to me and said:
Gather the Jews in the attic and flee —
Fast, faster, to Castle Mountain,
To the palace built ages ago
By Prince Gediminas.
The key is to the palace,
And no one, no one
Will find you in its bowels.
The crowd is excited:
— Holy girl!
They kiss each other.
Like a fox, Tsalke
Cuddles up to her knees:
— My dear, who are you?
And the little Jew who just now slaughtered himself
With a herring,
Savors his herring —
If it's a holiday, let's have a holiday!
But the man who lit the match
Breaks the spell:
— Could you be so kind as to show us the key?
The girl trembles:
— Yes, of course,
Right away, just a moment — — —
Seeks it in her garment,
Near her heart,
In her stockings.
Just now the old man gave it to me!
— What old man?
What was his name? How did he seem?
— Oh dear, the key remained
In his hand,
In my dream — — —
In our hovel, as far back as I can recall, loomed dark
A hunchbacked old ruin, an otherworldly room.
As if someone has spun a canopy of clouds
Over shadow figures, born of shimmering glow.
The mute walls howled with dog mushrooms
In grandmotherly-blind darkness, knotted up in an elflock.
And suddenly, silvery flickers would flood
Like drops, leaking from cracked wooden buckets —
It was the moon, dropping by through the chimney,
Sneaking out of the stove, and straight — into green
Cat eyes hanging alone like untimely plums.
Then, it would leap, caught in a net of spiderweb —
A young mermaid in the hands of an old fisherman —
With silvery spasms, it would torment the room,
The clay ribs of the ceiling, the hook in the middle,
And all the figures born of the shimmering glow …
The hook — a question mark, hanging upside down,
A twisted leather strip always swinging on it,
Here, a man once hanged himself like a chicken,
For a girl poured poison on his words.
I loved to hide here alone, against my will.
To lie on a meadow of garments — and dream,
Facing the cat in the crumbling, cold stove,
And see the mermaid gushing in through the chimney.
A pleasure overcomes you feeling the mystery of solitude,
Inhaling the fragrance of homey, flowery garments.
Here my poem splashed, floating in seas of beauty,
I would not have traded that room for a splendid palace.
The sooty stove reigned hollow with fears.
Like lusterless black pearls, the darkness under the bricks.
Here my mother hid the eternal garments —
A bundle of linen like dazzle of angel wings.
A young widow at thirty — she bought them in advance,
In holy longing for father. His face, lucid
In the Siberian taiga, yearned from afar.
With eternal garments, it's nicer to live here without him.
And once, oh God, when I was still a boy,
In secret, she donned them on her living body.
The room, illuminated by the sun shining from her golden ring,
Beaming from the cracked mirror's tear-filled eyes:
Four brides with the same faces flushed with happiness…
Four brides with golden rings in silken flames …
The dark little door was unhooked at that moment —
And, like a stone, my oy struck my mother.
Ever since, the eternal garments are hidden away
In the dark stove along with bottles for Pesakh.
Only in her hair, a thread from the linen remained,
Fanning out threads, thin whitenesses, all around her head.
Oh, destiny, shadow with bloodshot eyes, you swam,
Invisible, after me and my thoughts, you swimmer!
And lo, you yourself were transformed in a flood,
A flood of two-legged men, sweeping her room.
Mama quickly dipped her hand in the stove,
Roamed among the sounds in the darkness-violin,
And soon the bundle of linen bewitched with sparks
Hung on her little shoulders, in the coffin of her room.
Instead of a mermaid, a crow flew in from the chimney,
Hitting its beak on the old, wounded mirror.
And the widow shone in her sunny snow —
A cherry tree under a saw in a circle of buds.
But a five-cornered abyss was impaled on her heart,
The image was left of her own soot-dipped fingers.
Blackness gushed like a spring in the sunshine of her heart,
And her eyes alone sparkled younger.
This is how mama walked to the light of sacrifice,
To father the snowman with his red violin — she walked,
A snowstorm's yearning ignited them both together.
And then, the room too went down in the storm.
And I, all alone, an Adam thrown out of Hell,
Am still a slave to the Voice that makes me a singer.
My flesh is cloaked in her white, eternal garments
And my heart is sealed with five soot-dipped fingers.
In the middle of a street,
Hands of fog
Blindfolded my eyes, my world:
— Guess who?
Familiar names popped up:
— Miriam, Golda, Reyzel …
— No, no.
— Whose hands are those, whose?
— You were the rainbow-grass in my tears!
And all of a sudden
The voice changed
Into a living soul.
Had I met my own self?
It would not have happened:
— You? How did you come back, resurrec — — —
And she smiled with her violet eyebrows:
— The fire didn't like me.
Well, no is no.
Then I mutely whispered to my dearest:
— I could not believe that fire
Would have a heart to swallow you. Now
A life long I won't be able to believe,
And disbelief torments my rest like dew:
That you are living, intimate, you, you.
Among us they wander, the ashamed,
Seared in their arm
With red coal of hell.
No one wants to see it,
Seared in terror,
As a hump will not see its own shadow.
See, among us they wander, the ashamed,
Hiding their shame in a cave, in a ruin.
Thank God, from their gums
No one has yet
Sucked their drop of hatred.
But once, in shameless night,
When the ashamed lie
With eyes green like cabbage in Maidanek —
The number alone,
Tears away from their skin
Like a melody —
Hovers into the palace
Where a butcher dance is performed
By a freshly lunatic Belshazar.
Chords from the Proud Forest
To Sh. Kacherginski
The Lipichany forests are ablaze
And the Shchara
Will melt by night.
Give an order! As long as the ice holds,
We have a retreat from the battle.
But Doctor Atlas,
Used to mishap and sensation,
In a hut of branches, shimmering
With tar drops,
— Not now,
First, I'll finish the operation.
Huddled in a fur,
As if a calf had grown
Out of his bones —
Lies a peasant, moaning,
His pipe, stuffed with snow,
Stuck in his teeth —
As a suffering rod.
For nothing in the world would he give up
His pipe — not even to God.
Doctor Atlas will not dim
Nearby, crouching on one knee,
A king lies on the other —
The peasant's rotting leg.
The half lens of the doctor's glasses
Glimmers like an icicle in sunset.
Forged in a boot with a lucky horseshoe
Will not part from its boot.
Soon it will be over,
We are ten
And they …
He cuts them off:
— Mulya, wash the saw with snow
And have the boys saddle the horses,
The Lipichany Forests are ablaze,
The peasant grimly bites his pipe,
And Doctor Atlas takes a deep breath
And saws off
Ten horses gallop.
Doctor Atlas — in the lead
With the peasant on his saddle —
And the horseshoe suns ring
Over the shifting ice
Of the Shchara.
"Hungry warriors! Let us gather
Black berries in the night."
An idea to remember:
Black berries in the night?
Darkness. Just a yellow owl
Playing cards in dark of night.
In the forests green with firs —
Black berries in the night.
Crouching over, creeping out
To the berries in the night,
Goes an army with its weapons,
Gathers berries in the night.
People, gotten used to killing —
Kneeling for a grass at night.
For like flutes they pipe their magic,
Black berries in the night
And the glowworms play along
And the yellow owl laughs bright.