In a city of holiness and hell, in the land of Moloch,
in an autumn spreading hatred like the latest fashion,
hatred in which all fears float to the surface, all frustrations
like backed-up sewage, there’s no way they won’t shoot
the one who wants to murder, or the one they think wants to.
Murder is murder is murder is murder
said she in Paris at the beginning of the previous century
or could have said.
What future could have been before the eyes
of the stabbers, so appallingly young
and what future before the eyes of those who lynched
the one whose skin color led them to pump six bullets into him then
kick, bash, and maul his body fluttering like a fish.
Vengeful God, Vengeful Devil. The taste of revenge like the taste of a coupling
not made in heaven, stuck together and inseparable.
How satisfying is Shu’afat without Shu’afat
and how boundlessly beautiful is this land without the killing killing killing
here and there both. Knife killings and ax killings, stone killings and gun killings.
There isn’t always parity between the sides.
How much good-heartedness there could have been in man
were it not for all the evil.
And what a paradise this could have been
if only it had ever been.
—Translated by Rachel Tzvia Back
Tuvia Ruebner, who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday, won the 2008 Israel Prize for poetry. The poem above was composed in October 2015. A bilingual collection of poems by Tuvia Ruebner, ‘In the Illuminated Dark,’ was published by HUC and University of Pittsburgh Presses in 2014.
Rachel Tzvia Back’s most recent book of poems was ‘A Messenger Comes’ (Singing Horse Press, 2012).