In Haifa by the Sea
(In memory of Emile Habiby)
In Haifa, by the sea, the smells of salt
rise from the earth. And the sun
hanging from a tree unravels wind.
In a row of trees bathed in stone
men, women and silence have been
planted. Tenants in an apartment
block called homeland.
Jews whose voices I haven't heard,
Arabs whose meaning I haven't understood.
And other such melodies I couldn't
identify in the moment that went silent.
There in Haifa, by the sea,
he had them all. Poet, exile
in the wind, seeking the past
in a question blessed with answers.
Pulling words out of the sea and
throwing them back to the waves
that, like Messiah, will return eternally.
A poet has returned to a poem he never wrote
in the night of captivity, and hasn't yet returned
to the place that he drew as a child in a cloud.
There in Haifa, by the sea, at the end
of the summer that broke on the treetop,
a moon unfurled. I return to the
silence I had split with my lips.
I return to the words asleep inside
the paper. Moist clods of earth
and a salty path have forever wrapped
the fisherman's pole. Little
words lay down to rest, and a poem
went silent there in Haifa, by
Translated from the Hebrew by Vivian Eden
Published in: Haaretz Books, November 2008