My mother was a prophet and didn’t know it,
Not like Miriam the Prophetess dancing with cymbals and tambourines,
not like Deborah who sat under the palm tree and judged the people,
not like Hulda who foretold the future,
but my own private prophet, silent and stubborn.
I am obliged to fulfill everything she said
and I’m running out of lifetime.
My mother was a prophet when she taught me
the do’s and dont’s of everyday, paper verses
for one use only: You’ll be sorry,
you‘ll be exhausted, that will do you good, you‘ll feel
like a new person, you’ll really love it, you
won’t be able to, you won’t like that, you‘ll never manage
to close it, I knew you wouldn’t remember,nwouldn’t
forget give take rest, yes you can you can.
And when my mother died, all her little predictions came together
In one big prophecy that will last
until the Vision of the End of Days.
Yehuda Amichai is Israel’s leading poet; his work has been translated into some 34 languages. The English translation of Open Closed Open will be published by Harcourt Brace this year.
Chana Block is director of the Creative Writing Program at Mills College. Chana Kronfeld is a professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley. Bloch and Kronfeld have been awarded a 1999 NEA Fellowship and a Marie Syrkin Award for the translation of Open Closed Open.