My Son Was Drafted

My son was drafted. We visited him at the army base, in the desert,
the desolation that tents and their ropes and tent-pegs
try to make us forget. The whitewashed stones along the path
were so blinding white-hot that I covered my eyes
like a Jewish woman lighting the Sabbath candles,
I sot down on a stone near an empty tin can, and the music
of the wind in that discarded can was all that ever happened,
all that ever would. From the distant sand dunes I heard scattered shots
like a nervous, insistent thumbing through the Book of Life and Death,
My son’s barefoot steps when he was a baby were louder
than his heavy boots in the fine mealy Negev sand.
I want my son to be a soldier In the British army,
guarding a palace in the rain, A tall fur hat on his head—
everyone staring at him while, without moving a muscle,
he’s laughing Inside.

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.