The Arty Semite

POEM: 'Under the Olive Tree'

By Asher Reich

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Translated by Rachel Tzvia Back

The light of the olive in this tree
is thick and dark — 
lost blood flows in it.

When I sat under its leaves
time killed itself in the tree’s shade.
Through all the afternoon hours
a figure on the hill

watched me, her face covered in a veil —
and the sun, like me, searched for her eyes
all the long afternoon,
the flute of silence singing in the rocks
as I gnawed nervously on the heavy air.

Years passed between us in fire —
an abundance of blood did not extinguish it.
With straight-necked weariness
we raised dust in our bodies —
but what connects us
may yet be stitched back together
and heal.

From “With an Iron Pen: Twenty Years of Hebrew Protest Poetry,” translated by Rachel Tzvia Back


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