A Tree Whose Name I Don’t Know

No bell rings & no-one comes.
How many days have passed
            Without message or phone call
                        Where I locked myself in & lost the key.
                                    And I too sent no message & phoned no-one.
I who am tormented, bandaged & wilted by words
I talk to you, tree whose name I don’t know:
         neither my hunger nor my thirst matter
                        since I’ve sucked on the tenderness of your silence.

Alone I’ve come to you, to sit beneath your vast mercy;
I am small: a blossom begets me in white oblivion,
                        a blossom shrouds me, the breeze follows my funeral;
I don’t caress girls nor do they caress me,
And like you I don’t know my name.
Poor are my words –
            that rise & fall like the hiccups of a babe-in-arms –
                        in the haze of another language,
And my skin talks to you:
With a thousand small mouths it drinks sunlight with you –
            The sun of my ancestors whose hair turned white
                        In their childhoods when they panicked, 
                                    Terrified by the revenge of wounded serpents; 
Nobody knew how long the horror would last
            Or until when the serpents would keep swimming in the waters of dream
Until the harsh became tender and the hair at their temples whitened.

My grandfather aged in his youth;
Paralysed by a stray bullet, treatable only by pain:
            They laid him down on a rug of goat’s hair,
                        Motionless & naked,
            They locked the door & windows to his clay chamber
                        & released the wasps;
In his house, white beneath the April sun,
            He waited for quickening pace to return to his feet.

Like him, like you, my waiting has been for too long –
Dead hours are my most fertile: 
Are they happy, the old people of this country I came to as a guest?
Happiness here is as white as old age;
I see the fearful – infuriated & shouting – 
            And behind my dark eyes 
                        Two gods are slaying a sleeping prisoner.
O tree whose name I don’t know:
            Each trembling blossom is hope arrived,
            Your petals have fallen on the crown of my white hair,
            And for this long waiting my roots have turned white
                        Like my mother’s hair in the dark years; 
Silently I talk to you –
           I whose fear has become sadness
         And you who beauty startled into blossom.  

Golan Haji
translated by the author and Stephen Watts

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