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Even after the murder

of the child Muhammad on Rosh HaShanah,

the paper didn’t go black.

In the same water in which the snipers

wash their uniforms,

I prepare my pasta,

and over it pour

olive oil in which I’ve browned

pine nuts,

which I cooked for two minutes with dried tomatoes,

crushed garlic, and a tablespoon of basil.

As I eat, the learned minister of foreign affairs

and public security

appears on the screen,

and when he’s done

I write this poem.

For that’s how it’s always been —

the murderers murder,

the intellectuals make it palatable,

and the poet sings.

Aharon Shabtai is one of Israel’s most important living poets and its most important translator of the ancient Greek classics. Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish New Year. Muhammad, in this poem, is 12-year-old Muhammad al-Durra, who was shot and killed by IDF snipers as his father tried to protect the boy behind a concrete barricade in Gaza. The killing, caught on video and broadcast around the world, symbolizes for Shabtai (an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people) the loss of Israel’s pre-1967 democratic and humanist aspirations. “Rosh HaShanah” is from Shabtai’s collection J’Accuse, translated into English by Peter Cole and published by New Directions. It is reprinted by permission.

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RoRo June 1, 2011 @ 3:41 p.m.

Glad to see you changed it from the erroneous printed version that stated it was the Festival of Lights (Chanukkah)


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