It’s hot outside. Too hot to focus on anything. I usually love to read a big fat novel, but in the past couple of weeks it’s been too hot for me to focus on anything long and complex, so I’ve found myself rereading my favorite fiction, and reading lots of poetry. Short poems that fit on one page. The kind of poem you can read and then close your eyes and meditate on it for a minute or two. A bite-sized chunk of thought and beauty.
Last week, I was going through Poems of Jerusalem and Love Poems by Yehuda Amichai. That book was given to me by my first serious boyfriend, who did not speak Hebrew but nonetheless knew to get me the bilingual edition. One of my favorite things about Amichai’s poetry is recognizing the biblical allusions he makes. One poem is called My Head! My Head! It’s a reference to this story in Kings 2 and knowing both the precise reference, and the context of that story makes the poem that much more impressive and clever.
After a few days with Amichai, I cracked open a new book of poetry that my friend Ilana gave me for my birthday. Rivka Miriam had her first book of poetry published when she was 14, and has twice been the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award in Israel. Like Amichai she is enchanted by the land of Israel, the stories of the Bible, and the body of her lover. But her voice is not as gentle as Amichai’s, and when she writes about characters in the Bible, her voice is intimate and almost casual. Amichai knows the people in the Bible, but Miriam writes about them as if they’re her first cousins and she knows both their triumphs and their deep dark secrets.
Obviously, not everyone loves to read poetry, but if you’re like me, left dazed and sluggish from the heat, pick up this book. It will dazzle and bewitch you.
I Won’t Abandon You by Rivka Miriam
I won’t abandon you, the land said
The same way she spoke clutching the sea
Just before being torn from it by force.