To the memory of Arieh Lahola
He did not attempt to saw the bars
but carried his cage around on his back:
days, nights, years, ages.
And when the gleam of the water beckoned,
the small pleasant ripples tempting him,
its heavy weight pulled him to the depths.
He did not kick and did not rail
just sank, succumbing to
the river: resigned, passive, estranged,
so far from the Land of Israel.
He did not chant and did not speak,
language deserted him in the bubbles
empty, soft, dizzying.
His throat was waterlogged and he
choked, stifled, was transformed
and floated, voiceless and without language:
A rhythmic hum emanated from him,
his swollen legs twitched
and his arms beat like those of a drummer.
Translated from the Hebrew by Cindy Eisner
Read more work by Israeli poet Elisha Porat in the journal Deep South, from which this poem is reprinted by permission. Deep South is a publication of the University of Otago, New Zealand.