Six Poems

Yitzhak Laor was born the same year as Israel, 1948. He has written stories, novels, plays, essays, and journalism, while his poetry has been recognized as among the best if most controversial of his generation. In 1972, Laor became one of the first Israeli Defense Forces soldiers to refuse to complete his compulsory military service in the territories captured during the Six-Day War, a decision that earned him a brief prison sentence. Today Laor lives in Tel Aviv, where he edits the magazine Mitaam. Like most poets in Hebrew, Laor frequently resorts to the language of Scripture, although he uses it to address a political situation—Jews as conquerors—that hasn’t existed since Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel wrote their last lines.

Take Care, Soldier

Don’t die, soldier, hold the radiophone,
don your helmet, your flak jacket, surround
the village with a trench of crocodiles, starve
it out if need be, eat Mama’s treats, shoot
sharp, keep your rifle clean, take care of the armored
Jeep, the bulldozer, the land, one day it will be
yours, little David, sweetling, don’t die, please.

Keep watch for Goliath the peasant, he’s trying to sell his
pumpkin at the local market, he’s plotting to buy a gift for his grandkid,
the evil Haman whose bronchitis you denied treatment, eradicate
the blood of Eva Braun by checking on the veracity of her labor pains,
silence her
shriek, that’s how every maternity ward sounds, it’s not easy
having such humane values, be strong, take care, forget
your deeds, forget the forgetting.

That thy days may be long, that the days of thy children may be long,
that one day
they shall hear of thy deeds and shall stick fingers in their ears and
with fear and thy sons’ and thy daughters’ screams shall never fade.
Be strong, sweet David, live long unto seeing thy children’s eyes,
though their backs hasten to flee from thee, stay in touch with thy
after thy sons deny thee, a covenant of the shunned.
Take care, soldier-boy.

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