for Yehuda Amichai
Snow clouds shadow the bay, on the ice the odd fallen gull.
I try to keep my friend from dying by remembering
his childhood of praise to God, who needs us all. Würzburg:
the grownups are inside saying prayers for the dead,
the children are sent out to play—their laughter
more sacred than prayer. After dark his father
blesses and kisses him Güttenacht. He wakes
to go to school with children who stayed behind
and were murdered before promotion.
Now his wife lies beside him.
He may die with her head on his pillow.
He sings in his sleep:
“Her breasts are white sheep that appear on the mountain,
her belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies.”
Awake, he says, as if telling me a secret:
“When metaphor and reality come together, death occurs.”
His life is a light, fresh snow blowing across the bay.
A year later in Jerusalem, he carries a fallen soldier
on his back, himself. The text for the day begins:
“He slew a lion in the pit in a time of snow”
Seconds, minutes, hours are flesh,
he tells me he is being cut to pieces—
if they had not made him turn in his rifle …
He sees I can not bear more of that.
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding
of hands in sleep and we drink to life.
Chilled in desert heat, what keeps him alive:
soldiers—his wife, his son and daughter,
perhaps the ashes of a girl he loved in childhood.
Outside their window
a Sun Bird and Dead Sea Sparrow fly
from everlasting to everlasting.
Later he covers my head with his hands, blessing me,
later unable to walk alone he holds onto my hand
with so much strength he comforts me.