The Amen Stone

By Yehuda Amichai 1924–2000 Yehuda Amichai

Translated By Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

On my desk there is a stone with the word “Amen” on it,
a triangular fragment of stone from a Jewish graveyard destroyed
many generations ago. The other fragments, hundreds upon hundreds,
were scattered helter-skelter, and a great yearning,
a longing without end, fills them all:
first name in search of family name, date of death seeks
dead man’s birthplace, son’s name wishes to locate
name of father, date of birth seeks reunion with soul
that wishes to rest in peace. And until they have found
one another, they will not find a perfect rest.
Only this stone lies calmly on my desk and says “Amen.”
But now the fragments are gathered up in lovingkindness
by a sad good man. He cleanses them of every blemish,
photographs them one by one, arranges them on the floor
in the great hall, makes each gravestone whole again,
one again: fragment to fragment,
like the resurrection of the dead, a mosaic,
a jigsaw puzzle. Child’s play.

Yehuda Amichai, “The Amen Stone” from Open Closed Open, trans. by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld, published by Harcourt, Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Yehuda Amichai. Reprinted by permission of Hana Amichai.

Source: Open Closed Open: Poems (Harcourt Inc., 2000)

 Yehuda  Amichai

Biography

Yehuda Amichai is recognized as one of Israel’s finest poets. His poems—written in Hebrew—have been translated into forty languages, and entire volumes of his work have been published in English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, and Catalan. Translator Robert Alter has said: “Yehuda Amichai, it has been remarked with some justice, is the most widely translated Hebrew poet since King David.” Amichai’s translations into English . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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