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Ana Bekoach – A Personal Liturgical Homily
After the Yom Kippur War my first book of poems, Hushniya, The Mosque, appeared. A few months earlier I had published my poem "Ana Bekoach" in the literary supplement of one of the newspapers. A curious and peculiar poem, whose words appeared before my eyes and were thrust upon me from an unknown source. And arranged themselves with great force.
In those post-war days, I was completing a number of lamentations, whose origin was a hasty draft on military papers that I happened to have at hand, in the Syrian enclave and in the emplacements along the northern border. I believed in those poems, I believed in those lamentations. They restored hope to me for a short while, as if it were in our power to bring the thousands of dead back to life.
I remember precisely the moment of birth of my poem "Ana Bekoach": in a bus full of soldiers, returning to Israel, on the way from Kuneitra, as outside the low skies grew gray, heralding the coming of snow. On the bus radio a cantor was singing a verse of the prayer "Ana Bekoach" – "Please, by the strength". He performed it sensitively and with fervor, and the juxtaposition of those words caught my attention immediately. A marvelous oxymoron, before which even the "King of Oxymorons" in modern Hebrew poetry, Natan Alterman, would have tipped his hat.
From within the contradictory pairing of gentleness and violence emerged the harmony of the poem that so wanted to be born. The ingredients were repulsively familiar: a shell shocked and exhausted soldier, returning home for a short and limited period of time, the threat of returning to the front not yet lifted. His hunger for a woman, the absurd pairing of his fleshly lust with his impending death echo in the poem:
… now is not the time ask
by the strength of what, whither my pleas
for soon must I take my leave:
by lily light your body breathes
POETRYREPAIRS 11.08: 092|