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The Rustle of History's Wings, As They Used to Say

Not far from the train tracks, near the bruising post office,
I saw a porcelain plaque on an old house, and I knew
this was the name of the son of the man
whose girl I stole years ago: she left him
and came to me and this young man was born
to another woman and knew nothing about
all this.

Those were the days of a great love and a great fate,
the foreign government imposed a curfew on the city
and confined us to a sweet union in a room,
guarded by heavily armed soldiers.

For five shillings I exchanged the exile name
of my fathers for a proud Hebrew name that suited hers.

That whore ran off to America and married a man,
a spice dealer, pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom,
leaving me with my new name and with the war.

The rustle of history's wings, as they used to say
then, which almost killed me in battle,
blew a pleasant breeze across her face
in her secure location.

And with the wisdom of warfare they told me to carry
my first-aid bandage on the spot over my heart,
the stupid heart that still loved her
and the intelligent heart that would forget.

Translated from the Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier

By Yehuda Amichai