To My Mother
Translated from the Hebrew by Joanna Chen
You ask with your eyes
where autumn and savagery come from.
You hand me a clean handkerchief,
ripe figs. I have been moving away
for years, finding you before bedtime
tucking the blanket around me, singing
of angels who watch over children.
How can I explain to you the animal
that growls within, the same rose
pinned to every hour, staining the light
red, sinning in thought, me
sitting by the tree, sketching
its movements, the olive releasing
stars one by one, the motion
of your hand, signalling me
from afar, to come back.
Yonatan Berg is the youngest recipient ever to win the Yehuda Amichai Poetry Prize. He is the author of three books of poetry, Hard Sails, Hours Next to the World and History, as well as one novel, Five More Minutes. He recently won the National Library of Israel’s Pardes Project Award for Poetry. English translations of his poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry International, Consequence, Lunch Ticket and The Northwest Review of Books, among others.
Joanna Chen’s poetry, translations and lyric essays have appeared in Guernica, Poet Lore, Asymptote, and Narratively, among many others. Less Like a Dove, a collection of poems by Agi Mishol, translated into English by Chen, was published last year by Shearsman Books. She writes a monthly column for The Los Angeles Review of Books.