At the train station a rabid crowd
Doles out yellow ribbons and flags
asking passersby to pledge their blessings
and give thanks to the boys coming home.
As for me, I put down:
miserable, pitiful souls.
And a stinging memory comes back.
Driving through the streets of a
strange city at full tilt
(the streets there weren't at all
unfamiliar to us),
an old Arab stood by the side of the
main road waving his cane
(now I think: that old man's grandfather
once must have stood by the side of
that very road and waved that very cane).
We stopped to find the meaning of his wave.
The old man bent toward me
(in his eyes I saw that he didn't get the
essence of human adulation,the quality
of victory or failiure),
and spit a yellow glob of saliva in my face
before turning back on his way.
And on that day, I was purified.
If only for a fleeting moment was I purified.
- Sami Shalom Chetrit
translation by Ammiel Alcalay,
published in Keys to the Garden (City Lights, 1996)