Poems we missed the first time around.
Draft of a Reparations Agreement
Dan Pagis (translated by Stephen Mitchell)
All right gentlemen who cry blue murder as
Everything will be returned to its place,
paragraph after paragraph.
The scream back into the throat.
The gold teeth back to the gums.
The smoke back to the tin chimney and further on and inside
back to the hollow of the bones,
and already you will be covered with skin and sinews and
you will live,
look, you will have your lives back,
sit in the living room, read the evening paper.
Here you are. Nothing is too late.
As to the yellow star: immediately
it will be torn from your chest
and will emigrate
to the sky.
Dan Pagis (1930-1986) was held in a
Nazi camp throughout his early adolescence. He was raised speaking
German, but as soon as he arrived in Israel he began to teach
himself Hebrew and within a few years began publishing poetry in
that language. Pagis is often grouped with Natan Zach and Yehuda
Amichai, the three great Hebrew poets of their generation.
Stephen Mitchell has also translated
The Book of Job and A Book of Psalms
The poem was reprinted in the March 18,
2001, Los Angeles Times Book Review. It appears in World Poetry
edited by Katharine Washburn, John S. Major and Clifton Fadiman
(W.W. Norton: 1,338 pp., $45).