Two Poems

Aharon Shabtai

translated by Peter Cole

Culture

The mark of Cain won’t sprout
from a soldier who shoots
at the head of a child
on a knoll by the fence
round a refugee camp –
for beneath his helmet,
conceptually speaking,
his head is made of cardboard.
On the other hand,
the officer has read The Rebel;
his head is enlightened,
and so he does not believe
in the mark of Cain.
He’s spent time in museums,
and when he aims
his rifle at a boy,
as an ambassador of Culture
he updates and recycles
Goya’s etchings
and Guernica.

War

I, too, have declared war:
You’ll need to divert part of the force
deployed to wipe out the Arabs –
to drive them out of their homes
and expropriate their land –
and set it against me.
You’ve got tanks and planes,
and soldiers by the battalion;
you’ve got the rams’ horns in your hands
with which to rouse the masses;
you’ve got men to interrogate and torture;
you’ve got cells for detention.
I have only this heart
with which I give shelter
to an Arab child.
Aim your weapons at it:
even if you blow it apart
it will always,
always mock you.