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.
From Hebrew: Ammiel Alcalay
Keys to the Garden, New Israeli Writing
Edited by Ammiel Alcalay
City lights Books
San Francisco, 1996