We travel the silk road of evening,
tobacco and desire flickering
between our hands. We are warm travelers,
our eyes unfurled, traveling in psalms,
in Rumi, in the sayings of the man from the Galilee.
We break bread under the pistachio tree,
under the Banyan tree, under the dark
of the Samaritan fig tree. Songs of offering rise up
in our throats, wandering along the wall of night. We travel
in the openness of warm eternity. Heavenly voices
announce a coupling as the quiet horse gallops
heavenward. We travel with the rest of the world,
with its atrocities, its piles of ruins, scars of barbed wire,
traveling with ardor in our loins, with the cry of birth.
We sit crossed-legged within the rocking
of flesh, the quiet of the Brahmin, the bells
of Mass, the tumult of Torah. We travel
through eagles of death, dilution of earth in rivers,
in eulogies, through marble, we travel through the silk
of evening, our hearts like bonfires in the dark.
This poetic collection is an honest and deeply reflective look at life overshadowed by disputed settlements and political upheaval in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yonatan Berg is a poet from Israel and the youngest person ever awarded the Yehuda Amichai Poetry Prize. This collection brings together the best poems from his three published collections in Hebrew, deftly translated by Joanna Chen. His poetry recounts his upbringing on an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, and service in a combat unit of the Israeli military, which left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He grapples with questions of religion and tradition, nationalism, war, and familial relationships. The book also explores his conceptual relationship with Biblical, historical, and literary characters from the history of civilization, set against a backdrop of the Mediterranean landscape. Berg shares an insider’s perspective on life in Israel today.
In Frayed Light, Yonatan Berg stands witness to the horrors of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of a soldier. Translated from the Hebrew by Joanna Chen, poems like “Ramallah Through the Window of a Bus” wrestle with growing up amidst a “creeping fear, but it came from the outside, never from within, and it left us drumming/with confused fingers on steamy bus windows.” Frayed Light documents the shift of this fear from the external to the internal as Berg heroically grapples with a soldier’s doubt.
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