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Poetry by Elisha Porat


THE LOST SON (Translation One)

He came back, but he came like a stranger.
He came back, looked about and did not
Recall, for to him, all appeared estranged:
The house, the yard, the narrow lane.
Their memory sliced through his heart,
Cut, and he who survived and was favoured
Came back; and he who had sworn back there
That nothing would be forgot, estranged though it be:
A dirt path, and the barren field and the ditch
At the edge, and the lemon tree with its bitter fruit.

He felt that his absence was almost ordained:
To come back at last, to come like a stranger
With a shadowy memory that was not estranged,
And an unravelled thread of burning desire
That will never more be made whole.

translated from Hebrew by Asher Harris

THE LOST SON (Translation Two)

And he returned, like a stranger he returned.
And as a stranger he looked round him and could not
remember, for everything was strange to him around him:
the house, the yard, the narrow path.
And their memory delved through his heart,
it cut, and he who survived, and was pardoned,
and returned; and he, who swore still there
he wouldn't forget a thing, even if he was estranged
from the hell of dust, and the wild field and the border
ditch, and the lemon tree, its sour fruit.

He felt his absence was a sort of sentence:
to return in the end, to return like a stranger,
with a dark memory that wouldn't leave him
and a frayed thread of warm nostalgia
that would never again be restored.

translated by Lilian Naisberg Klain

THE LOST SON (Translation Three)

So he came back, back like a stranger
And when he came back he looked around him and could not
Remember, for all to him was unfamiliar now:
The house, the yard, the narrow path.
Their memory cut off within his heart,
Cut out and he, survived, reprieved, was now the one
Who came; he who, still there, had sworn
Though he be made a stranger, he would not forget:
A footpath in the sand, the unploughed field, the trench
That marked the boundary, the lemon tree, its bitter fruit.
He felt his absence as if preordained:
Eventually to return, come back a stranger,
A darkness memory that would not depart,
A skein unraveling, unraveled, of longings, warm
Now, which would never be respun.

translated by Marzell Kay

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