Oh Homeland, Don’t You Wonder (Tzion Ha-lo Tishali)

Oh homeland don’t you wonder on your captives,

who call to you, the ones left of your pastures

From seaward to sunrise, tree-line to barrens,

calling from far or close by from all sides

Call of a captive of desire, who sheds tears like dew

on Hermon’s peaks, & longs to let them fall on your mountains

When I wail out your torment I’m a hound, & when I dream

your homecoming has come, I’m strung with your songs

My heart beats to Beth-El & louder at P’niel

& Makhanayim & every point your pure ones touched

Where the holy nearness filled your winds, your maker

opened your windows to the windows of skies

& only God’s glow for your light, no

sun moon or stars to illuminate you

I would let my last breath spill out right where

the divine spirit overflowed your chosen ones

You’re the royal home & the holy seat & how

have servants sat down on your heroes’ thrones?

If only I could wander in the places

God was shown to your envoys & seers

& who will make me wings & I will range

with my heart in pieces between your ragged peaks

I would fall to my face on your ground & thrill

to your stones & feel your sweet dust with my fingers

& then standing on my ancestors’ gravestones,

I’d be stunned in Hevron how your finest are buried there

I would cross your forests & terraces & pause

in awe at the Gilead ridgeline where Moses was buried

His & Aaron’s burial mountains, those two huge

lights shining on you, showing you the way

Living breath—the air of your soil, & myrrh fragrance

the grains your earth, & honey-flow for your rivers

It would soothe my mind to go shoeless, naked

in the waste & ruins that were your shrines

Where your ark was hidden away, where cherubim

stayed in your innermost chambers

I’d shear off my hair grown in devotion, curse the years

in unclean lands that fouled your most devoted

How fine can the food on my plate taste when I see

your young lions dragged along by dogs?

Or how will daylight sweeten my eyes, while

I watch crows carry away their kill of your eagles

Slow now, cup of suffering, ease up, my belly

& soul are swollen with your bitterness

When I remember Jerusalem straying, I drink,

& her fallen sister Samaria, & I drain it

Zion loveliest crown, how you weave love & grace

as of old & your friends’ souls woven through you

Those who smile if you’re at peace & ache

at your desolation & weep for your shattered pieces

From a captive’s pit yearning for you, each

in his place bowing toward the arches of your gates

Your numberless herds driven out & scattered

from mountain to hilltop but your fence-lines not forgotten

Who cling to your fringes & fight to climb

& grasp onto your date palms’ canopies

Could Babylon & Egypt ever match you, their hollow

prayers compare to the gemstones you told truths with?

Who will compare to your nobles & holy men,

your chanters in the temple, singers in the choir?

False-god kingdoms will fall & be gone—your force

is forever, through the generations your jewels

God sought you for a home, & joy to a human who

has chosen, draws closer, to dwell in your courtyards

Joy to one who awaited, arrives, lays eyes

on your light dawning & your sunrises burst upon him

To see your chosen ones thriving, to thrill

in your joy as you return to your long-ago bloom

Translated by Dan Alter


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