In a Foreign Country for Maayan and Adi

by Yehudit Ben-Zvi Heller
     translated by Agha Shahid Ali with the poet

Dawn after dawn my mother
a fanatic to Let the air in Let the air in
opened my childhood windows
and spread the linen on the sills for the sun to kiss.

At Hayarkon Springs, like the eucalyptus grove planted there a
          century ago, I found my adolescence
clearly mapped: These were its boundaries:
the widening fields their smell of midnight bonfires, in their
          furrows the dampness
left by the dawn and sprinklers;
the train ties veins that pulsed with our walking
between the rails the Haifa Jerusalem line with a stop
in the Opening of Hope; 1
and the broken walls of a Roman fortress with embrasures
whereby mystery became safety: we could see without being seen,

And Snow White getting lost?  That was strange to me.
Just as puzzling: Red Riding Hood swallowed by the wolf.
Who heard of the eucalyptus shading wolves,
and could anyone be lost in a grove?

But here windows are kept closed in winter.
And here even in the summer it rains.
Here the sun does not soften the sheets and the laundry
does not dry in the wind.
Here the forest trees seem like shadows of men, here
          the forest does not wonder these are not my trees,

for here the evening descends early on my house,
and as if possessed, in sudden fear,
I draw curtains thickly over my windows.

1 “Opening of Hope” is the name of Petakh-Tikva, my hometown.