Like Poetry in Motion on the New York City subways, Shir-Rehov has come to Jerusalem. As part of a new public art project launched in mid-May, Hebrew poems now hang from the lampposts of all the major roads and pedestrian malls, bringing Bialik and T. Carmi and Leah Goldberg into the Jerusalem streets.

Here is the poem that hangs around the corner from my apartment [my translation]:


Her beauty is not known. The wind
Has not told of it to the woods. The woods
Have not told of it to the picket in the fence.
The picket in the fence has said it hence: Her beauty,
I have said, it is not known and where and whence
The picket made of wood says, now a fence.

[Note on translation: The Hebrew word “etz” appears three times in the poem. The first two times it means tree; the third time it means wood. The gestalt shift from “etz/tree” to “etz/wood” is fundamental to the unfolding of the poem; I used the term woods/wood in an attempt to approximate this effect.]

[Note on translation: I preserved the rhyme scheme of the original, with the only rhymes in the poem existing within line four and between lines five and six. However, in the Hebrew it is “gader” and “omer” that rhyme in both places; whereas I had to use both “hence” and “whence” to make sense (so to speak).]

[PS – If this poem sounds familiar, it may be because there are echoes of Byron: “She walks in beauty like the night.”]

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