I, may I rest in peace—I, who am still living, say,
May I have peace in the rest of my life.
I want peace right now while I'm still alive.
I don't want to wait like that pious man who wished for one leg
of the golden chair of Paradise, I want a four-legged chair
right here, a plain wooden chair. I want the rest of my peace now.
I have lived out my life in wars of every kind: battles without
and within, close combat, face-to-face, the faces always
my own, my lover-face, my enemy-face.
Wars with the old weapons—sticks and stones, blunt axe, words,
dull ripping knife, love and hate,
and wars with newfangled weapons—machine gun, missile,
words, land mines exploding, love and hate,
I don't want to fulfill my parents' prophecy that life is war.
I want peace with all my body and all my soul.
Rest me in peace.
"I, May I Rest in Peace" by Yehuda Amichai. Text as published in Open Closed Open: Poems (Mariner Books, 2006 edition). Translated from the original Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld. Reprinted here by permission of Chana Bloch.
Curator's note: Vivian Eden, a blogger for Haaretz, observes, "The `pious man' in the first stanza is from a Jewish folktale. He believed that in the world to come, he would sit on a golden chair. A prayer for just one leg of it to make ends meet in this world was granted, but then his wife worried that he would wobble uncomfortably on a three-legged chair for all eternity."
Thank you to subscriber Anita Gold for submitting this poem, with permission of Chana Bloch.
Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.