Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Shachar Mario Mordechai

THE ONE WHO DOESN\'T KNOW HOW TO ASK

 
In 1967 my father was twenty years old. It seems
my grandmother, that is, his mother, didn’t know exactly when he was born.
She gave birth to him, dark-skinned and black-haired, in Iraq,
where records were not always kept, and if they were,
were sometimes lost. My father
remembers neither the Tigris nor the Euphrates of the books
of Ezra and Nehemiah (or Ali Baba). Papa was twenty and knew nothing
of his Exodus from Egypt
(as it says in “History of the Future,” which I don’t know if he ever read).
 
If my grandmother had given a different date
to the Israeli authorities
perhaps he wouldn’t have been sent to the Egyptian front in the Six Day War
and if he hadn’t been sent, he wouldn’t have absorbed the direct blow to the tank
and if he hadn’t, my father wouldn’t have been enveloped
in flames. And if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have lost
his place on the Maccabi Haifa soccer team,
and if he had continued to play soccer in Haifa, I wouldn’t have been forced
to play in his place, and I wouldn’t hate soccer
and if I didn’t hate it, he wouldn’t haven’t spoken to me in broken language
and wouldn’t have broken me,
and I wouldn’t have had to wear armor facing the burned tank soldier
known to me as my father, and at age 37 I wouldn’t have asked Gideon, his friend called Gadda from Belgium,
to tell me about my father and how one morning
in that blazing summer of ’67 at Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva,
when he didn’t find him in the burn unit and called out his name,
my father answered: Gadda, is that you? And Gadda said,
Mordechai, is that you? One clawed at the air
and the other stood in the air over the snowy white landscape
that was the body bound in a thicket of impenetrable
bandages, my father, a human being inside dense brush,
and suddenly Gadda tells me that I must understand, he brings to my understanding that my father is human
and I couldn’t get enough of that. 

ושאינו יודע לשאול

ושאינו יודע לשאול

 
בְּ-1967 מָלְאוּ לְאָבִי עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה. כַּנִּרְאֶה.
סָבָתִי, כְּלוֹמַר: אִמּוֹ, לֹא זָכְרָה מָתַי בְּדִיּוּק נוֹלַד. הִיא יָלְדָה
אוֹתוֹ בְּעִירַאק, שְׁחוּם-עוֹר וּשְׁחֹר שֵׂעָר, וְלֹא
הָיָה רִשּׁוּם מְסֻדָּר, וְאִם הָיָה,
אָבַד. אָבִי
לֹא זוֹכֵר דֶּקֶל בְּחִדֶּקֶל וְשׁוּם פְּרָט
שֶׁל עֶזְרָא וּנְחֶמְיָה (אוֹ: עַלִי בַּאבַּא). אֲבָל בַּאבַּא בֶּן עֶשְׂרִים וְאֵין לוֹ פְּרָטִים
מִיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם
שֶׁלּוֹ (כַּכָּתוּב בְּ"תוֹלְדוֹת הֶעָתִיד", שֶׁאֵין לִי מֻשָּׂג אִם קָרָא אוֹ לֹא).
 
לוּ הָיְתָה סָבָתִי מְבִיאָה לִידִיעַת הָרָשֻׁיּוֹת
הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִיּוֹת תַּאֲרִיךְ אַחֵר לְלֵדַת אָבִי,
אוּלַי לֹא הָיָה נִשְׁלַח לַחֲזִית הַמִּצְרִית בְּמִלְחֶמֶת שֵׁשֶׁת הַיָּמִים
וְאִלּוּ לֹא נִשְׁלַח, לֹא הָיָה סוֹפֵג בַּטַּנְק, בּוֹ שָׁעַט, פְּגִיעָה יְשִׁירָה  
וְאִלּוּ לֹא סָפַג, לֹא הָיָה עוֹלֶה אָבִי בָּאֵשׁ
וְאִלּוּ לֹא עָלָה בָּאֵשׁ, לֹא הָיָה מְאַבֵּד
אֶת מְקוֹמוֹ בִּקְבוּצַת הַכַּדּוּרֶגֶל הַחֵיפָאִית שֶׁלּוֹ,
וְאִלּוּ הִמְשִׁיךְ לְשַׂחֵק בְּמַכַּבִּי חֵיפָה, לֹא הָיָה מַכְרִיחַ אוֹתִי
לְשַׂחֵק כַּדּוּרֶגֶל בִּמְקוֹמוֹ, וְלֹא הָיִיתִי שֹוֹנֵא כַּדּוּרֶגֶל
וְאִלּוּ לֹא שָׂנֵאתִי, לֹא הָיָה מְדַבֵּר אֵלַי מִשְׁפָּטִים פְּגוּמִים
וּמַכֶּבִּי שֶׁלֹּא אָהַבְתִּי
וְלֹא הָיִיתִי עוֹטֶה שִׁרְיוֹן מוּל שִׁרְיוֹנֵר כָּווּי, שֶׁהוּבָא לִידִיעָתִי שֶׁהוּא אָבִי,
וְלֹא הָיִיתִי מְבַקֵּשׁ בְּגִיל 37 מֵחֲבֵרוֹ בְּבֶּלְגְּיָה, גִּדְעוֹן, שֶׁמְּכֻנֶּה גָּדָה,
שֶׁיְּסַפֵּר לִי עַל אַבָּא, וְשׁוֹמֵעַ אֵיךְ בִּקֵּר אוֹתוֹ
בַּקַּיִץ הַבּוֹעֵר שֶׁל 67' בִּבְאֵר שֶׁבַע בְּבֵית הַחוֹלִים סוֹרוֹקָה, וְסָרַק
וְלֹא מָצָא אוֹתוֹ בְּמַחְלֶקֶת הַכְּוִיּוֹת וּכְשֶׁקָּרָא בִּשְׁמוֹ
שֶׁל אָבִי, עָנָה לוֹ אַבָּא: גָּדָה, זֶה אַתָּה? וְגָדָה הֵשִׁיב לוֹ,
מָרְדְּכַי, זֶה אַתָּה? וְזֶה גִּשֵּׁשׁ בָּאֲוִיר
וְזֶה נִצַּב כּאֲוִיר מֵעַל נוֹף לָבָן וְשַׁלְגִּי
שֶׁהוּא גּוּף אָפוּף עָקוּד בִּסְבַךְ תַּחְבּוֹשׁוֹת בִּלְתִּי
עָבִיר, אָבִי, וּבְתוֹךְ הַסְּבַךְ יְצוּר אֱנוֹשִׁי
וּפִתְאֹם גָּדָה מֵאִיר לִי שֶׁאָבִין, שֶׁאָבִיא לִידִיעָתִי (שֶׁאָבִיא, אָבִיא) שֶׁאֱנוֹשִׁי
וְשֶׁלֹּא דַּיֵּנִי.
 
 
 
 
Close

THE ONE WHO DOESN\'T KNOW HOW TO ASK

 
In 1967 my father was twenty years old. It seems
my grandmother, that is, his mother, didn’t know exactly when he was born.
She gave birth to him, dark-skinned and black-haired, in Iraq,
where records were not always kept, and if they were,
were sometimes lost. My father
remembers neither the Tigris nor the Euphrates of the books
of Ezra and Nehemiah (or Ali Baba). Papa was twenty and knew nothing
of his Exodus from Egypt
(as it says in “History of the Future,” which I don’t know if he ever read).
 
If my grandmother had given a different date
to the Israeli authorities
perhaps he wouldn’t have been sent to the Egyptian front in the Six Day War
and if he hadn’t been sent, he wouldn’t have absorbed the direct blow to the tank
and if he hadn’t, my father wouldn’t have been enveloped
in flames. And if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have lost
his place on the Maccabi Haifa soccer team,
and if he had continued to play soccer in Haifa, I wouldn’t have been forced
to play in his place, and I wouldn’t hate soccer
and if I didn’t hate it, he wouldn’t haven’t spoken to me in broken language
and wouldn’t have broken me,
and I wouldn’t have had to wear armor facing the burned tank soldier
known to me as my father, and at age 37 I wouldn’t have asked Gideon, his friend called Gadda from Belgium,
to tell me about my father and how one morning
in that blazing summer of ’67 at Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva,
when he didn’t find him in the burn unit and called out his name,
my father answered: Gadda, is that you? And Gadda said,
Mordechai, is that you? One clawed at the air
and the other stood in the air over the snowy white landscape
that was the body bound in a thicket of impenetrable
bandages, my father, a human being inside dense brush,
and suddenly Gadda tells me that I must understand, he brings to my understanding that my father is human
and I couldn’t get enough of that. 

THE ONE WHO DOESN\'T KNOW HOW TO ASK

 
In 1967 my father was twenty years old. It seems
my grandmother, that is, his mother, didn’t know exactly when he was born.
She gave birth to him, dark-skinned and black-haired, in Iraq,
where records were not always kept, and if they were,
were sometimes lost. My father
remembers neither the Tigris nor the Euphrates of the books
of Ezra and Nehemiah (or Ali Baba). Papa was twenty and knew nothing
of his Exodus from Egypt
(as it says in “History of the Future,” which I don’t know if he ever read).
 
If my grandmother had given a different date
to the Israeli authorities
perhaps he wouldn’t have been sent to the Egyptian front in the Six Day War
and if he hadn’t been sent, he wouldn’t have absorbed the direct blow to the tank
and if he hadn’t, my father wouldn’t have been enveloped
in flames. And if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have lost
his place on the Maccabi Haifa soccer team,
and if he had continued to play soccer in Haifa, I wouldn’t have been forced
to play in his place, and I wouldn’t hate soccer
and if I didn’t hate it, he wouldn’t haven’t spoken to me in broken language
and wouldn’t have broken me,
and I wouldn’t have had to wear armor facing the burned tank soldier
known to me as my father, and at age 37 I wouldn’t have asked Gideon, his friend called Gadda from Belgium,
to tell me about my father and how one morning
in that blazing summer of ’67 at Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva,
when he didn’t find him in the burn unit and called out his name,
my father answered: Gadda, is that you? And Gadda said,
Mordechai, is that you? One clawed at the air
and the other stood in the air over the snowy white landscape
that was the body bound in a thicket of impenetrable
bandages, my father, a human being inside dense brush,
and suddenly Gadda tells me that I must understand, he brings to my understanding that my father is human
and I couldn’t get enough of that. 
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
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