Forty-eight poems translated from the Hebrew of twenty-eight Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Israeli poets on themes from the Bible.

Two Gardens

Yona Wallach

If berries grew on you from head to foot,
I would pluck them with my teeth and eat them 
one by one and then you would be naked, 
your skin white and smooth. How hard 
it is to feel naked and how beautiful, but there is 
something ugly about naked flesh, so I say: 
“The fruit here is not frightful
and misshapen. It is flowery and sweet—the fruit of Eden.”
What are these tall winged creatures that scour the trails 
and the trunks of trees? You tell me I’m afraid
the animals will find me. I suffer nausea before I give in
to curiosity, imagining something without limbs or blood.
Afterwards I run out, and the animals plunge
through the foliage, waving their bright tails.
Everything is soft and lovely. There are no seeds or thorns 
in the garden, only lush vegetation and plump, luscious fruit.
But this garden will vanish and not one plant will blossom
as it did here. I’m afraid. My body is nothing
but air, and my soul hungers for the burning horizon.
Now we are surrounded by thorny plants, and our bodies
return to us as flesh and blood, sprouting nails and hair,
and odors rise from us as though we were damp earth.
The land confines us, but blood beats in the walls of our 
though despair spreads its bright, bold colors. And 
we are again in the first garden, sweeter than any honey
you’ve ever tasted. I find you among the leaves
and call you my first love and now you see
I’m smooth as oil, lovely as a pearl.
But that garden is gone now, and here 
a precise light dwells on our aging bodies.

    These familiar stories become fresh once more when delivered in the distinctive voice of such resourceful and authoritative poets and their meticulous translators, Friedman and Zohar render these versions with finely attuned ears and precise diction, and the richly drawn characters breathe anew in their singular struggles. In Two Gardens you’ll find the well from which you and your children can drink deeply.

—Michael Waters, Gospel Night and Darling Vulgarity

Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poets of the Bible gathers a rare collection of poems written by modern Hebrew poets such as Yehuda Amichai, Amir Gilboa, and Yona Wallach, on biblical stores, especially those from Genesis. Undoubtedly, the most important biblical themes have been included. The translators, Jeff Friedman, a well-known American poet, and Nati Zohar, a fine translator, have transformed the Hebrew texts into clear and fluent English poems. 

—Shlomo Vinner, For a Few Hours Only and Jerusalem As She Is