Janet Kaplan

Eighteen Trees
(a gift on my 18th birthday)

(versión en español)

“We are used to believe abroad that Palestine nowadays is entirely desolate, a desert without vegetation…. But it is hard to find arable land there that is not already cultivated….Only sandy areas or rocky mountains which are suitable only for planting trees….” -- Asher Ginzburg, 1891

1.     And when ye shall come into the land and ye shall plant.

2.     For to sustain them is eternal. (As the flood is eternal.)

3.     Bring water to the sand and the rocky soil.

4.     Didn’t the leaders say come, anyone desiring land can come.

5.     The ruins. The wailing (stones hard and dry).

6.     They saw I was a sapling, a skeleton, the survivor of skeletons,
        they wanted me to live, they said rise again. (The wailing wall.)

7.     Who has ever wanted as little and as much as a tree?

8.     Chai*: for the living: eighteen trees.

9.     To sustain. To irrigate. (The rising water will not soften the wailing.)

10.    And so they planted me, a certain slenderness of torso.

11.    To make of me a State, like that of the.

12.    (And ye shall make an idol and ye shall worship.)

13.    My branches are barbed-wire beautiful. (It scatters light
         like seeds onto the earth.)

14.    While still shot through with green.

15.    Who sees how the Nation-State spreads its myth-roots.

16.    And how the trees were meant to strangle (while still shot through
        with green).

17.    They say I must stand for this.

18.    He said (solid stone, solid as faith) It will grind its people’s spirit
        in the dust.

*      Chai is Hebrew for the word “life” and also for the number “eighteen.” Because of this double meaning it is not uncommon for gifts to be given in denominations that include “eighteens” –18, 180, and so forth.

Janet Kaplan

Janet Kaplan 's first collection of poems, The Groundnote, won the Alice James Books New England and New York Competition, and she was hailed by Molly Peacock as one of "the leading poets of the newest generation of American writers." Her second book, The Glazier's Country won the 2002 Poets Out Loud Prize and was published by Fordham University Press in October 2003. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including The Paris Review, American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Western Humanities Review, and online at Poetry Daily. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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