Poem | Fruit of the Land

By | Apr 18, 2023

A biblical symbol of peace and plenty, the fig tree still flourishes in Israel today—but what promise can it hold in the heat of conflict? “Fruit of the Land” by Israeli poet and peace activist Yonatan Berg strikes me as a secular prayer lodged within a lament. Its plea? To refuse the tools of war, both literal and figurative. Moment is proud to publish the poem for the first time in its original Hebrew alongside Joanna Chen’s splendid English translation.
Jody Bolz, Poetry Editor


The fig tree’s fruit falls to the ground,
Its purpled flesh still burning.
A harsh wind rushes by, ruffling the treetop
Like the head of a beloved child, and dies
Within me. For once in my life I want to say rain
And get soaked, to say eternity
And lose both past and future.
The wire fence shudders and stills,
A candy wrapper shudders and stills,
Yet this shuddering inside me goes on.
I ask for the courage to refuse
The iron tools imprinted within my eyes.
I grasp the bark of the fig tree,
Soil and sugar stick to my fingers:
A filigree of bitter and sweet.

—Translated by Joanna Chen

פרי הארץ

⹁פירות תאנה מוטלים על כביש
.הסגול בהם עוד בוער
רוח חזקה עברה וחלפה
.גם בתוכי
היא פרעה את הצמרת
.כראשו של ילד אהוב
פעם אחת בחיי אני מבקש לומר גשם ולהירטב
.לומר נצח ולאבד את העבר והעתיד
גדר המתכת רועדת ונרגעת
עטיפת ממתק רועדת ונרגעת
.כיצד זה שבתוכנו הרעד תמיד ממשיך
אני מבקש כוח לסרב
.לכלי הברזל שנותרו בעיניי
אני אוחז בתאנה פצועה
:סוכר ועפר נותרים על ידי
.הסיבוך של המר והמתוק

Yonatan Berg is the youngest-ever recipient of the Yehuda Amichai Prize for Hebrew Poetry and has won several other literary awards. He has published three books of poetry, one memoir and two novels. His most recent collection, Frayed Light, translated by Joanna Chen, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in poetry. 

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