Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Poetry: Dahlia Ravikovitch

The Horns of Hittin

In the morning strange ships were floating on the sea,
prow and stern in the ancient style.
In the eleventh century
Crusader caravans set sail,
riffraff and kings.
Crates of gold and plunder weltered in the ports,
ships of gold
piers of gold.
The sun set marvelous fires in them,
flaming forests.
When the sun dazzled and the waves surged,
their hearts went out to Byzantium.
How cruel and naive those Crusaders were.
They plundered everything.

The villagers were gripped by a boundless terror.
Their daughters were carried off by force,
their blue-eyed grandsons were sired
in disgrace.
No one spared their honor.

Slender-necked ships set sail for Egypt.
As if electrified, the gorgeous troops marched upon Acre.
Swift knights all, bearing the Bishop’s blessing.
A great flock of wolves.
How their blue eyes shone
when they saw the palm trees swaying in the wind.
How they soiled their beards with spittle
when they dragged women into the thicket.
Many fortresses they built,
snipers’ towers, ramparts of basalt.
In the villages their bastards, now full grown,
marveled at them.

In the twelfth century
the Marquis of Montfort’s eye grew dim.
The winds of Galilee hissed over his gloomy fortress.
A curved scimitar burst from the East
like a jester’s staff.
Saladin advanced from the East in motley garb.
With the horns of a wild ox
he gored them hip and thigh, that infidel dog:
did them in
at the Horns of Hittin.

Thenceforth they had no dominion,
no life eternal, no Jerusalem.
How cruel and naive those Crusaders were.
They plundered everything.

Dahlia Ravikovitch

(Re-published at Poets Against the War.)


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