POET'S CHOICE

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By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, February 18, 2007

To write about history is to write about forgetting: The historical account of any nation, family or lifetime must acknowledge gaps and omissions, violations and losses. Fragments must be honored as fragments. The great Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) begins and ends his last collection, Open Closed Open, by considering an actual, physical fragment, "The Amen Stone":

On my desk there is a stone with the word "Amen" on it,

a triangular fragment of stone from a Jewish graveyard destroyed

many generations ago. The other fragments, hundreds upon hundreds,

were scattered helter-skelter, and a great yearning,

a longing without end, fills them all:

first name in search of family name, date of death seeks

dead man's birthplace, son's name wishes to locate

name of father, date of birth seeks reunion with soul

that wishes to rest in peace. And until they have found

one another, they will not find perfect rest.

Only this stone lies calmly on my desk and says "Amen."


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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