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To Die at the Springs of El-Hamma

Down into the fichus boulevards at the springs of El-Hamma
come the starlings, trembling then landing.
The water is hot at the springs of El-Hamma,
Yet night is more hostile than day.
Layers of sand on those who landed before:
Layers of sand cover their faces,
The water is dead at the springs of El-Hamma.
From great distances come the starlings
Beating to these death-ponds: always they come.
Who sends these birds to end
In the booby-trapped springs of El-Hamma?
They fly so urgently, with no chance or time,
No time for life and no chance to learn
If someone expects their return.
The starlings are flying in to die in the seducer
Springs of El-Hamma, poisoned by the salt.
Fowl can’t stop the soldiers, for their faces
Are pointed into the earth. Oh, how easy it is
To finish as a starling, and not as a soldier.

by Elisha Porat
Translated from the Hebrew by the author and Ward Kelley

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