A Speckle of Fig and Jasmine

By Michal Govrin
Translated from the Hebrew by Betsy Rosenberg

There’s Jasmine, skipping past the Old City Walls
With her satchel and her ponytail
And a Hey, look at me!
“What eez your name?” we bandy
And I exclaim she has a pretty name
Before the morning breezes waft us on our separate ways
Me to the Sabbath, Jasmine to her doings
In the shade of a fig tree, where chickens scurry
A tourist bus wheezes up the slope and Jasmine bounces by
Like a blossoming placard for a meeting between enemies

Or brothers—in grief and blood and newborn hopes
Dashed against the rocks—
Something we forgot in our prayers, could be
That’s where we should have started from this time around
Like winter, reaching out of thirsty pods—
The way the seasons taught us.

The light of revelation is breaking
Far away, a crashing light
Charges us with words,
The sole immortals here:
“Es Stand,1 it stayed,
The sweetness stayed,
A speckle of fig stayed
On your lip.”


  1. “Es Stand,” a poem by Paul Celan, was written during his only visit to Jerusalem in October 1969.

Michal Govrin is an Israeli writer whose eight books of poetry and fiction have won several prizes. Her novels include The Name and Snapshots (forthcoming), and Body of Prayer with Jacques Derrida and David Shapiro. “A Speckle of Fig and Jasmine” was first read in public on  February 15, 2005, at “Voices from Two Sides of  the Bridge”—where Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab writers exchanged literary viewpoints.

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