The mark of Cain won’t sprout
from a soldier who shoots
at the head of a child
on a knoll by the fence
around a refugee camp —
for beneath his helmet,
conceptually speaking,
his head is made of cardboard.
On the other hand,
the officer has read The Rebel;
his head is enlightened,
and so he does not believe
in the mark of Cain.
He’s spent time in museums,
and when he aims
his rifle at a boy
as an ambassador of Culture,
he updates and recycles
Goya’s etchings
and Guernica.

Aharon Shabtai, born in 1939 in Tel Aviv, is one of the most acclaimed Israeli poets and the foremost Hebrew translator of Greek drama. This poem was published in his book J’Accuse (Trans., Peter Cole, New Directions Publishing, 2003) on p. 14. Shabtai refused to participate in the Fifth International Poetry Festival in Jerusalem in 2006, living by his conviction that “even poets were not allowed in the past, and not in the present, to ignore persecutions and discriminations on a racial or national basis,” and will be boycotting the Turin Book Fair (8-12 May 2008) and the Salon du Livre de Paris (14-18 March 2008) where Israel will be the “guest of honor.”