Anthology of contemporary Hebrew poetry II

Song of David

Look at the skies David / look / they’re blue / Saturday / the skies are transparent / bluish gray / on the Sabbath / for the Lord ended / let’s sit / here / on the sand dune / and let our eyes behold / the skies / the sand / and the eye is full of His sand / right and left / lets look / smoke a cigarette / we’ll look at the silence / a bird did not chirp / we’ll look / look at the skies / David / look at the skies / airplanes / one plane / David / a second plane / David / and a third / and a fourth David / look how beautiful / how elegant / silvery / drawing / circles in the air / plane following plane / how handsome / raise your eyes David and see / waving their wings / the planes / circling and waving / at one another’s tail / David / now they’re declining / declining / circling and declining / look David / so low / grazing sand / the planes / now the pilot in his canopy / and the second and the third and the fourth / David / now we are hidden under the shelter of their wings / look David / look / fire in their wings / fire / look / fire is coming down from heaven / fire / fire / fire from heaven / towards you David / towards me / fire is sent / get up and run / David / get up and run / get up and run / look David / here is the machine-gun / here’s mine / lie on your back / David / lie / gun-barrels to heaven / gun barrels to heaven / pull David / pull / I’m pulling / fire from heaven / machine-gun fire / fire to fire in the air / here they are circling / again / circling / one and two and a third and a fourth / circling / fire in their wings / fire and thunder / in their wings / squeeze the trigger / David / squeeze / don’t let go / we won’t let go / fire rises to heaven / fire comes down / heaven and earth / down comes the fire / heaven have mercy / have mercy He who abides in highest heavens / fire touches fire / now the pilot’s eyes / now my eyes in his / now his wings catch fire / we’ve hit David / we’ve hit / don’t let go / we won’t let go / we’ve hit / David / no hit / now thunder / before him flow streams of fire / fire consumes fire / the fire is in us / now sand is in the air / now you land / David / land / upon me / you land / David / rise David / rise / you’re heavy David / rise / David / and squeeze the trigger / role yourself off me / David / David / David / rise Man Greatly Beloved / your head is filled with dewy lights / your locks with the dewdrops of the night / your body all openings and cavities / cavities and holes / your body is heavy upon me / rise I say / rise I say / right now / rise / please David / pray awaken / wake I beseech thee / pray stand / pray rise up / pray rise / David / rise / right now / we’ll listen to the silence / look at the skies / bluish gray / fire on the Sabbath / for the Lord ended / we’ll listen to the silence / David / it’s so quiet here / and hot / October and hot / hot blood / hot blood / my fingers in your holes / to keep your blood from streaming / from overflowing / lest your bowels be troubled for us / lest you perish / David / lest you cease / Our Father our King act for the sake of those who went into fire / for those who went into fire, beheading and strangling / act / for those asleep in the dust / act / right now / act / act I say / act / act with us and for thy name / to increase our days / act / act now / right now / act / the sand bubbles / the fire is lofty / the wind / the wind / clouds no more / rain no more / wind no more / blood / no more

Graduation Picture

When I looked left I saw the missile explode on the road. Momentarily
the adjacent tank disappeared in the smoke and dust. That was
on the second day of the war. “Mum”, I said, “Mummy”. Now
I began to be afraid, now
I called out to my mother. I was afraid
until the end of the war. I was afraid
a long time after the war was over. I have never
again seeked my mother.

When I looked left I saw the locked door. Momentarily
I contemplated getting up to check. This was in eleventh grade. Rafael said “come sit on the bed”
and I sat. and was thrilled.
Rafael kissed me on my cheek. I
kissed Rafael on his cheek. We never said a word. My cheek
forever scorched.

When I looked to the left I saw the tracker get off the jeep. Momentarily
his eyes hit my eyes and deviated. This was
in nineteen eighty. The tracker lay
on his belly, pants rolled down. Now
pressing pressing himself into the dune. Now
saying “that’s good that’s good that’s good”. Now
I strain my eyes to dream. Forever
the bit of dune in the plastic bag will wither in my closet.

When I looked left I saw him sitting. Momentarily
he was hard to discern, because of the dark. This was
last year. He sat in the armchair
in underpants and sandals. I lay in the bed. I saw
his white teeth when he said “take me God”,
“Please”. Then the teeth disappeared. Never
was God’s hearing
so sharp.

The Nameless
When I looked left I saw them lying on their bellies. Momentarily
one shuddered, the other still. This was
at another time. I lay very
close, on my back. I saw
sunlight, the two – facing downwards. Now
I turned my face. Forever
am I grinding sand.

When I looked left I saw his buttocks. Momentarily
he lingered at the door. This was
long ago. He gathered his bag, his suitcase and crates. Now
I listened to Verdi’s Requiem. Now
he slammed the door. He left. Forever
do I accompany the “Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna,
in die illa tremenda*” with the clatter of the key-ring.

When I looked left I saw his face. Momentarily
he stood at the window and disappeared. This was
eight years ago. Now
he leaned again in the light. Now
his hair combed, his breasts bare and wet. I
was fuming with sweat. Never
have I been able to catch men in flight.

When I looked left I saw him kneel. Momentarily
his legs trembled, he swayed. This was
yesterday. He stretched his hand. Steadied himself. Now
My knees locked. Now
I stretched, he stretched. Never
have we been as long as then.

When I looked left I saw him pant. Momentarily
The breathing overcame the nail scratching on the guitar. This was
after the war ended. Now
I strained to separate the sounds. Now
I shut my eyes to hear. He said “I’ve just
died”, “died” he said. Never
again have I heard an angel flap his wings.

Or Rav
When I looked left I saw. He lifted his hand. This was
a moment ago. Raised his palm, straightened a curl. Now
he looked at me. Now I saw –
in the opening of his sleeve, the fringe of his armpit. Now
gleaming. Forever
will I lead my tongue by my eyes.

And then I turned my face to the right. Momentarily
again was I dazzled by summer light. This was
always, forty four years blind. Now
I raised my hand for cover. Now
crushed my eyelids and wept. Forever.

As I rise, as I lie

Speak to me in Hebrew / speak speak / in English / to me / speak / say / words words / say / to me / to me / say it with your slimness / say it / with your height / with the width of your brows / say it say it / with your sharp fangs / as a blade say / words / with your transparency / leaf-like / just sprouting / say it / with the green of your crown / so cryptic / erect / speak / to me / Hebrew English or French / say it to me / in your fatigue / in your sleep / say it / in your awakening / in the morning say it / to me / as I open my eyes / as I shut them / I’ll hear / murmured words / stammering tongue / coming / to me to me / I’ll hear / spittle sound / stretching / in your lips I’ll hear / the assault of your dispersing / sperms / I’ll hear as I rise / as I lie / hear the sound of their bursting / the stir of their effervescence / in my skin I’ll hear / words words / speak / this is my rest / speak to me / my rest

Speak to me / speak speak / to me for / I have given thine mouth my words

Manpower Strength
Completed in you / are the days of your father / complete / is my father too / consumed / is their deeds in us / their words / yearning / yet / your father is laid down in his place / my father to his place / we are / worn out / each as his father / as his father before him / each in his father / will sojourn / in one another

Spiritual Life
I ask / at night / I / ask / when on television / the channels snow up / I ask / whether / my bed / is half empty / or half / full The truth – the pity – and the truth (For Benjamin Britten, the aria which was never written) Peter Grimes! Peter Grimes! Peter Grimes!
We are here to investigate / the cause of death of / your apprentice, William Spode / whose body you brought ashore / on your boat the “Boy Billy” / on the 26th ultimo / Do you wish to give evidence?

Definite Identification

The eyes of my father / in his head / watching / from his head inward / into / the expanses deserted / blood / into / my absent Thus / shrouds / encircled him / foot / head / centre / encircled / back and forth / up and down / up/and back again / encircled / and a man / undoes / roles and undoes / my father’s body / shrouds / and thus / the head of my father / washed white / white / the head of my father / his skin / his eye-lids / lips / white / shroud pulp / his nostrils / nothing exits / breath / and nothing enters / them /

Operation Successful

I am one of the arteries
That clogged my father’s heart.
Then came the surgeons
Cut me
And released him.

Published 2 November 1999
Original in Hebrew
Translated by Irit Sela
First published by Helicon

Contributed by Helicon © Tamir Lahav-Radlmesser / Irit Sela / Helicon / Eurozine


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