Anthology of contemporary Hebrew poetry V
The days are a lengthening dusk
with the light of rotten potatoes.
Out thoughts are winter.
Our feelings winter.
Heavyweight fog spars
with feather light. Lightning storms
like a railroad from heaven to earth.
The whistle of the train hauling thunder
batters us inside the house.
Snow huffs on the horizon.
When I moved to a new home,
my forgotten bible suddenly turned up.
A bar mitzva gift, the only thing
I took with me, when I abandoned the home of my youth
forty desert years ago.
I leafed through the book. Some pages were stuck together
as if with a deep secret. Cain, of course, still killed his brother.
For every murder, two other brothers sprout in the field.
Goliath strips off his armor and goes on a lunch break
from his eternal battle with little Israel.
The Philistine’s head is already adorned with rubber bullets
like a Black man’s curls. The first astronaut,
Elijah, rises heavenward in a tempest as a normal thing.
UFOs, made in Israel, sail through Ezekiel’s sky.
I kept on leafing. The pages were already black with blood
of sanguine wars that continue of their own accord.
Only the sins remained as white spots. Prophets
had vanished from the book to prophesize far away. Kings fled into exile.
Angels flew back to the caves of the firmament.
From his couch, God rose sadly and turned off the light for us.
Good morning to the white ceiling above me
where the smoke of my dreams is absorbed like a secret,
good morning to the four walls of my room
that shuts out the crude noise of the street.
Good morning to the closet
that like me hates dress clothes and suits.
Happy is the French window
that tells me night and day of light and dark.
Blessed is the double bedstead that held me,
blessed is the waterbed on which I lay
and which always sates my thirst for dreams.
Blessed my slippers, that lead me through my room.
Good morning to all who rise early
not knowing what the day will bring
WORDS TO A PICTURE
This is my beloved,
the one on the right is
her brother who fell in Lebanon.
The one on the left is
her last lover
before I came
into the picture.
She is hugging them hard
as if she knew she would lose them both.
From the side, her mother regards them.
Her face looks like a browned cake
that time baked on too high a flame.
DAYS WALK AMONG US LIKE SPIES
The earth sings the chronicles of our lives.
In this land days walk among us
like spies. Night puddles
where the rain is absorbed in firefly glimmers.
The wind is a coop of clucking chickens.
The song of the earth feeds itself on blood sounds.
The rustling of trees, the susurration of grass like ancient lyrics.
For days I listened to the sounds of the earth
trying to decipher its language
in renewing Nature, its wintry anger
that always defeats us
For days I was trapped wondering what rustles
in its damp and swelling belly
when it sheds its skin like a snake
and dons new skin.
I stripped naked to the sounds of words
to recount events to myself.
ON HIS DEATH
At breakfast I spread
memory on a sliced roll
upon reading in the paper of “his untimely
death,” as if death had a time of its own.
And he was the one who had said after years
that we hadn’t met (I asked him: What are
you doing these days) – “For a year now I’ve been preparing
My death!” he whispered to me, glancing
quickly around. I didn’t really understand
and suggested with a smile: “Slow down, don’t rush!”
His hand vanished like a chameleon into his jacket and the movement
looked fraught with significance. Maybe he wanted to show me
proof, a medical certificate or something like that.
In mid-movement his hand stuck in his inner pocket
like someone who forgot what he wanted or remembered something else.
“I have lived like a pig and I want to die like an angel”
he declared to the rustle of his hand pulling out of the jacket lining.
Cheerfully he handed me a cigar and before we parted
a kind of smile of greater closeness crossed his face
and it occurred to me that in the coal bin of his life
he had devoted himself to the higher levels of our consciousness.
With the kitbag on his back he receded
and my morning coffee which has meanwhile got cold
I now sip slowly, slowly, in his memory.
A PROPOSAL FOR A NATIONAL MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS
It is not the forest that wanders
in the thicket of our lives
not the dust that covers
not the sea that drowns
in our veins
not the light that sinks
in all our ways
not the Place that hears
not the dream that determines
All he wanted was a quiet place
for himself, after wandering through Hades.
he was always a genial man,
but they saw him as a stranger, dark-skinned.
They didn’t like his nose.
Their obvious hostility influenced the boulder
he rolled upwards to build a house.
The mountain scorned him. The boulder slipped from his hands
and they burst into laughter at his distress: “We said so
we always said this creature, this strange stranger,
was only good for trade. No one of his sort will build a home
and work with his hands. After all he’s weak by nature
and so very different from us.” Sisyphus heard in pain
the knife of laugher behind his back. The toxic
scorn poisoned his strength, and then he decided:
I’ll show them just how right they are!
I AND THEY>
I am visited by a dream of those who circle
there above us taking stock of the world’s assets.
I don’t envy them their loneliness,
I’ve more than enough of that,
or even their rare privilege of seeing
all we’ve been spared this time around.
I don’t grudge them the luck of a weightless body.
I have enough hovering of my own
and like the astronauts I too
am sometimes roped to my seat in the half-dark
and that’s only half a metaphor.
Everyone who deals with art for its own sake
in a real way, not to say genuine,
learns quickly enough to live with his loneliness
and the wonders of his hoverings in the dark.
Nonetheless, every day, like, for example
this prosaic morning when the sun is seen
to open her legs generously
and I am granted a new sunrise,
my daily jealousy is immediately aroused
of those circling above me who are granted
more than one sunrise, day by day.
Still night. I am still bound
to the XXII letters
as if fettered. Only thickened silence like this
can light me a single word
gleaming in its many sounds.
I see it down to the bone,
to the end of the root.
It suddenly doubles.
It is now two.
My voice’s one ear
hears night’s shadows
creeping along Hebrew grammar.
Before me on the page, three words.
In a moment there will be more.
Now the blue scent of moon
can be seen through them. Thus I was made
aware of the dark’s inaudible
pain. Sun of the night. The words glow.
Now you emerge from your sleep to me
and enter into the poem.
Published 2 November 1999
Original in Hebrew
Translated by Vivian Eden
Contributed by Helicon © Asher Reich EurozinePDF/PRINT