Anthology of contemporary Hebrew poetry V

COUNTRY ETUDE

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.

THE BOOK

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

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

even indoors.

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

our deaths

but we

we

not the sea that drowns

in our veins

not the light that sinks

in all our ways

but we

we

not the Place that hears

our silences

not the dream that determines

our thoughts

but we

we

alone

SISYPHUS

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.

HARMONY

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 Eurozine

PDF/PRINT

Published in

Newsletter

Subscribe to know what’s worth thinking about.

Discussion