Anthology of contemporary Hebrew poetry VI

THE POET

God’s amazing success
When He made the Word into flesh!

And then this thing that you pursue:
To break that flesh
And all things past
Into flashes, short lines

To go back and bring forth
The word

Like a boy who dismantles the piano
So he can have a wooden stick
To bang on the fence with
And sing

Translated by Vivian Eden

THE STARBUCKS DWARF

Her condensed body, full to bursting,
Was created by the shorthand of God:

All the details are there, complete.
But the grace of more than enough,
The wide generous strokes creating beauty
For beauty’s sake, the expanses
With no real practical purpose, except that they transform
A place to a landscape, are lacking.

She sits, feeding herself conscientously,
With a kind of patience: a hand
Raises a fork carrying lettuce to the mouth
And lingers. The little hand and the large face:
Little girl feeding her mother.

A child stares at her transfixed. For him
Even upright on two legs
She’s a tortoise thrown onto her back.

His parents turn his eyes from her. Avert
Their bodies, their eyes. She has no hiding place.
She is a parade of one woman.

Translated by Karen Alkalay-Gut

THE BOULEVARD

On King David Boulevard, old partisans
Are glued to the benches like bent candles
Fading away in the arms of Philippino girls,
Telling them in Polish things
That they never told the kids.

In ten years the cable train will pass through here.
Iron rails will rest along the length of the avenue
Like a row of walkers fallen to the new grass.
I walk that broken line
Krakow-Tel Aviv-Manila,

Two blocks from here, my father
Is silent amid pictures of my mother,
His silence thickens like the glass of bottle
Corked by time. If it breaks, he breaks.

Something stronger than longing grabs me,
Conducts my feet to the wooden bench
As if toward a ferry:
An old man speaking, a beautiful woman living.
I come and sit between them like a child.

He speaks. She looks at me.
I can hear his story. I can smell her hair.
Three strangers sit on a bench
As if in a station. The boulevard rushes past us
Leaving, as we do, without moving.

Distances I once thought I would cross
Are now absolute. I have no chance to touch.

Translated by Karen Alkalay-Gut

THE PROPER NAME FOR HORROR

“Fire, Brothers, Fire”
H.N. Bialik, “The Village is Burning”

The girl thrown down on her back right now
Doesn’t care what you call the thing that is happening to her:
Horror, holocaust, the end of the world or rape
Any more than she cares
What the name is of the soldier
Who is finishing her off like a leg of lamb.

The mud her shoulders are being buried in with rhythmic thrusts
Was once called land, was once called homeland.
The blank indifference stretched above her open eyes
Was once called sky, and rumor had it
There was a god up there.

Those who sit on the barbed wire fence of another horror
Reviewing names that might fit this thing
That is going on right now,
Stand right there in the circle of laughing soldiers,
Cataloging horrors.

Fire, strangers, fire. The girl is burning.
Even if she does get up, like my mother
She’ll still be lying down for years.
In her well-lit kitchen she will hold out to her son
Arms covered with the scars
Of frying pans and suicide.

Translated by Karen Alkalay-Gut

FEEDING THE SNAKE

He is the large intestine, exposed to the sun,
Of some fragmented deity whose body was mutilated,
A section of the digestive system of a primeval god
With massive appetites and burning loins
Who was the prologue to the favorite son,
The one who resembled him most, who rose to murder him:

A severed organ, that retained an amazing vitality
For its age; But with time, the absolute distance from the heart
Discarded on some Olympic drain, some Vesuvius Extinctus
Takes its toll: The chill damages him.

He is still capable, full of potential,
But the cold seeps through his veins more and more slowly,
Gradually freezing the small, mean, desperate brain
That he cunningly fashioned from a chronic ulcer.

From: EVERYONE MUST OVERCOME HIS OWN BIOGRAPHY

I.
Now, in this light, I can see:
Two enormous parents inflating on the couch.
The crown is cast into a corner, nothing more than a toy.
Is it truth or a poem?
How memory extends beyond itself,
Like the tree passes its own touch through leaves.
Like the mouth that says
Maybe this way I can get there.

Translated by Karen Alkalay-Gut

II.
The room is a large lampshade, softly lit
And at its heart you shine, the 1000 watt lightbulb of my childhood
Your glass skin, heating to the touch of my eyes
Is a bell, and inside it my pen once again moves wildly
Like the bell’s tongue, like the tongue of an ancient mourner,
Like a firefly larva inside a pear

Translated by Jack Adalist

III. To The Mother
You were never Demeter, lost girl
The darkness that abducted you, at thirteen
You emerged from only in part
And even though I saw you awash in light,
Bathed in love,
You were never Demeter

I am Persephone daughter of Persephone, child born of child,
Standing as you stood then, on the other side
Of a door fusing shut like a hole in the ground
Crying out, just as you did,
Who have you taken, Hades?
Here I am, fresh and young

This is the way we sing, mother
This is the way we love

Above and below
Two seasons under the sun
And two seasons in hell

Translated by Jack Adalist

VI. To a Lover
Yes, he survived, but she was a wreck.
Her embrace enfolded us both like fish in an inside-out net

Leaving the world shining outside, alternately flashing promises
And threats, like seasons changing.

Her lips had the taste of sleeping pills:
Bitter and sweet. It took me years to decipher that taste.
I found it once again, for a moment snatched,
In your arms: three pomegranate seeds carefully counted.

Don’t give up on me if I hug you with a hand across my lips,
Don’t look at me like that
When I tear at the things that move us
Flailing against them as if against a trawler’s net.
For me, my love,
To be enwrapped is to be kidnapped.

Translated by Jack Adalist

Ann At Thirty

You are surrounded by clever women
Who hold the doll to their ear
And nurse a baby. They too write poems,
But with one hand. You, on the other hand:
A door in darkness. Behind it
Darkness. Inside
You sit in a paper armchair.
A moat of black water surrounds the house
Chiseled in hard silence.
A narrow hallway leads to the room where sleeping is done.
The bed is a stump, trunk of severed tree.
On the refrigerator – a note: Call Ana.
Need to buy apples.
Do not show the gallows to the guests.
Something weighs heavy on the stone table.
Something untangles the fingers, unties them from the hand.
You pass through the rooms, checking escape routes
Like a fireman: grapes in the fridge,
Push buttons on the telephone,
The dog’s pupils,
Little scaffolds in the medicine cabinet.
Electricity flows through walls. Blood flows through wrists.
You get up. With a fluttering hand you erect in the air
A spider-web shelf, for holding
The books you will write.

Translated by Jack Adalist

Witches (A Lullaby)

A hungry woman is a frightening thing.
She feeds no one, she is looking for something to eat.
She seems to be hunting. Every morsel that she isn’t sharing
Looks enormous, bloody. It is her hunger, peering like Cyclop’s eye
Smack in the center of her breast. Watch her drag home
A live lobster, coins, a daffodil bulb, a map of Europe,
The apple, to pierce with a knife.

An empty handed woman is a threatening thing.
If there is no hand in her hand
Wind gushes out of her as if from a ravine
A strange, hot weather menace, the bad breath of a dragon.
She is a house in the desert with its doors ripped off the hinges,
Sand drifts freely through the rooms, piles up on the kitchen counter,
On the floors, turns the bed into a dune.

A woman alone scatters throughout her house empty cups
And cigarette butts, imprinted with lipstick marks.
There will always be those who will see
In the red arc etched with the seal of her lips
Duplicated ten times over, evidence
Of secret neglect, the exposed edges of a great need.

Beware little girls, sitting among dolls
As if among open beaks, handing out the tea:
Don’t become like her.

Translated by Jack Adalist

Eulogy: The Death of Passion

The body, so quickly
Lost its memory.
If not now
Then not at all.
Your hands passed over my body, molding it
To the shape of passion. Now
It is damp fog, darkness
In a cellar.
Memory fills with a face
Like a hollow in the sand
Very close to the water.
There, the sea.
Here, a hole dug with ten fingers.
This body is an echo in a place where then
Our voices roared.
Let me go back to the deep room
Where we found shelter once.

Translated by Jack Adalist

NOW YOU KNOW

Now you know:
The body is one thing and love is another.
Behind, a man dies sitting upright
Enclosed in metal scaffolding.
You go out to the lighted street.

Insane, this innocence
Of life inside the body, counting on skin,
Stubbornly clinging to limbs
That just keep breaking down,
Rotting the way they will in the grave
Only more slowly

My love, the soul
Slows the process
No more
Than a refrigerator

Translated by Karen Alkalay-Gut

Published 29 August 2006
Original in Hebrew

Contributed by Helicon © Yael Globerman Eurozine

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