Friday, February 1, 2008

Elisha Porat


On a night's drive in an open Jeep
you go past signs on corrugated tin:
Rashaya, Hatzbaya, Kafraya.
As if I sail and travel
beyond times, in a living Aramaic land.
Only the field radio keeps me posted:
an escort, wounded, a chopper landing.
And someone, agitated, beset by horrors,
hurts both my ears:shrilly, with a trembling sputter,
bungles the Hebrew.

*Translated from the Hebrew by Tsipi Keler


And they awaited his return:
the cut grass, the hole dug for a tree,
the fading plastic chairs,
the rusted gate, its hinges wailing.
Mother, brother, father and sister,
frozen in time: faded
to invisibility, bowed by the weight of the days.
And when he finally comes, everything
will start to move: the grass will grow,
the tree will bear fruit, the plastic
chairs will shine and the gate will swing
and squeak, never to be still again.
Just let him return: to burst
the bubble of time, so that their scarred hearts
can beat again. They will slowly
kneel, will raise their eyes
to him, in tears, in thanks.

* Translated from the Hebrew by Cindy Eisner

A Biblical Experience

Yesterday I saw the Prophet Jonah
emerge from behind the filthy garage
near the stadium, in the Jaffa mud:
I stood peeing on the wide scorched
leaves of a castor-oil plant; all around me lay
a once-pure dune defeated by the effluent
of burnt oil, and foul fumes masked
the gleam of water. A tremor went through me
as I shook myself dry; a tremor that came
to me straight from the sea, like the flash of
a fin, opposite the entrance to the port, under
the unwatchful eye of a darkened lighthouse,
and the Prophet Jonah, melting into the sand.

*Translated from the Hebrew by Cindy Eisner

I Saw A Man

I saw a man stooped and
drinking brackish water
lying with his woman
drawing from his ribs
with tender dream hands
a glinting splinter dulled
by the dust of the fire smell
eating his bread with brimstone
waving his legs in farewell
to all who remembered him:
. . . . . . . . . . .
not shouting but
smiling at his punishment
that comes unsurprising, dreamily, if foreseen.

*Translated from the Hebrew by Riva Rubin

Ferris Wheel

In the Casino, under Hatzbaya,
spring waters rumble,
imprisoned in coves of concrete,
bolting racing spinning to press out
powerfully driving a rusty Ferris wheel,
a remnant of forgotten fairs.
On the torn lattice seat
I notice a Druze kid
flying, letting out a shout:
an unforgettable landscape
is suddenly revealed to him.
In the dense grasses all around
the blackened corpses of tanks,
an ashen mound, helmets, abandoned gear
roll about, swept south down the river
toward a blinding horizon
toward places that even from the top of the wheel
one can only guess at the distance.

*Translated from the Hebrew by Riva Rubin

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