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Featured Poet




Galit Hasan-Rokem

_________________________


( Israel )




Tsippori


Forty-minus-one Galilee haiku and a poem

(Tel Aviv: Am Oved 2002)


Also known by its Hellenistic name Sepphoris, and as the Roman Diocaesaria, Tsippori flourished in the 3rd century CE as the spiritual capital of the Jews in the Galilee, and was renowned for its rich intercultural exchange among Jews, Christians, and pagans. Around 220 CE, Judah HaNasi edited the Mishnah there. Until 1948 it was the site of the Palestinian village Safuriya, destroyed in the Israeli War of Independence.



1.
Stones side by side
lying edge to edge
the mosaic’s resurrection.

2.
On the floor of the synagogue
the sun god gallops
toward sunset.

3.
Her smile in Tsippori’s mosaic
four thousand years
from Creation.

4.
Bar Yohai leaves his cave retreat
a heavenly voice echoes
silence.

5.
Announcing angels and Binding
and Gabriel
and Crucifixion.

6.
Ram ram calls
the mother of seven sons but there is no
ram in sight.

7.
A bird is trapped
in the beams of the hall
prayer with a shattered chirp.

8.
Around the lake
a miracle remembered
a shadow walks on water.

9.
A few olives in the Galilee
not a jug of wine
in Cyprus.

10.
A woman bakes
in her neighbor’s kitchen. Disaster
knocks at the door.

11.
A leper passing through the alley
Resh Lakish the sage
throws stones.

12.
A Samaritan asked
for bread, onion
and water, and he got it.

13.
The high road
cannot be measured
and neither can the way to the grave.

14.
Wild herbs blind the eyes
or open them depending
on who gathers them.

15.
The well is unbearably deep
longing
even deeper than the well.

16.
She dipped in the water
rubbed her body with oil, hid
the fragrant herbs.

17.
The sheaves of her hair she spread
and she lifted her hems
and lay down.

18A.
Forty days from conception
future matches are set
who will be whose?
18B.
The hour of dusk
a man and a woman rest
watching cranes go by.

19.
A sudden storm is rising
man and woman hurry to return
home.

20.
Candles have gone out
night holds the children in their cradles
in its hand.

21.
A single distant drum
is heard through the darkness
someone is homeless.

22.
On weekdays don’t mention
demons in your charms.
More so on the Sabbath.

23.
Bitten by a snake cured by a charm
name of Jesus
Pandira’s son.

24.
Between
the synagogue and her house
she remembers the empty lamp.

25.
In her marriage contract
such and such jewels listed
and other such.

26.
The woman listens
to Rabbi Meir
her husband to jealousy.

27.
She takes off his shoes
and spits at him.
Go thou to the ant, lazybones!

28.
Rabbi Meir
escaped to Babylonia,
was it grief or shame?

29.
Legions of eagles
nesting
on the heights of Gamla’s dry riverbed.

30.
Body blends into the earth
wait dear ossuary
wait patiently.

31.
sea sea sea sea sea
sea sea sea sea sea
and so sea sea sea sea. Sea.

32.
Miriam’s well
suddenly on the Sea of Galilee
at Srongit.

33.
Hanged man
at the age of thirty-three
the women surround the cross.

34.
Beginning
of time or the end?
Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven?

35.
Sun, stand thou still in Sussita
let the day never end
in Migdal.

36.
Evening descends
with the fourth millennium
of Creation. Blue.

37.
Like clay in the hand
of the maker
a child plays on the cliff’s edge.

38.
Woman, inscribe it on the scroll
inscribe it
something will remain here.

39.
After two thousand years
they found a writer’ style
and even the reed...

40.



Note: section 23, the Aramaic name Pandira has been interpreted as panther, pander and parthenos (Greek for virgin).


[Translated from the Hebrew by Lisa Katz and Galit Hasan-Rokem]





Still Seeing You, in the Birds


The first time
it was a kind of hawk
in the skies over the Berkeley hills
facing the shimmering bay, at noon.

It hovered almost an hour overhead.
I lay down on the stone bench,
Lawrence Hall behind me,
I was alone on the hill

remembering how you learned there
the first secrets of computers
when they were young too.

Finally the bird stopped moving completely
for a breathtakingly long time

*

Once, in the almost perfect bay on the Bretonese island,
“Belle Isle,”
in the soft sand, surrounded by people,
I lay my head down in the hollow of a canyon.

A completely blue sky was spread out above me, completely empty,
and then a seagull burst forth from the edge of a cliff,
white and gray and exceptionally quiet,
flying in small, identical circles

and in its flight encircling the lap of the sky
where I lay my body
to rest in the afternoon

*

On a northern night at the end of summer
when the lengthening twilight
finished its slow parting
and gave the stars their brief hour

above the hill, beyond the river
a fluty voice sounded. “The White Lady”
the locals call it,
remembering a sad love affair.

The owl’s cry came and went, came and went
for a long time, my heart was torn
beyond the hill, above the river
in the brief darkness at the end of summer

*

The next day your father and I set out for your childhood forest,
to strengthen our aging bodies,
gathered berries and picked mushrooms
to bring to your brother and sister.

Suddenly at a bend in the road, the birth of a memory:
a photo in the album, you are two years old
wearing a red sweatshirt,
a hood resting on your shoulders, little monk,
on your head a pilot’s cap, strapped under your chin,
your eyes wonderfully serious, stuck in your hair
a feather you found on the path leading from the lake house
to your grandparents’ summer home.

Outside the frame, inside me,
the sentence you uttered in a child’s Swedish:
“Amitai foogle” “Amitai is a bird.”



[Translated from the Hebrew by Lisa Katz]



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