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That Very Hour (In Hebrew)

Hakibbutz Hameuchad – Sifriat Poalim Publishing House | 1981

The poems in “That Very Hour” exist on the border between reality, thought, and feeling. The material manifests while traveling through intimate, or very foreign, bodies.

Receding Image of Father and Mother on the Train Platform in Hanover

The same suitcases, the same trains
Carrying the light of the engine and cigarette smoke into the night

Dark falls into dark

So transparent they stood in the station
And abysses of death overflow their banks

How will I again take hold of the handles of my travel bags

(Translated from Hebrew by Barbara Harshav, from Ota Sha’a or “That Very Hour”, 1981, published in: Frederique Brenner, Diaspora-Texts, Harper Collins 2003)


Won’t You See

Won’t you see that I am carried to you on a sea of death
Not on the Styx – that noble river in a marble inferno
No Charon leads the raft
On my cheeks still lie the curls of the brother In whose death I live
His breath is the wind in my hair
Can’t you hear, in our throats’ echoes, the silence
The cry that does not relent, does nit release –
Of the heads From whose number a hand was left
To knead our lives

Can’t you see
Lining up behind our faces
The trains that have carried us
On a journey ordained from then and there
Their whistle is our canopy
A pillar of smoke leading us
To the far ends of the wind

(Translated from Hebrew by the author, with Peter Cole, from Ota Sha’a or “That Very Hour”, 1981. Translation first published in Partisan Review, April 2001.)



Like a stone stopping a burial-pit
Their shadows close over the sky.
They greet each other with a handshake
As though it were an everyday thing.
Winds of other times emanate
From the points of their beards
And the urgent pigeon-wings of their pilpul
Make a cloudy canopy
Under the open sky.

Hanging by a thread, my fathers jostle together,
A sleeve of Hispania cloth permeated with the scent of jasmine
On an austere robe from the lands of years gone by
On a breeze bearing blows, payes and pelts
Smells of walled houses in Gentile cities
A screaming child
And pots
And their covenant of blood will close the heavenly ceiling
With joined hands.
They will not know that they were visited
By the fruit of their loins.

(Translated by Barbara Harshav)

Drafts from the Hebrew original