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COME, REHABILITATION, WHEREVER WE FLOAT, MY DAUGHTER IS THE GATE TO THE NIGHT / JERUSALISM (2022)

Translated from the Hebrew by Jane Medved.

 

Come

Once I believed that time was an object,

that could be thrown away

together with loneliness: I could toss out

all those years

where there wasn’t even one girl

who wanted to play with me in the afternoon.

I lay on the bed in my room and counted the minutes

until childhood would end.

And when it did, I threw that bed out.

I left home. I moved in with a guy.

I cut my hair short. I studied the nakedness

of my body through the hands of another.  I ate

voraciously. I danced all night and slept all day.

As contrary as possible, as different

as different could be, I extricated myself

from the elevator of childhood

through a narrow crack of opportunity,

its doors almost shutting me in.

In the middle of this, I also left behind

my mother, forty-six years old,

still menstruating, still falling in love,

her long hair gathered in a sloppy hair pin,

making family dinners –

for everyone their favorite omelet,

except for me, whose chair was always empty.

I only visited on weekends, to tell them about my nights.

I treated my father and her as day-people.

How she tried to understand me, to find out

what I was eating, how I spent my time.

Her questions rang bells of danger in my head,

those elevator doors gaping open like a maw.

I wouldn’t even celebrate my birthday with her.

Nineteen years old, in lipstick and high heels,

childhood was so close I could hear it crashing

like a hungry ocean on the breakwater,

heading back for me.

I walked into my childhood room, careful

not to look into the mirror.

The dress was spread out on the bed,

black, brand new, without gift wrap or ribbon,

thin as skin, as if just now emptied of a body,

ready to be worn, like the clothes

my mother once laid out for me

every morning before we left for kindergarten,

hand in hand, sewn one to the other,

before we were split like a mourner’s shirt.

In the note she had written

Best of luck, my child

in whatever path you choose.

Years passed before those words reached me.

In that moment, shoving the dress into my backpack,

I am sure I read:

Come back. Be my child again. 

Rehabilitation

My father had one arm

barely hanging from his shoulder.

A piece of shrapnel had left a crater

there, deep as a bite from an apple.

Others had plastic legs

attached with straps, metal hooks

instead of fingers, and glass eyes

gaping open in surprise, as pretty

as my marble collection.

I loved to examine them

on the grass, at the edge of the pool

they release the straps,

arms and legs are left behind,

as they limp into the water,

and swim stripped of their form –

I held a secret competition between them:

how many limbs can you take apart

and still remain a person?

The country’s heroes, their pupils

sown with gun powder, foggy smiles

and faraway battle fields. In this place

they were a mathematical equation:

Twenty percent

disability was the entrance requirement

for this fabulous sports center.

My father had twenty-one percent –

like the weight in grams of a soul,

like the age at which he lost his friends.

The spirit of the Lord hovers over the face of the waters,

and the waters are a rehabilitation pool. From here one doesn’t

go forth to war.  The war comes after you,

hungry, tearing apart memories,

dreams, nights

full of dread. We went with him every Saturday,

my father’s handicapped card a sparkling

sky blue, attached with a safety pin to his bathing suit.

We ate “Little Missile” sundae cones and played

on the firing range, eliminating entire people

made out of cardboard.Once, upon hearing a round

of bullets, one of the other men burst into tears.

My father laid his jagged arm

on his shoulder.  The man said,

I don’t know why I’m crying –

about what was, about what is,

or about what is yet to come.

Wherever We Float 

My daughter rests her head on my stomach,

as if listening to a large conch shell.

She hears inside me the murmur of ancient winds

and looks for clues.

Not long ago, she left this stomach

cast out by the waves.

Now I am the giant raft,

and my daughter sleeps on me.

I am the turtle upon which the universe is placed,

and the universe is my daughter.

I am the great body, substance and bones,

and my daughter carries a thousand dreams.

Beneath us and around us

is an ocean made of love,

and the soft glow from the hallway

is a lighthouse.

Wherever we float,

that’s home.

My Daughter is the Gateway to the Night

My daughter is the gateway to the other night.

Skies pour like dark, sweet milk.

Silky breaths drift into clouds.

An eyelid of moon appears above.

From the depth of the leaves, dreams are blown to us.

We are not awake. We are not asleep.

The sips of my daughter pulse

like a heart. At one end of this night: the dances

we spun in the evening. At the other end:

the stories we haven’t told yet.

All around us, the transparent generations

of mothers and daughters who rose

and slept their lives between light and darkness,

from sleep to awakening to sleep,

they birthed one another and were forgotten.

My daughter is the gateway to the soft dawn,

unto everything I was born

to remember once again.