Translated from the Hebrew by Jane Medved
I want to write about that door,
the front door I opened with the hands
of an eight year old, a fifteen year old,
a twenty year old, a forty year old.
I want to tell how I hid from my mother
one Friday afternoon, when I came home
from school, still wearing my backpack.
I stood outside the door for hours
and spied on her, watching how she waited
for me to arrive: her beautiful cheeks sinking
into themselves like parachutes emptied
of air, her eyes shooting their green arrows
in every direction without hitting a thing.
She wandered between the kitchen and living room
like a pendulum, lifting then replacing
the telephone, moving her lips like a silent film star.
I didn’t hear a thing through the door.
How long did I stand and watch her like that?
Until she turned grey before my eyes?
Until the evening grew dark?
Perhaps I got cold. Perhaps I had pity on her,
a door of mercy opening inside me.
My mother almost fainted in my arms,
her eyes looking towards me
as if through a hollow tunnel that had at its end
the unimaginable, the unthinkable,
that which must now be erased from her memory.
I saved her
from the gaping abyss, from the capriciousness
of life, from my disappearance
and from her own disappearance.
For the first time in my life
I felt the responsibility of being loved,
and it broke my heart.
My Mother Invites A Doctor For Lunch
He arrives at five after twelve,
during the afternoon break from the clinic,
lowering his head
in order not to hit the door frame.
The hair on the top of his head is thinning
like oxygen at the peak of a mountain.
My mother seats him in my chair,
dressed in her pastel sweater,
thrilled that he agreed to come.
She believes in co-existence
The yellow winter light enters
through the geranium pot on the window,
and pours onto our backpacks
strewn around the kitchen floor,
the doctor glances down
to the painted tiles
that my parents bought in Jaffa.
My mother says “Make yourself at home,”
and immediately there is the span
of a desert between us.
She serves chicken soup, asks if he
would also like carrots,
when is he planning to get married,
how did he decide to become a doctor,
how long does it take to get here
from the village every morning.
He sips the soup
without a sound. It would be possible
to imagine he’s not even there,
if he wasn’t as tall as the minaret of a mosque
in the middle of our dining room.
What did we know about Arabs?
That they murder women and children,
they shout, they water down gasoline,
sell horse meat, have arranged marriages,
that they have no idea what love is.
The Doctor says thank you and agrees
to another serving. My sister and I
watch his hand and how the spoon arrives
at his mouth precisely, lifting from the bowl
like an airplane taking off above
an ocean of boiling soup, being swallowed
in a different universe.
Under his heavy eyelashes stretches
the line of a far horizon, his gaze
looking through us. We are scared
to ask ourselves, what does he know about Jews?
Afterwards, he bends over again,
drooping like a flower stem, on his way out.
My mother invites him to come back soon.
“Of course,” he says.
But he never does. He turns instead
to his own future –
the village, the wedding, the continuation
of his balding, the traffic jams, and his promotion
to director of the clinic,
and my mother turns to her future –
to live, become sick and die young
and in between –
pots empty and fill
and bowls follow the necessary path
orbiting the kitchen
that has become our world.
I only saw him once more,
years later, when I stood at the entrance
to his office, trying to get a prescription
for my mother, that he wouldn’t agree to give me.
He explained about the new regulations
as if he didn’t know
what love was. I screamed at him.
What I wouldn’t give for a happy ending.
I remember that moment clearly:
me and my crying and everything I knew about doctors
and mothers, slipping out of me,
bubbling, boiled sadness.
Three Years Since Your Death
The leaves of the maple tree in my garden
are red and damp from the rain.
I have stopped expecting to see the sun-
bathed nuts you loved, between its branches.
I drive a car much larger than I need. The street
signs are written in the mother tongue of others.
Yellow traffic lights sway beneath their wires,
but there is no wind and no promise of wind.
I turn a key inside the lock of a house
built by strangers, for people who are not you,
and not me, in a time that proceeded both of us.
I know how to point out four kinds of wheat
in English, and to choose bread from a bakery
where there is not one thing from the ground
where you are buried, from where you bore me.
I have learned the movements of a frozen winter,
vaster and stiller than the winter that held you
in its arms as you passed from your body.
Where did you go? Where did I go?
If we ran into each other in the street today,
you would ask Is that you? And perhaps
I wouldn’t know how to answer.