Four Poems from Israel

translated by Linda Stern Zisquit

A photograph of a loomAnd the Earth Opened Its Mouth

At the end of June my earth trembles
also at the end of August, and also after Sukkot, and also before Passover and afterward.
Every movement of the dials on the face of the calendar,
every movement from freedom to weekday, from weekday to freedom, the earth trembles.
What shall I grasp? This house? These children who left to live
in other houses because here there is no food
and a big mess, and the wash is unfolded in the cabinets. 
Shall I grasp my husband when the earth trembles? And he is tired and weary.
Also the palms of my hands started to tremble like my mother and my sister and my aunt and my grandmother,
of trembling hands. 
And my son lost the subscription on the climbing wall that I made him yesterday.
480 shekels were swallowed in the ground or at Burger’s Bar.
Our lives tremble. The bank account trembles. The vacation in Georgia
trembles. This entire summer trembles.
And the eyelids. 


[My mother denied me]

My mother denied me 
and I wear a green houndstooth coat and travel to console my cleaner.
With my hair gathered I sit erect on the black leather sofa
freed up by all the brides and sisters-in-law who look with astonishment at the mistress,
at me, who peeks at myself in the mirror in the glass display cabinet
and sees my mother who has denied me. 


Warp and Woof

You can roam on a sabbatical in a distant Japanese village
wear a kimono and participate in a seminar on strawberries
two months later your husband and children will come for a short visit and learn Japanese
but you have to spin. Nailed to the weaving chair to the loom
you’ll correspond with the head of the project persuade him in ancient Japanese
to accept you in particular from all the spinners in the world.
And in the meantime you move the thick needle between the threads of the warp
and fasten and return to the other side with the same calming motion.


Just Practice

Sarah the teacher keeps up my English
She got divorced a couple years ago
Studio C keeps up my body
Emilia my soul

Training for nothing
No competition and no performance and no show
Just practice.

Avigail Antman was born in 1966 in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. Mother of three grown children, she lives with her partner in Jerusalem, where she teaches high school literature as well as creative writing seminars. Her third poetry collection will be published soon.

Linda Stern Zisquit has published six collections of poetry and several volumes of translations from Hebrew poetry, including Wild Light: Selected Poems of Yona Wallach, for which she received an NEA Translation Award and was shortlisted for the PEN Translation Award. For many years she was poetry coordinator for the Shaindy Rudoff Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University.