Ballad of the Middle of the Twenty First Century
(with thanks to Serge Gainsbourg and Danny Blair Shwed Jones Grossman for the inspiration)
I peek at her white body and at that other one standing beside her,
her body shrivels from him, and her spirit sings a gentle song versed by her fancy.
So, the Botticelli painting stands in my bathroom
the orange with the black stains of mold.
Her colors don’t fade,
the light shatters on her body,
only her clothes shrivel
and get wet on the old floor tiles.
I look at her and him from afar
like a grownup peeking into his childhood,
and my mind captures photos with a rare camera
that you can’t buy
despite all the advanced technology of the age.
The bathroom colors the painting
with wet orange, and that other one cowers from the holy
water, under the mold.
On the walls little angels and fairies,
dance around her only.
After washing her hair,
she’s busy drying
while that other one
chews the fat
with her shadow.
The smell of her hair knocks me down from the peeking stance,
that other comes right over to see where the racket came from
and then right in front of my eyes, from my hiding place,
his goat’s feet come into view with the terrible smell.
The movements of her towel are so gentle,
that the bathtub itself wants to get up and make love to her
without penetration, just a sequence of touch after touch
stringing together a pleasantperverse feeling.
I look at her white body and at that other one standing next to her
I get hard from her and from him.
And this is the angel of death
that is competing with me for her love
and I have no way to beat him
but to die at her feet
for her to come to me
and my arms to be weaved into hers.
This poem was published first on Scar Minimizer (Tel-Aviv: Gwanim Publishers, 2001) and then on “Märchenland: Die beteiligten Autoren setzten sich mit den Märchen der Gebrüder Grimm auseinander, brachten ihre prosaische Form auf eine lyrische Ebene und begaben sich in die mitunter ambivalenten Bereiche des kulturellen Gedächtnisses in Deutschland und Israel.”
“City and Fears”, Eli Eliahu (Am-Oved Publishers, 2011) 85 Page
“City and panics” is Eli Eliahu’s second book of poetry. In it he explores man’s universal experience through poetic language. In the poem ‘Storm’ (10), he likens himself to Elijah, Jonah’s prophet but in this role of poet-prophet he cannot overcome the gap between the particular narrative in question, and the universality he hopes to convey. Eliahu engages with the unique characteristics of life but they fail to provide him with tranquility. Among these elements are his young daughter’s voice, signs of his economic struggle as a poet, his memories of Iraqi parents, and his longing for his dead father.
The title “City and fears” is taken from Jeremiah 15:8: “Their widows are multiplied to me above the sand of the seas: I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noon-day: I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly and terrors upon the city”.
The first poem of the book (the last stanza) Eliahu finds itself a miracle mission: “Now the road stretches in the moonlight I / fugitive mission, prevents fuel charge / of childhood, God the past, the fading / flashlight beam on the run, a miracle is to come “(The song” Escape “, page 7). He is afraid to repeat the mistakes that he experienced as a child.
The poems trying to create a universal language, and therefore hardly includes any specific locations. It speaks in the voice of the universal man. Nevertheless, the biographical element cannot be eliminated, and it reemerges and announces its presence. The song “History”: “For this house, / villages were emptied of their inhabitants, / wells were blocked, sheep / scattered / / for this house / people forgot / their mother tongue” (p. 64). The poem can be read as the story of Arab citizens in Israel, but when we look at the transition between the second and third stanza, we discover that he is really talking about the memory of his family and friends- the same sad erasure of the Iraqi language.
Eliahu ‘s flight is reflected throughout the book, like Jeremiah’s prophecy about the future. But just when he escapes an infinite future, Eliahu’s poems draw us back in, tying together the the universal and the unique.
 Webster’s Bible translation captures the Hebrew meaning of “City and fears”
The Painted Bird / Eli Eliahu
I did not hit the old man whose frock was stained with blood,
and it was not I who shot the person standing on the Mosque’s roof clutching a brick.
In the tank’s hull I read “The Painted Bird” and in the guarding post
I wrote poetry (only death, I knew, could spring one free from the written line).
But in the nights I was covered in terrible shame, my soul was bound
in the bundle of guilt, and fear gnawed like a famished rat. It’s a good thing
there was love, at least, as in someone to ring, and to listen to
Tel-Aviv laughing through her, like a child unaware of its mortality.
From Hebrew: Daniel oz
Thank you all for all the love you showed me in my 40 birthday! May god bless you all and bring justice, equality and freedom (especially to Palestine)
Here is a poem i wrote after TLV mayor neo-liberal, white, arrogant Ron Huldai threw away the Ha’Tikva tents where homeless and poor people were living. it was last year. I among hundreds of social activists protest around the mayor offices in the middle of Tel Aviv. Actually I embedded some of my reading of the poem in different protest and poetry events (Also you can help me in translation – here is the Hebrew version).
They drove out our hope | mati shemoelof
They drove out our hope, and threw my children into the street
They drove out our hope, and we paid the price
They drove out our hope, for a “green” forest
They drove out our hope, and left no medicine for my sick father and mother
They drove out our hope, and the shame, they even took the shame
They drove out our hope, and the mayor said: “Communists, parasites” and built another luxury tower
They drove out our hope, and just bought a white dog a new kennel
They drove out our hope, and threw us out into the cold
They drove out our hope; another ship sank in the blood
They drove out our hope, while the Captain celebrated and perforates the lifeboats
They drove out our hope, it’s colder outside than last year
They drove out our hope, and a drug addict lost his home and his song
They drove out our hope, with bullshit, drugs, and lies to the masses
They drove out our hope, and told us that salvation would come but instead they tortured us
They drove out our hope, with police threats, brutal arrests, and without police tags
They drove out our hope, and it’s hard to understand those who celebrate
They drove out our hope, they opened my eyes
They drove out our hope, they took away my poetry
They drove out our hope, they fed my lice
They drove out our hope, they took away my guardian angels
They drove out our hope, but you’re tired and don’t want to suffer social pains
They drove out our hope, and threw our children into the street
They drove out our hope, but the truth refuses to leave
They drove out our hope, but they can’t expel our hopes
They drove out our hope but hope stayed with us
(thanks to Moriel Rotman and Rachel Harris for thier help)
The video depicting Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner bashing the butt of his M-16 rifle into the face of a Danish activist, who came to Israel to show solidarity with the Palestinians, may have been made public with particularly embarrassing timing for Israel, but the problematic timing does not exempt us from asking the hard questions about the conduct of soldiers and violence within Israeli society.
The prime minister and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff should be lauded for their condemnations of the incident, and for suspending Eisner from his post. This was not the first such incident: Several years ago, a lieutenant-colonel in the Armored Corps was filmed using a helmet to clobber a demonstrator near the security barrier. The officer was subsequently suspended, but he has actually been promoted since. There are several other examples of such incidents at high levels. Perhaps we should examine where this violence comes from so it can be treated. After all, today there are cameras everywhere and we can’t hide what really happens.
Let us not be swayed by Eisner’s associates, who maintain that he had been abandoned and is not getting the support he deserves from high-ranking IDF officials. His was a grave, unjustifiable act. Handling this event in a superficial manner could cause a lot of damage — to the defense establishment and to Israel’s public diplomacy efforts as well, especially during these delicate times.
One can understand why those close to Eisner are protecting him, like a mother unwilling to recognize her son’s problems. However, we must take collective responsibility and ask the toughest questions to root out the problem in the proper way.
Eisner’s behavior in the wake of the affair raises questions. Let us recall that IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai had said that he could not justify the officer’s behavior and that his actions were contrary to IDF values. It was only recently that Eisner was set to be promoted to deputy commander of Bahad 1, the IDF officers’ training base. In such an instance, Eisner should have admitted that he lost control. After all, commanders are supposed to command their soldiers. We have to be able to assume that they are self-aware and capable of admitting guilt. Only in this way can we relate to them as complex human beings, rather than denying and repressing the problems.
Violence within Israeli society is not a passing phenomenon, and we don’t have to go into the occupied territories to find it. It can easily be found in the interaction between Israel Police and social activists. Take for example a recent bill approved by the Knesset in its first reading, floated by MKs Uri Ariel (National Union), Dov Khenin (Hadash) and Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), which aims to obligate police officers to wear identifying badges. Badges lead to a decrease in violence.
Why would the state of Israel, whose army is one of the most powerful in the world and is perfectly capable of protecting itself, need such problematic violence? Where does the great insecurity that this violence obviously indicates come from? Can we really dismiss this event as a rare exception, or is Eisner simply a product of a flawed system? If he is a product of the military, the police or any other social institution, we must ask ourselves what happened to that great Israeli power that it has become so fragile and thin.
The butt of Eisner’s rifle, which was rammed into the face of a foreign activist, should give us all pause. Only recently we witnessed horrifying violence on a soccer field. Why are we resolving our conflicts with violence? Why are we not able to give voice to our problems in a language that the other side can understand?
This article was first published on Israel Hayom
Am Sonntag, den 29. April 2012 findet in der Literaturwerkstatt Berlin eine Matinee mit Ayana Erdal und Mati Shemoelof statt.
Dichter aus Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Hamburg und Berlin sind eingeladen miteinander zu arbeiten und Texte gegenseitig zu übersetzen. Sie „schmuggeln“ in Paaren, mit Hilfe von Dolmetschern und Wort-für-Wort-Übersetzungen Verse aus dem germanischen in den semitischen Sprachraum und zurück. Vier Autoren haben sich auf das Abenteuer eingelassen, unter Ihnen Ayana Erdal und Mati Shemoelof. In der Matinee stellen sie die Ergebnisse vor und sprechen über den gemeinsamen Schmuggelweg.
Ayana Erdal, geboren 1973, thematisiert vermeintlich Privates, Liebe und Familie. Aber ihre Texte reichen in den Raum der Gesellschaft hinein. Für ihre Lyrikbände erhielt sie die bekanntesten Preise in Israel. Ayana Erdal, die drei Gedichtbände veröffentlicht hat, unterrichtet hebräische Sprache und Literatur in Jerusalem.
Mati Shemoelof, wurde 1972 in Haifa geboren und ist Dichter, Journalist, Verleger und Aktivist. Er hat drei Gedichtbände veröffentlicht, zuletzt „Why I Do Not Write Israeli Love Songs” (2010).
Matinee: „Wie man Verse schmuggelt” am Sonntag, 29. April 2012, 11.00 Uhr
In Lesung und Gespräch Ayana Erdal Lyrikerin (Jerusalem), Orsolya Kalász Lyrikerin (Berlin), Mati Shemoelof Lyriker (Tel Aviv), Mirko Bonné Lyriker (Hamburg), Moderation: Rafael Seligmann, Schriftsteller und Journalist (Berlin)