Tal Nitzan

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Photo: Karolis Zukauskas
Translated from the Hebrew by the poet with Vivian Eden

In Buenos Aires I didn't go
looking for my childhood home
Why roam in streets whose names had changed,
disturb an old couple or a boy in bed
just to peer listlessly at the dark rooms
that even then seemed like gloomy holes
and in any case I can't recall –
No, I renounce
nostalgia's phony charms
to which so many succumb, mostly, it seems,
radio producers and mostly on holiday eves,
pulling out a forgotten hit
by a singer who long ago lit
out for Canada or went into Real Estate
and I discover with distaste
I haven't forgotten a single line to a song
that once I sang with girlish zeal, unaware
of the lust that lurked behind each word
and I shiver to hear the clear voice singing along
that isn't my childhood voice's specter
for it is the voice of my daughter.

This poem is from Tal Nitzan's 2006 collection An Ordinary Evening. It was first published in English translation in Habitus, A Diaspora Journal (www.habitusmag.com), No. 3, February 2008.




The Target
Translated from the Hebrew by the poet with Vivian Eden

They closed their non-aiming eye
and watched the target
and chose an aiming point
and brought the edge of the blade
to the notch of the rear sight
with all the gunsights upright
and leaving a white thread
they shot.
But missed.
Managed to kill Muhamad El-Hayk, 24,
and severely wound his father Abdalla, 64,
all "as needed and according to procedures",
but missed Maisun El-Hayk,
only slightly wounded her
in spite of her big belly
that happened to be a perfect aiming point
(but hadn't they made her undress at the roadblock before
to ensure the belly was a belly indeed
and the labor pains - labor pains
before it occurred to them
to proceed with
"suspect arrest procedure"?)
and also failed to hit
her fetus daughter
and send her to heaven
before she came to this world
- must have overlooked that white thread -
but did manage to inseparably seam
her birth day to her father's burial
and reinforce the promise
"in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children"
- there hath been no greater sorrow! -
as the shooting ceased
and Maisun called out for Muhamad
and the terror or the excruciating pain
twisted her voice
("Breathe slowly and deeply,
find the most comfy position,
think of something nice and pleasant,
ask your partner to dim the lights,
play your favourite music,
gently massage your lower back")
and he, suddenly, stopped answering,
for if you haven't seen Maisun's photo,
her hands quivering over her daughter,
pink, calm, innocent
the way new born babes are
- however, she was lucky
to have given birth to her on the hospital bed
rather than crouch like her sisters before her
like an animal in front of the soldiers
and then stumble ten kilometers,
walking and bleeding,
carrying the dead infant as an offering -
whoever hasn't opened a non-aiming eye
to look at Maisun El-Hayk's face,
has never seen what it means
to bring forth children in sorrow.

This poem is from Tal Nitzan's 2002 collection Domestica. It was first published in English translation in Modern Poetry in Translation (www.mptmagazine.com), Series 3, No. 9, "Palestine", April 2008.




Afternoon and little girl
Translated from the Hebrew by the poet with Vivian Eden

You get up with your cheeks burning
and your face contracted with the sadness of awakening.
A three-year-old sorrow:
Sensing the sorrows that still await you.
What could have consoled you?
I go on typing with one hand,
caressing you with the other.
You aren't thinking about me -
maybe about a sweet or a lion,
maybe about a train.
Nor am I thinking about you -
about a cold gloomy January
that would crouch between me and the screen
if you hadn't pushed your way in here.
Now impatience starts stirring inside you.
In me too:
You keep me from writing the poem about you.

This poem is from Tal Nitzan's 2002 collection Domestica. It was first published in English translation in Poetry Life & Times (www.poetrylifeandtimes.com), February 2008.




Grace
Translated from the Hebrew by the poet with Vivian Eden

The insult of the poor man's hunger isn't for you to appease
and the avenger's zeal isn't for you to cool down
and the bulldozed house isn't for you to protect with your body
and the baby pram that goes up by a whirlwind into heaven
isn't for you to seize and bring down gently
and the reign of evil isn't for you to cast out

therefore tend to your own home

to the one who loves you
to your one and only
to the yellow plea in the slits of its eyes
and bury your face in its fur.

One caress
for one cat
in the world.

This poem is from Tal Nitzan's 2006 collection An Ordinary Evening. It was first published in English translation in Bridges, A Jewish Feminist Journal (http://bridgesjournal.org), Volume 12, No. 2, Autumn 2007.







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