December 06


Nurit Zarhi

The rain reveals the hidden names of leaves
my heart warm as if washed in blood
a new season love
cruising in our tiny heart
as if in an ocean
never touching.

If it were up to me, first thing
I'd give up on longing as on sickness.
But then I become even sicker,
all I can do is depart from myself
through a ring of fire, forcibly awake
from dream into dream.

And when this happens, instantly I recall
the hidden name of my heart,
as if it were an orphan. No, even this is too revealing,
I'd have to name it a civilian in a long raincoat,
when, in fact, its cauterized name is a mad child
no one would want in my place,
with the self-respect of a wet bird,
in a land where all must appear strong and beautiful.

More than anything, I want to heed
the true tablet of its commandments,
but what can I do, it wants me to expose
myself to all, show what's lacking.
Clearly, it drags me to destruction,
and I put it to sleep: Sleep, sleep.
Witless heart, all or at once
you may achieve in death only.

                    Translated by Tsipi Keller



Nurit Zarhi was born in Jerusalem, but the family moved to Kibbutz Geva after the death of her father, the writer Israel Zarhi, when Nurit was six years old. She studied Literature and Philosophy at the University of Tel Aviv, and has worked as a journalist and a literary critic. Her poems have been widely translated and anthologized in Europe. A poet, she is also one of Israel's best-known authors of children's books, writing both poetry and prose for young readers. She has published seven volumes of poetry and received every major Israeli award, including The Prime Minister Award and the Bialik Prize. Hers is a questioning sensibility, and her work often involves issues of gender, injustice and creativity. She lives in Tel Aviv. This poem is part of Zeek's "Lesser-Known Israeli Poets" series, translated and curated by Tsipi Keller, from her forthcoming book on the same theme.