Poets Journal



Elisha Porat has published several volumes of  poetry and fiction in Hebrew.  His published works have appeared (in translation) in Israel, Canada, England, and the United States.  He won Israel's Prime Minister's Prize for Literature.  
Porat grew up in Israel in the early 1930's on the Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh his parents helped found.  He still lives there.
Mr. Porat served in the Israeli Army and fought in both the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War.  He is a member of a Kibbutz where he has worked as a farmer.  Currently he edits several literary journals.  


All poems translated from the Hebrew.
Reprinted by permission of the author.


MEMORIAL DAY

On Memorial Day I take-off to the woods.
Again I'm moved.
Through the smoke I observe
the earth veiling its shoulders.
As they gather before me from the rocks
I command:  You're all released to memories.
I turn aside and to you I whisper:
This is it, folks, they're trapped.
They can't escape.  Their will and testament
they've left with us.

Translated by Tsipi Keler, 1997
Originally published in Poetry Magazine.


A  LONGING

On Memorial Day I surrender
to a longing for my dead.

The wail of the siren shrieking
above the Eucalyptus tops
is sounded from afar as if
it were a private whistle-code
between me and them.  As if
presently they'll rise
shake off the dust,
lean their bikes against the fence
and whistle back to me.
As if time gathers again
into the funnel of the electric siren:
it goes down through iron and grounds
the awful wailing
deep in the earth.

Translated by Tsipi Keler, 1997
Originally published in Poetry Magazine.


ON THE BEACH

Saturday noon, on the beach,
the tan grandson burrows into
a dug-up basin padded with sand.
I observe him from the height of my age,
again see my body draw a circle,
warm and sticky of a boy pissing in the sand.
Time flows between us, a golden froth,
and stings my lips with salt.
From the sunken mold of the sand mask
the boy that I was comes back to me,
sprawled, foaming and wallowing, coddled by the sun.
A passing cloud suddenly darkers the light,
my face takes on the hardness of graying plaster:
the short-lived joy, a forgotten image from childhood,
all is swept back, dripping between the fingers
in the rhythmic beat of retreating waves.

Translated by Tsipi Keler, 1997
Originally published in Poetry Magazine.


ON THE WAY TO NABATIYA

On the way to Nabatiya
the rocks along the curves
seem to resemble the stone columns
of the bay in San Francisco
or the collapsed fences
in a Hasidic community in Jerusalem.
As I tie the belt of the helmet to my chin
tightly fasten the prickly velcro of my vest
adjust the goggles on my forehead
all at once my eyes grow blurry
and for a moment I can't tell
which is farther away:
The United States or Me'ah She'arim.

Lebanon, 1984.

Translated by Tsipi Keler, 1997
Originally published in Poetry Magazine.


A HAUNTED POET

to the memory of Abba Kovner
translated from the Hebrew by Tsipi Keler
Years he smoked, burned, inhaled
filthy butts that wrecked his lungs
with tuberculosis:
muscus, cough and pain.
He didn't cry, he didn't shout,
he only groaned in private,
and in whispers dictated notes
to those bending over his bed.
The sound of chimes and bells
interrupted the silence of his last nights
always alerting his heart's flight:
He didn't save from the fires
a loving mother chasing
after him, clinging as he walks,
as if he were a baby again,
holding her ashes
on his last day.

Translated by Tsipi Keler
Originally published in Ariga.


THE LOST SON

He came back, but he came like a
stranger.
He came back, looked about and did not
Recall, for to him, all appeared estranged:
The house, the yard, the narrow lane.
Their memory sliced through his heart,
Cut, and he who survived and was
favoured
Came back; and he who had sworn back
there
That nothing would be forget, estranged
though it be:
A dirt path, and the barren field and the
ditch
At the edge, and the lemon tree with its
bitter fruit.
He felt that his absence was almost
ordained:
To come back at last, to come like a
stranger
With a shadowy memory that was not
estranged,
And an unravelled thread of burning
desire
That will never more be made whole.

Translated by Asher Harris
Originally published in Ariga.


STRANGE SNOW

Strange soft snow descends
on the slopes of Jebel-El-Kebir,
chill and silent it falls
on dogouts and vehicles
armored on the screens of memory.
Astray in me in the damp haze
forgotten comrades call
whose lives once touched my life
now grown distant beyond the roads
the roadblocks the rolling hardare.
Once, among them, I saw
such a pure white suddenly crushed;

minced and ploughed under and rearing up
and then subsiding silently absorbing
rent veins an reddening stain.

Translated by Riva Rubin
Originally published in Ariga.


THREE COLORS

On Memorial Day I make my way up
to the small military cemetery.
In the northwestern corner
we've placed a grey basalt rock
and facing the southern corner --
a blanching chunk of chalk.

our red loam
spreads itself all around.

And when the loudspeaker booms out
the memorial prayer
I close my eyes
and see those three colors
descend before me and disappear
into the encroaching shadow of the
stones.

Translated by Seymour Mayne
Originally published in Ariga.


NOTE:  More additions will be added soon!


                                                             

1