Two Poems

translated by Lyor Shternberg

A Poem for Nitzan

I smuggled you across the border, that no hand 
of those who find joy in their labor might touch you 
no hand of those dealing 
in blood,
though no one 
misses you as I do, your father perhaps,
or your brothers, I saved you when you told me:
Mom, they’re fixing us like buns in the oven
so that we’ll come out at the right time
ready to serve the sword, though
constantly, every evening
I miss you and count your good days far away from here.

Your good heart stands firm against the flood 
of brow-raisers, but it is I my daughter who saved you,
for since the day you were born I whispered in your ear:
Don’t fall for the enamored talk of destruction. 
We are strangers to any man.

And then you refused to sing “To Be a Free Nation,” you
   couldn’t say 
free because you knew: not free like a bullet shot through
   a rifle’s scope
to the head, for much is the grievance and much the
and the heart untouched by suffering
as if eighty years is not man’s lot upon this earth

My daughter, both of us shall know 
that from the day you were born
I pushed you away
so that you’ll learn to live without me across the border
with a friend, a lover, my forsaken heart,
one bun saved for good from the all-consuming oven


Come and Go

In the room the women talk
about everything that can enter
the mouth, a cookie from the buffet 
or a dress from the magazine
or Courbet’s Origin of the World in the
     Musée d’Orsay.
One of them had been there last summer with her ex-husband. What do you
     think, girls,
about the shooting soldier, could have been
     my son, yours,
hers. Did anyone read the latest thing from
     Grossman, Moroccan pillows 
on the sofa like guests in the living room,
the door, who is that coming, let’s read,
     never understood
poetry, but Poe is cool,
we really like him since high school.

Translations from the Hebrew

Photo by Roni Frydman

Sigal Naor Perelman (b. 1968) is a literary scholar and editor, founder and co-director of the Derech Ruach organization for the promotion of the study of the humanities in Israel, and teaches in the Department of Jewish History at Haifa University. She has published two research books on Natan Zach and Noah Stern. Her first volume of poetry, Machluta, was published in 2020.

Photo by Orna Itamar

Lyor Shternberg (b. 1967) is a poet, translator, and a teacher of literature. His seventh volume of poetry, The Bread, the Salt (collecting twenty years of writing), was published recently.