Three Poems from Israel

translated by Linda Stern Zisquit
A close-up photograph of tree flowers
Photo by Tim Mossholder /

[A person should fold up his world]

A person should fold up his world
put his head between his legs
and so observe his existence
say things of worth things that foresee the future
by becoming round
by lowering his head uniting the edges

our rabbis called this the position of prophecy
and in this position they would prophesize
end to end mouth to mouth Hallelujah


[She walks in her places]

She walks in her places
feeling her way
checking animal droppings
here a camel here a gazelle here a donkey

the path winds up the slope’s ascent
thinning out to nothing on the cliff
stretching out along the ridge
wind rises from the wadi and ravens above the abyss

when she passes through the garden of
the almond trees and roses
doves startle in the thicket of reeds
fourteen doves and the air vibrates with their wings

this is her abandoned place until the fig season
the breach of hawthorn perfume
wounds the heart
a knife-cut in rock


[The cliff on which I’m trapped]

The cliff on which I’m trapped 
is about to collapse

but a cow stands here
I hold onto her legs

and climb back from the edge under her belly
breathing salvation through the legs of a cow

I didn’t feel the hairiness
or the roundness

Her cylinder legs their steadiness
and their red color saved me from the abyss

Translations from the Hebrew

Susan Afterman was born in Australia, educated in Melbourne, and has worked as an architect in Australia, England, and Israel. Her first two collections of poetry were written in English, and her last two books were written in Hebrew. Her recent collection is Bird Bones. She lives in Clil, Israel.

Linda Stern Zisquit has published six collections of poetry and several volumes of translations from Hebrew poetry, including Wild Light: Selected Poems of Yona Wallach, for which she received an NEA Translation Award and was shortlisted for the PEN Translation Award. For many years she was poetry coordinator for the Shaindy Rudoff Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University.