Ronny Someck

Jasmine, Poem on Sandpaper

Fairuz raises her lips
to heaven
to let the jasmine rain down
on those who once met
without knwoing they were in love.
I'm listening to her in Muhammad's
Fiat at noon on Ibn Gabirol Street.
A Lebanese singer playing in an Italian car
that belongs to an Arab poet from
Baqa' 'al-Gharbiyye on a street named
after a Hebrew peot who lived in Spain.
And the jasmine?
If it falls from the sky at the end of days
it'll stay green for
just a second at
the next light.

Embroidered Rag. Poem on Umm Kulthoum

She had a black evening gown on
and her voice hammered steel nails
into the elbow leaning on the table
in the cafe on Struma Square.
"My eyes have gotten used to seeing you,
and if you don't come one day
I'll blot that day from my life."
I came with a sponge to rub out
a huge eagle drawn in chalk
on the edge of a cloud.
An embroidered rag that years the cook at
the base at Be'er Ora hooked to his belt loop
fluttered under its wings.
I asked him for a couple of potatoes
and on the cassette player her gown darkened again.
He shut his eyes to the steaming lunch and kept peeling potatoes.
Who's that singing, I started, Umm Kulthoum?
He nodded.
For all he cared, I could have cleaned out the whole kitchen.

translated from the Hebrew
by Ammiel Alcalay

Ronny Someck was born in Baghad in 1951 and lives in Ramat Gan. His books include Exile (1976), Solo (1980), Asphalt and Bloody Mary (1989). Most recently, Jasmine (1995), a selection of his poetry translated into Arabic by the Palestinian poet Samih al-Qasim,has appeared. These poems are excerpted with permission from Keys to the Garden, New Israeli Writing, ed. Ammiel Alcalay (City Lights 1996).


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