• Rony Alfandary

English Poems

Updated: Nov 5, 2020



ON REACHING THIRTY

Getting into the car this morning

orange Mini, the best of British industry,

pulling out the choke handle

cord snapping

leaving a useless gadget in my hand

and a machine which is idiosyncratic enough

to expect nothing less but an immediate repair.

I can do that. I did.

On the same day, twice, both within an hour

seeing an old lover in two different parts of the city

letting the pinch of regret leave some mark

acknowledge the pain and allow its fluid

to seep through and rest on the bed rock

of my resolution, my awareness

and then, only then,

to liberate a little smile onto my face

no malice, merely recognition

even beyond forgiveness and any such superior crap

simply accepting that this is how it is.

I can do that now. I do.

On the A52 to Nottingham

returning from the north,

several miles before the end of a 500 miles journey

stopping the car

and letting through the tears

for a dead pilot friend

eight years in a grave which was never found

somewhere in the dunes of Sinai,

and remembering that that last flight was his first night flight

and remembering that he was afraid of the dark.

Loving him so

and feeling angry with him so

for not letting on to his fear

and dying for it.

Loving him because of the anger.

I do this now. I must.

My birthday party.

A room full of people

initially all they share is acknowledge of me.


20 people

(I have made love with 5 of them

in the last 8 years.)

Each carries something of me with them.

Most of them have not met before

now they mingle, perhaps make mental comparisons

try and work out the reasons why.

Later I sit up in bed and make lists.

Who of these people will I want to see again?

I make such choices now. Living with a man

living in his house

writing this in the room where his daughter used to sleep

whom is no longer here

whom he will see in a day or two after months of separation

who will sit across the room from him

lowered eyes and mouth full of accusations

hating him so for loving him so

and he, this man

must find a way to live with that

to survive every moment of rejection

and still maintain his love for her

his belief in her love for him

never to hate or reject her

and at the same time

not to learn how to love the pain

remember that he is a man

loved and loving

and that he deserves more

so much more.

I love this man. I can now.

Having made a choice

having re-dreamt my home

and began my journey towards it

in backwards steps

at a pace that seems so minute

as not to exist but in my imagination,

and still being in exile

choosing to remain in limbo for a little longer

learning to love it

to take pride in such a choice

no longer the refugee, cowering in the corner of the room

but the explorer

straight back and fierce eyes

looking outwards

taking risks.

I do this now. I can.

I could have been so many people

I have been

I made films

I wrote novels

I built backgammon boards

I made falafels and sold them

I worked in a radical bookshop collective

I made a living out of photography

now I care for people and get paid for that

it all adds up

and there is more to come.

I am this man.

In May,

with the wild flowers which will cover the desert

for a brief day after a winter of much rain,

carpets of colour and thin petals,

my sister, with garlands around her neck

marrying a man

finally leaving home

starting another branch of the clan

another line for later mythology

our childhood play slowly becoming contained in memories

mine:

her laughter lifting me up

on a sofa many years ago

wrapped in blankets

holding microphones and singing to the world

wanting to be beautiful and famous.

We are now.

I want to wake up for many mornings

on a side of a hill

and rub my hands in the soil before breakfast

feeling the early sun warm my back

the fresh air filling my lungs

traces of the sea wafting through

knowing that this soil has been fought over

and that we all lost someone here

and still not understand why

still feel choked up with anger and waste

but accept the old blessing

'in their death they have given us life.'

I no longer have a choice. This is how it is.

My grandmother in a picture on my bedroom wall

guiding me from beyond the grave

with wise sayings, now uttered by her daughter, my mother

and later I will too learn the same words

to continue a tradition which has survived

more then any historian can ever research.

I recognise and love my place in this.

Learning how to ask for what I want from friends.

Like:

asking Thom to share my bed on the night of my birthday

and falling asleep almost immediately

no longer afraid of my own fantasies

being able to offer and accept warmth

knowing I have it to give

and deserve it to receive

no longer wasting mine and others' time

with arguments of what is right and what is wrong.

I am working on this one. Working hard.

Talking to my father on the phone

once a fortnight for more the eight years now.

Seeing him maybe once a year.

We could have bought a little plane with all that money. The changes in the tone

he, less demanding, listening more,

me, more giving, clutching the outstretched hand


occasionally stumbling and falling over:

sometimes he still doesn't realise he is asking fro my love

and is surprised when he gets it.

I can be a son now. A father in the making.

Thinking of my mother

with a heart that widens and a soul which laughs

her love warm and nourishing

seeing how she has learnt to live with her pain

and perhaps even accepted it

no longer expecting me to make it better

doing it for herself now

leaving me room to love her and learn.

And yet

early fears of old age hover.

Will that be hard?

Will I be repelled?

Will I care out of duty and not love?

It cannot be perfect.

The conclusion is somewhat vague

the intention has to be read between the lines.

Working from the belly

intuition, the informed heart

using prayer and any other form of available light

to skip from one moment of inspiration to another

and enjoy the lulls in between just as much.

And loving it all more and more. And more.

17.3.92




AUTUMN 1991

Autumns with no lover

to dedicate these moments to

are sad, very sad.









BETRAYAL ON THE EDGE OF THE FIELD

Without bragging

I have betrayed one or two people who love me.

Often I let you down.

Often I can not give.

I write this and pain swells my veins.

I sit on the edge of the field

I listen to the loud din of the city rising above the

hill. Above me grows an autumn tree,

its branches bare and thin.

I look further afield and watch

the indifferent moon, on the wane.

The wind is gently beckoning to me:

grow, grow, grow.

So, I have betrayed four or five people.

To what does it all amount?

Has the tree stopped growing?

Will the skies stop moving?

Have we seen the last of the sun?



I AM NO BETTER

You disappoint me

why else do you think

my life is strewn

with an assortment of figures

why else would I have a need

for them if it wasn't

for your inability

or unwillingness

to forgive me for who I am

and support me to become me

rather then continuously

admonish me

for being me

and for ever disappointing you

in not being better than you.

You know what?

Maybe it doesn't really matter

that you don't approve of who I am

maybe it isn't important

that I shall never have your understanding.

You tell me

that I have too much pain

but when I try to tell you

how I came by it

you shield off and disappear

behind your nervous fear

and I'm out in the cold again

It is not that it is your fault

it is not your fault

no one person can be that important

in anyone's life

and I don't expect you to do anything

apart from being a witness

to my emergence

Here, we both have a second chance.




BIRDIE


When she appears

naked and glowing

I can stretch my toes

and doze

thinking of selfishness and the flight of birds

but when she is covered

with thick damp rubbery

layers of eternal fat

I feel sharp and low

and even the birds hold their breath.



CHANGES


A year ago,

my first thought upon waking up would be of her,

some woman.

Now I wake up and wonder

whether I have enough time to do

a load of white washing in the washing machine

before going to work.

The television needs repairing, again,

and I only bought it last week.

still, some things don't change.

I still rub myself to sleep,

and sometimes to wakefulness.


23/4/91




THE METAPHORIC CRADLE

You had an open invitation

you came when you wanted

often it was on meal times

I shared out what I only cooked for myself

and didn't ask

for how long

or

when again

just smiled when you came

and hugged when you left

and that was okay.

you felt comfortable

you basked in the metaphoric cradle I offered you

you enjoyed finding out about my differences

you felt safe within my calm

an oasis

a place you could come into from the storm

which your life had been

recently

I feel itchy with this cradle

my arms are beginning to twitch

I want the metaphoric to become physical

and the cradle to become a bed

maybe

suddenly you discover

that you don't want to give to me

you withdraw with fear

you had an open invitation

and for a while

my house stands empty of you

and I in its midst

aching another loss

doubting myself

generosity

and everything else

and the poison seeps deep

and all is red with anguish and regret

and then

in the morning

like the flower

uncurl my petals again

you had an open invitation...





FINDING GOD AND NEARLY LOSING TWO LOVERS IN CUMBRIA


1.


I really thought I lost you

somewhere along the path.


Just a moment before

I sat and watched the water fall

the white of the fuming drops

as they descended with their languid rage upon the rocks

not angry in particular at anyone

not trying to prove a point

but gushing all the same.


The god of my childhood comes forth again before me

gentle, comforting

telling me I am not really alone

never was

never will be

it was always a question of waiting a little longer

keeping faith

keeping hope


all this in the water fall

while I was sitting with my back to you

with my back to the path

being sure of your presence

your presence

who began the journey back

the journey home

being so sure of it

like the child who knows mother is there

by that chair

or in that room

and will come if he calls

reassured, confident

learning to play alone

knowing he is not alone

so was I

letting myself go

in those turbulent drops that brought calm and stillness

liking it like this

alone

but with your presence firmly behind

slowly moving towards home

towards the same place I knew I will be heading too

in a minute

or so.


wide open

letting the tears and the joy build up

but not needing the release of crying or laughing

knowing that I could hold it in like this

contain it

fertilise it

let something stronger blossom

later in the warmth

registering every little movement

each line leaving its black mark

drawing with a certain hand a picture

a gem, a seed, a plan.


2.


And then, moments later

recalling your smell suddenly

carried by a rash wisp of a wind

turning my head and wanting to find you there

and not finding you there

ready to go home

and beginning the journey

turning corner after corner

thinking, it will be the next one

and still not finding you there

and still feeling good, oh so good.


3.


And the god of my childhood is with me

the one that appeared sometimes in the morning of 1967

before the war

but not much

as I was sitting on the doorstep of the kindergarten

waiting for them to come

for all the kids to come


my dad has just gone to work

and it has been going like this for months now

every morning he leaves me here

on his way to work

he works so

and doesn't realise that the child he leaves behind

on the doorstep

is stifling a tear

again

another morning

again fearing the long wait

an hour before they all arrive

all the other children

whose fathers do not drop them at the doorstep

an hour early because he has to go to work

he works so

and he loves me so and if he only knew

just what his 5 year old son

has to do to survive that cursed hour

in loneliness

surely his heart would break

but his little boy

me

sits there

alone

and dreams away and prays and prays

till something is heard

something opens and he is not alone the god of story telling ascends

and it begins

and by the time the playgroup leader arrives

a respectable lady by all counts

what she sees is a little five year old

face bathed with tears

but glowing eyes that are somewhere far away

in a land of their own

where all is the same

but better.


4.


And by the time I reach the car

and you are not there

you who were ahead of me along the trail.

The same god reappears and nods with a smile

we have been here before boy

no worry

just tell me another story


5.


I can only hear the answers

if I ask the questions.


The policewoman was reassuring with her professionalism

their age, where they live

do they know the area

was it a difficult terrain.

Was she smiling to herself

when I told her they were guided by a blind dog?

And where are you from, sir?


The glacial man behind the bar in the Red Lion

answering questions with nods and grunts

absorbing my anxiety with his indifference

coating my fear with cold sweat


It is now two hours since I last saw you

it is now dark and I can see stars

can you read the map of the celestial?

Is this a guide

or dead matter looking back at you

from the bottom of the universe?


Fear comes uncertain

so I postulate

If you are dead, this will be the longest night

nothing can be that total

and yet, it does happen

but not to me, not here, not now


6.


And what I am so hard trying to hold back

floods through me

hours later when we are returning home

several miles away from home

I stop the car and have to tell you

about a lost friend, a dead friend

and you sit and absorb my tears

and hear my openness and offer me yourself

in the most perfect way


7.


Your two figures

appearing in the dark

with the blind dog tugging at his leash

screaming at me

red with rage and weak with fear

touching and holding

not knowing what to do first

at the centre of it

numbness and disbelief

people don't come back from the dead

or do they


9.3.92



LITTLE EXCITMENTS



Keith Jarrett letting go in a corner of my room

in Luisane, 1973.

A letter to Yael

in Jerusalem 1988.

The prospects of showing my red knickers to my lover

in Mapperley Park, tonight.

Soya dessert that protects the world.


How much can an evening contain

or how little do I require

to make me happy

just happy in a small inexplicable way?



THOUGHTS OF A VOLUNTARY EXILE

1.

Being in exile means:

Not being able to have steaming Falafel

made by the sweaty and hairy hands of the Romanian immigrant,

Class of '47 with the numbers on his arms,

each bite spiced with the buses' fumes

as they emerge, howling,

from the central bus station in Tel Aviv,

delivering ecstatic children

to all corners of the Promised Land.

2.

I was five years old when Jerusalem

became again a subject of a changing status.

The city that had championed many

and washed in the blood of even more,

once again is claiming a bitter price

for her liberation by one army

from the occupation of another.

As a five year old it didn't make a great deal of sense.

3.

Days of turbulence that linger into months of dislocation.

Like the buried bud during the long cold winter

I too know that the time of thawing will come,

that the natural rhythm of life will not pass me by.

But a darkness of suspicion never lifts

dreading that out of the slumbers of now

only rot and decay will evolve,

mocking the long months spent in long patience.

4.

Here, the cities of the West sprawl out into green.

There, cities merely sprawl

abruptly reaching an invisible line

that me, and the like of me,

are forbidden to cross by our conscience and fear.

Over there, the "countryside"

is where the Palestinians grow our tomatoes.

Every time an Israeli bites into the juicy fleshy vegetable

he must think of the hand the buried the seed in the soil

the same hand that would be holding a stone on the followingí

day.

The same hand that could be lying dead, rubber bullet and all.

"Biting the hand that feeds"

acquires a new meaning in the Moledet.

5.

The Moledet.

It means, the Country of Birth,

or more loosely,

The Motherland.

But I was born here, in the West,

In the not so green Stoke Newington.

So where is my Moledet?

Perhaps in Lom by the Blue Danobe, where my dad spent his firstí

14 years?

Or in the spacious house in Salonica, where my baby Mum gazedí

onto the humid street?

Or is it in the dusty army camp on an arid hill

somewhere near Jerusalem,

where I spent the bitterest Yum Kippur,

truly atoning the sins that made me a soldier?

6.

The Orthodox Synagogue in Nottingham

didn't believe my Jewish authenticity

one grey Yum Kippur,

As I stood outside, wrapped up,

seeking warmth amongst my ancient "brethren".

I didn't have a ticket...

The recital of Shema Isreal

convinced them

that I had no intention of blowing the place up

so I didn't get arrested by the bemused policeman

who was looking forward to a bit of action

on that dull day.

But admission I did not gain.

I spent the rest of the day trying to explain to a Gentile lover

why I still felt a part of the Jewish people.

7.

And still I know it is true:

There is a dream I share

with some multitudes

here and everywhere.

A dream, a memory, a hope,

that it hasn't all been in vain,

the screams of the victim,

the songs of the pioneer,

the whispered prayer of the devout,

the spoken anguish of the intellectual,

that one day the Moledet for some

shall not be an exile for others.

August 1990



MY FATHER


I have delayed this moment

when I need to begin to talk to you

You walked up the stairs then

and your face is still the same, now

Into my eyes you looked

for recognition, for confirmation

you couldn't see that I was looking for the same

Above us stood Mother, who sometimes gave us both the same

often she was in love with me, with you, she could never tell

which one of us occupied the vacuum of her bursting heart.


The air is hot

my skin sweats secretly

an aching back becries

the long restless nights

and the befrazzled posturing of the day

now, a moment before

the moment which is really not that important

I sigh with relief

and sit back to contemplate

am I still

on the wrong path?

am I still?



CHAPTER TWO


Leaves of gold from a note-book of someone who knows. How long has it been that I have been stranded here, with the blood frozen in my veins? "The longer you linger/the more silent you'll become." It is not possible to be more silent than dead, not now, in this age where we are still looking for replacements for the idols we have smashed in our youthful zest to be free, free of what and what for we ask now, the collective we, the Voice that I carry within me which is not just mine, which is not just madness, not just megalomania poetically conveyed. Ten years, the

Voice at the North Pole finds its strength to respond, Aphrodite- the promise that many mornings shelled in their light and then swallowed up whole.


Leaves of gold from a note-book from one who knows, poems of eternity from the bottom of hell - I don't criticise anyone for the way they earn a living, it's all legit nowadays, the sorrow and the joy, all commodities, the house where Tolstoy once confessed and faced death is now a brothel, where you can get a good blow job and a copy of War and Peace for under twenty dollars, American of course, what else is there.


Leaves of rust from one who forgets, who doesn't even ring, who makes promises to leave now for more then four years, and who now is sitting still, very still, awaiting the horror.




ON THE UNIFICATION OF GERMANY

God, is it going to happen again?

In Germany they are talking about unification,

about the destruction of Hitler's Germany.

Again Hitler alone is left to carry the cross

for the crimes committed by thousands.

The silence of the millions that stood by and watched

with indifference

the whispers of the millions who paid with their lives

for dreams of grandeur.

Again they are thinking big,

and the world looks on confused,

again letting events take their own 'natural' course

let the natural courses make decisions that some of us

will have to pay with our lives for later.

And I can already see myself as an old man,

reading the ghastly reports from war‑torn Europe

urging younger ones to do something

choking with tears of rage at the memory of my

grandmother

fearing the lives of my grandchildren

again feeling helpless against the lack of sense in it.

Nothing adds up.



SOON


Soon you'll be here

The nights will become closer

with less moves, the bed will smell of more than sleep

The things I dream about

come back to haunt me when I am awake

it's like finding you in a tub full of blood

crying for my lost innocence

even during your last moments you dared to think of our love

while I looked into the bottom of a drinking glass

All this can only make sense if we allow ourselves

to consider such things

as the stars and the back of your neck while yawning

I love you as it is

and it makes it all the worst for you

Gin never wrote good poetry

Ramat Gan

5.11.94



MY GOD

There is a song in the universe

about you

and it goes like this...

a leaf is picked up by the wind

on an autumnal afternoon

the light is slowly turning in

and the wind slumbers

some frost-bitten spiders

are lifting their airy legs

and get down to work

to create their delicate pattern

that tomorrow will be frozen into eternity

or for a day or so

whichever comes first.



THE HUNGRY SELF

It is too late to suck.

the breast is empty but I am still hungry

it will never be enough

forever I will go on and search

for the nipple which will quell the hunger of those days.

Oh Mama, why only for six months were the meals free and

abandunat?

Now it is about going to the market

choosing the fruit

counting the change

cooking the food

and chewing and chewing

always chewing but the hunger remains.

Passion rules.

everywhere I look,

my passion coats with beauty.

I no longer think of you or you as pretty,

it is I who feels the beauty which I extend onto you.

So be it, I have enough of this beauty for all to share.

Unlike the breast, my flow will never rest.

Oh Mama, why can't it be you I sleep with tonight?

From each a memory is left:

The way cetain colours mix on a palate,

I assemble you all to be my companions.

the wild look just before the climax

the crumbled skin of many tears

an old drawing still looking at me

the smell of the sheets after a night of so much love

the taste of cheese pastry

clunching my hand as if you were falling

waiting for the phone to ring

too much love and not enough time.

I would forget it all for just one more night with you.

Oh Mama, why did it have to be so sweet?



SHE


1.

It's just another rainy day,

they told me:

One day you will understand.

It's true

and now I do

now I understand

and I stand on the verge of the abyss of my understanding

and try to speak the words of IT

but they don't want to hear about my understanding, now

it is not what they meant

they didn't mean me to go so deep

they didn't realise what it would mean

for me to grow up, learn their rules

but refuse to play the game,

an enemy amongst them.

2.

The haven wherein I live;

the flowers I plant;

the clear morning air and its blessed serenity;

my splendid isolation

for which I battled, wounded, won and lost;

I shall give it all up

for one quick breath of salty air

waves of heat, shattering all resolutions,

the stench of sweet fermenting decay;

being at home.

10th June, 1991



A CYCLE OF UNEVEN RHYMES FOR A NEARLY‑LOST‑LOVE

What is the truth about this?

"Don't believe truth" says Peter Falk in Husbands.

But I must have something.

1.

After a long time it gave way.