• 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.

You watched me walking down the stairs

and were warned by the crazed desperation in my eyes

that you need to act now,

a second before it was all over,

before I turned myself away

and wrote you off as merely another poem

which neither could nor should have come to anything.

Thus began our love affair.

2.

The way you appeared, just there,

burning as the naked flame.

And I, just like the water,

was consumed by your still‑only‑imagined touch.

The water which can never remain water when it meets the fire

but has to evaporate or be put out.

My passion was awakened.

I was let back into the world where love and lust reside,

where the Boy in me could be embraced by the Man,

becoming whole again, becoming one again

ready to perform the sacred and silly act of union.

I was left whimpering, unbelieving.

And then it began.

The whirl of my fears, now exposed bare by passion,

swirling round and round

volcanoes of flesh, moving too fast,

sucking you in

hurtling you into the eye of the storm

swallowing you whole

asking of you to be the soothing potion

for my inner wound.

Nobody can come back from where I sent you,

where the baby's saliva is mixed with first semen

enshrouded with mother's rustling and strangulating night‑gown,

that swamp of forbidden games and confused wishes

forbidden games and confused,

encapsulated with sadness for having being born

walled in by the anger of never completely being.

And so it ended.

...I must be a real grown‑up now;

I sat all night with a couple of friends

and discussed with animation

the history of the Jews

while my heart was being torn apart

from the effort of keeping silent

of the words of final goodbye

you have lacerated me with this morning...

4.

Who will you have casual sex with tonight?

Will it be someone I know?

Is there a chance you will like them this time

Or is it going to be another link

in the necklace of revenge you are stringing me up with?

I cannot help seeing the smallest detail:

will your shoulders shiver

against the surprised and hesitant embrace?

will your lips crush his?

will you send a mischievous hand to his crutch

only to discover to your dismay he is not yet ready for you?

will you have to hate yourself during and after,

realising the differences,

realising that nothing will bring your lover back

and that every thrust your pelvis dedicate to loveless sex

only belittle your love?

Today is Yum‑Kippur's eve,

day of attonment, of stock‑taking and settling of accounts,

day of forgiving and of asking to be forgiven.

Will you forgive him for having driven you

to abandon your innocence to strangers?

On the altar of your love,

instead of human sacrifice,

all which is offered now in repentance are words,

rivers of words, eloquent and soothing words,

those which have meanings and those which have not,

words words words only words

to grate on your wound and make it bleed again

words words only words

to haunt you.

In the place where you were once dancing the ritual of love

you are now standing bewildered,

frozen by the chasm staring at your feet.

There is no dancing now,

no more defiant twirling,

only silence and fear.

It's not that there is something wrong with the sex :

the sex is fine.

It is what follows which tears me apart.

As my body cools off and recoils with fatigue

then it remembers other times,

the times before,

when sex was a flowering child of our passionate fantasies,

always fine‑tuning our ecstasy

to a notch of screaming joy.

When love‑making was still called "love‑making".

Now we say "sex".

How far are we from saying "just sex"?

Do you want to have those words to demolish

the sweetness

(which time alone will not eradicate)

that our love‑making oozed

like free‑flowing fluid from every pore of our united bodies?

6.

Tonight you will be coming here.

Tonight you will become my lover yet again.

You will be walking along the long fence of my defence

and amongst the thorns a little gate will wink at you:

something is widening up for you,

something will was never completely shut

but simply draped‑over .

Wasn't that a soft cob‑web

weaved benevolently by a sacred spirit?

The night you mothered me in your hands

re‑birthed my child.

He remembers long afternoons of solitary playing in the sand pit,

glancing nervously up to the shadowy corner above his head

wishing for somebody to come and play with him.

He is crouching and slowly piling the sand neatly around him,

trying to make sense of so many little things that slip through his

fingers.

He knows it will all change again when he plays tomorrow.

He is content to know that there will always be sand for himם

somewhere

even though the loneliness of the shadowy corner above his head

will always be there too.

Today, he is content just to play.

I left the electric blanket burning on all night

and was haunted by visions of my house on fire.

In the morning it was cool and dry,

but something passed away all the same.

A dry flame,

warming an unwanted bed, burning for no‑one,

and burning in memory of many lonely nights spent apart.

And now, as I eulogise for those nights

and becries the coming nights of togetherness

I know that happiness is neither here nor there

but secretly in the acceptance of the gift I am able to offer myם

child:

the promise that the sand pit will always be his,

shadowy corner and all,

for there lies his freedom to be in the world.

September‑November 1989



A LOVE SONG

I have been having a secret love affair.

Nobody knows anything about it,

not even my closest friends.

It has been hard,

to keep it so secret.

We have been seeing one another

for quite a while now,

in fact, for as long as I can remember,

meeting at the oddest places,

the most unexpected times,

doing the most outrageous things together,

hoping nobody notices.

I know I have not been the only one for her,

I know she has this tendency with others too,

especially lately,

when it has become more and more difficult to be in love,

but I don't mind, not really,

as long as she keeps seeing me,

sometimes.

I have been having this secret love affair

for some time now

and I feel like blowing the whistle on it, folks,

I have been having a secret love affair

with life itself.


MASCULINITY POEMS

1.

The women whom you marry

beat up and leave,

later blame me for the crimes of masculinity.

I am fed up with having to sweep up

defend

suffer

the consequences of your inability to feel.

I no longer see myself

as being part of the same game that you play.

I move over to where you threw me long ago

that day when I tried to hold your soul.

I will now stand there with pride

and watch you grovel

for some compassion.

If sex is all you want

then go fuck yourself.

2.

Because they wanted me to become a Man

I never learnt some useful things women know

Like

how to wrap a towel over my head after I hennaed it.

3.

Wear a pink triangle

break the silence

and if you are a Jew

think of it as a yellow star.

Remember those who died

who were murdered

just because they were

who they were.

Again we love in a time when

you don't have to do anything

to be oppressed

apart from being yourself.

Remember that your silence can lead

to murder

my murder

and later yours.

Wear a pink triangle

and rejoice in the freedom

that your choice gives you

and me.

Wear a pink triangle

and re‑establish yourself

as a practising human being.

Sex is too important an issue

to be left to politicians.

Wear a pink triangle

and make your own choices.

Nobody should care whom you sleep with tonight.

October 1988



MEDEA AT NIGHT

1.

Medea at night

the night after the deed

the children are slain

and she is not moved

she will not forgive

she stands alone in her place

gazing over the multitudes who want her blood

who are frightened of what she brought upon them

the terrible revenge she has wrought upon them

for depriving them of forgiveness

not forgiving them for rejecting her

she takes them down with her

and you walk the streets of this city

and Medea breathes in you

you hate the vision that you saw in my eyes

and you will not forgive

Who are your slain children

you have two, now growing up

learning lessons of revenge from you

labouring to gain your love

not knowing where or why they have lost it

not knowing why you are angry

are these your slain children

the ones who die to punish a failing lover

or are your slain children

the two trips to a private clinic in Birmingham

where we placed our money on the table

and you placed your body on the bed

and from within you

were pulled out lumps clots streams of flesh and blood

that could have been

that would have been

that you later blamed me for killing

that you now carry in your heart

as a memory of my cruelty

of your unrequited love

are these your slain children

who now come back to haunt me

our children who never came to be

my children

mine

and this you will not forgive

2.

at the centre of the storm

stands a little boy with tears in his

and asks for forgiveness

Medea towers over him

hair flying in the wind

and for a long second

all is lost

the universe is in danger

the Goddess is angry

seeking revenge

offended betrayed

dissatisfied lustful

he is bewildered

now Medea is his lover

now she is his mother

now she is the Goddess

what happened? he wants to know

how can I make you happy?

don't be angry with me

I am only a boy

thirty years on

a thousand years on

the rage goes on

3.

and where is the man

where is the warrior

to claim back his own anger

to say I forgive you not

I was there

I was hurt and I fight on

I stand in the eye of the storm

braving the waves crashing against the rocks

seeing you and your pain

long hair in the wind and all that

seeing the spilt blood

and crying inside

and cursing with arms wide open

letting the wind be born from my chest

swearing that life exists

and that no amount of no-forgiveness and revenge

can quench the thirst

where is the man

where is the warrior

4.

and in this there is a little boy

bewildered

not knowing why

only knowing it is wrong

that he is wrong

and when he lay to sleep at night

darkness carries the little boy

to that cliff edge

where Medea towers

where drops of the ocean break upon his skin

where he is hanging between life and death

fearful to let a cry escape his tight chest

lest she notices

and consumes him with her anger

and he has to watch

the torture of seeing humanity crumble

and not being able to do a damn thing about it

seeing the end approach

and the scream curdles in his blood

shrinking his lungs

terrifying his eyes

wrinkling his thoughts

and not for a hundred years will he be comforted

5.

does it end ever

this tragedy

Medea with her lost honour

my lover with her hurt pride

seeking revenge

wanting little boys and big men

to be perfect to be princes

or at least to show some affection for more then a night

6.

Medea at night

is a lonely figure

feeling cheated and wanting an answer from the crowds

swearing that if she can't have her lover

if she can't have her fill

if she can't have

nobody will

and she releases the beast of revenge upon us

to be present in every moment

every tender rubbing of lips

every tremble of tongue touching skin

words which pass the midnight hour

the taste of too many kisses and never enough

for us to pay homage to

and to say no to

at least not now

or

not anymore

to remember

and to forgive

to listen to the waves at night

from the depths of the mainland

and to remember that she stands there still

seeking revenge

receiving none

for ever and

ever

ever

23.3.92



MOMENTS

1.

Slow trickle of grains of red soil,

now diluted with water,

colour my sink.

If you are in pain

write about it

let it out.

Find a hill

or a pen,

and let you chin guide you

on the journey home.

2.

Washing my knickers in the sink

pink blue and black

I am thinking of you.

Is it alright then?

3.

The moment of lips meeting.

I can tremble with my heart.

Your smell is coming from deep inside

I breathe you out of you and into me.

We are not one, never will be,

don't want us to be,

but we are together, like this, separate. Okay?

4.

I live in a world of abstracts.

Clouds, like thoughts,

pass by.

Leaves

that I've gathered yesterday

come rushing back today

and lap at my feet.

5.

Throw a fit when you are next at Sainsbury's,

it will reassert you sanity.

Break a bottle

when you are between the aisles of corpulence,

it will remind you of who you are.

Let out a scream

or a smile

or a gentle whistle

while you are being jostled in the queue,

it will bring the sense back into your life.

6.

I touch you

and am consumed with fire.

Ridiculous!

Isn't it all out of date now?

Is it still possible to feel?

And what does happen when I don't touch you?

7.

You left the knife,

oh I am so afraid,

sharp side in, they call it the blade,

stuck deep

in the flesh of the honey jar.

It bleeds sweetly and silently unto your toast.

Now you approach from the kitchen

with the peanut butter.

Which crime shall we witness this time?

8.

Fucking bite into it!

Don't hesitate!

Don't wait to find out whether it's alright.

It is alright, believe me.

9.

I wouldn't do that.

I wouldn't look through you,

past you,

as if you weren't there.

How could I?

After all,

we mingled juices,

we touched everywhere,

you were inside me

and I was inside you.

How can I forget?

How can you think I ever will?

10.

What you are touching

with your promises

with your enticing smiles

with your withdrawls,

is an edge of a precipice:

If you bend a little

and look over the edge

you will see me hanging there

clutching on to a branch

of an ancient cherry tree.

12.

Moon touches flower:

petals wither in fire;

What is it that I don't know

that makes it so difficult?

13.

It was two years ago today

Yum Kippur

that you told me that Rita was dead.

I will light a candle and look at her photo.

Now my house is clean

I am washed and shaved

ready for any eventuality.

Her sad gaze never leaves me.



MOON POEMS

1.

Last night

was October's full moon.

I left the curtains drawn open

and while sleep was overtaking me

I watched the silvery pattern over my blanket.

In the morning I woke up with an aching tummy;

what was the moon up to last night?

2.

If ever there was a dark thought

it was born in my mind.

I am the bearer of bad news;

in my sleep I bring you sorrow.

While the moon secretly filled her belly

with delicacies of black matter

I sought to abort the emergence of light into the world.



NIGHT

Curtains left drawn open

the house sleeps with its eyes wide agape

darkness inside

darkness outside

but a watchful heart beats on quietly inside, upstairs

there's something warm, breathing, waiting.

the house sleeps with its eyes wide open

awaiting the guest.



THE SLEEP OF THE OBSCENE

hands tucked into the front of their trousers

they leer and grimace at the dark

grunt as they progress

from one abyss to another

toothless smiles mark and mar.

if so,

all boys should have their hands tied.

Maybe I am reaching the end of the sequence

of fantasy that my life has been hitherto;

perhaps now even I will be allowed

to converse and mingle with real people.



THE RESOLVE OF DREAMS

Do I earn it?

Do I deserve it?

Violin Concerto by Sibelius

the old anti-semite

as they emerge and string

their way up into my torment

my confused resolve

to decode the past

that is just a second away

there, on the other side

where I was a minute ago

asleep,

warm in the embrace of somebody

or something

now in awakening

it is gone

and not even the slightest trace

is left for me to ponder over

as if it didn't happen.



RISK TAKING

Two of them,

women,

in a space,

white,

taking risks with us

with each other,

folding hands and choosing the territory where they can be,

want to be,

stepping boldly,

as if impelled by a voice they can only hear,

stretching arms and marking time.

Slowly caressing and appeasing Time,

not to be awaken too quickly,

the beast in the corner,

mane and all,

tail beginning to wiggle,

loving it, wanting more,

slowly rising,

walking straight into it,

a sort of a cage.

Two of them,

women,

now in an enclosure

of their own making,

now on both sides of the fence,

more sadly,

mirroring

discovering the loneliness and comfort of clumsiness

closing in

breathing in

hands clasped to chest

the horror creeps in

the lost child wandering

in and out of the station

and the platform is empty

the leaves have fallen

the ground is cold

we lie and wait

life is dormant

bruising, healing.

We can no longer wait

it has to be

now.

Two of them,

yes, women,

still trying

looking for questions

possibilities

confusion which breed that spark

that orange‑yellow flame

a little one

climbing now resonating through the roots

erratic and confidant

extending

draining stagnation and settling clouds

now laughing with the wisdom

of thousands of years and millions of lives

having been there

and back

seeing the smile

the first green manifestation of spring

the bud

the openness

the saying: yes!

the richness of giving, fully

with understanding

with love.

14.3.92



ROMANCE

1.


I shall hold it in my hand for a little longer,

cupped, to give it room to beholden by you, to breath,

but I shall not let no-one drink from it.

A little pool where you can see the features of my heart

and take in the vapours that time steals from it.

And I shall be breathless,

The air is escaping me fast,

leaving, emptying, inviting you.

Little love, I shall hold it in my hand,

The love that no-one prays to any longer,

a fruit of pain and patience.

And later, I shall come to you with nothing

soft and giving,

lips pressed against your skin, touching, melting

the coat of many years' waiting,

slowly moving away from the chase, letting the drops

slowly fall down from the cupped hand,

wetting every surface, touching every skin

with the dew after the longest night.

And looking back, the pain was for nothing!

you were here all the time, waiting

and my back was turned.

2.


I shall never wait again for so long.

You are here and always have been.

my tears were not shed,

you were there when I needed you.

There was no pain, only joy that my heart can feel.

Many times I have loved like this

and will again and again

like a tree,

growing a flower,

into fruit,

which decays and fertilizes

another leaf, another love.



SEPTEMBER


The year is drawing to a close. The earth is beginning her long inhalation, calling in all her sounds, all her warmth, letting the darkness settle in every corner. Soon it will be dark, cold and quiet.

It is time to sleep. It is time to dream.

All over Europe, nights are getting longer, the air is getting colder. The sounds of life are gently coming to a rest. A slow autumnal breeze picks up what the summer has left behind, scraps, remains, and tosses them about, across the rivers, over the vallies, only letting them down when the rain washes over. The ground darkens, losing its transparency, drawing over its habitual blanket of unwanted leaves. The tree themselves allow the tiredness to overcome them, bow their tops in submission and begin the process of letting go.

Not many sounds are heard. And yet it is as noisy as hell.

The sound of trains.

If there is a single sound by which Europe would be remembered, then it is the sound of trains. Trains which leave stations in ordinary places such as Warsaw, Berlin, Lom, and arrive on the other side, where nothing is ordinary, Auscwitz, Treblinka. Trains which make journeys which take people to destinations never conceived before, destinations never reached before.

It is the train journey of the night, the longest night. It is a journey which began but which can never end. Those trains travel on and on, defying all logic, all scientific knowledge, all rational thought. We want them to stop but they never do.

And language defies me here. For this, the only possible language is silence.

September 1992. John Cage, the composer who tried to place this silence inside concert halls, dies. Out of the loudest din of this century, a cacophony of human shrieks and Bach Cantatas, only one sound can emerge, audible, sensible. Silence. A silent homage to you.

And yet, there are some who try to describe this silence with words, to place this emptiness within a context which can hold it and give it shape. Silence on its own, ever expanding, is impossible. We circle around it, like we would around a dangerous animal, trying to get as close as we dare, but always maintaining some distance of safety, always on the guard and always staying near enough to see what it is doing. Like the zebras staying near the lions on the African savanna, we should stay near the silence, never lose sight of it, lest it surprises and annihilates us.

The shame of it all.

"Precisely at the same hour in which Mehring or Langner were flayed to death, the overwhelming plurality of human beings, two miles away on the Polish farms, 5,000 miles away in New York, were sleeping or eating or going to a film or making love or worrying about the dentist. This is where my imagination balks. The two orders of simultaneous experience are so different, so irreconcilable to any common norm of human values, their coexistence is so hideous a paradox - Treblinka is both because some men have built it and almost all other men let it be - that I puzzle over time. Are there, as science-fiction and Gnostic speculation imply, different species of time in the same world, 'good times' and enveloping folds of inhumane time, in which men fall into the slow hands of damnation?"

And yet the story must be told. Because it is impossible. From now on, it is always story time, it is the perpetual Passover, with the central tradition and retelling the story of the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from the slavery in Egypt. Our generation must tell a new story, perhaps in addition to that older one. A story of a new liberation from a new kind of slavery.

It has to be told because it has to be remembered. It has to be told because it is not over. It has to be told because it is impossible to tell. It has to be told because we are forgetting, and with the forgetting we are beginning to deny the existence of that place.

It has to be told because my grandmother commanded me to tell it. From the grave, her voice is still carried forward. Look, these are the brothers I have lost, these are the uncles your mother might have had, these are the parents whom I will never see again. This is your family. this is where you come from. from the silence of the dead, from the grave. This my sadness and because all which is mine is also yours, this is your silence, your sadness. Therefore you must speak. Now!



ON SMOKING AGAIN

Slowly I sabotage

the intricate pattern my patience has woven

along the paths of my mindfulness.

With one brisk and searing breath

the heat is intense and leaves no life in its wake

I take more of it in

and pray that the morning will bring renewal.

one morning there will be no renewal,

the promise will have turned sour

and the fruit has waited too long to be eaten.



TO THOM ON HIS 58TH BIRTHDAY

1.


We let each other down

often

but we take it with grace

with patience

after all we do it to each other

out of the deepest understanding

the kind you never talk about

the kind that exists out of liking

the same movies

and getting excited about

the same nonsensical events

and in being too intense

too intensely involved with ourselves

so submerged in IT

that we leave them behind while trying to let them in.


2.

And when you will die

what will you leave behind?

A world that killed your family

in a land they grew nothing on

their graves you will never find

And when you will die

all the smells will be gone

the sharp bacon aroma in the morning

you traitor of your heritage!

And when you will die

no more sucking, licking and touching

all the softness, the hidden places

the juice that oils your breath

and lingers till the morning

when more is milked

And when you will die

the sun will dry up your land

all the traces that your body has left

on the hot sand

the wind that ruffled your hair

on the cliff top

the sea gull that danced in your eyes

And when you die will

I shall dance on your grave

your funny little man

and my tears will entangle my steps

and draw blood from my laughter

and joy from my wound.

27.7.91



YEARS OF HUNGER

June. 1992.

I arrive back in the UK

after three weeks in Israel.

By a telephone booth at the airport

after being refused to be picked up by a friend,

I find a ten pounds note.

I put it quickly in my pocket.

Maybe my luck in still good.

The following days are hell:

putting up again with this thin sun

the absence of blood in people's faces

not being able to say a word in the old language

feeling, looking, thinking, seeing, even pissing like a foreigner

and knowing it.

Maybe my luck is beginning to turn.

Yearning for some soft touch

lounging in the bath for hours

lunging to the phone when it rings at uncertain hours.

Unpacking the suitcase

and crying at the discovery of a familiar smell

which survived the hours of the flight

to arrive here and be subjected

to the cruel fate of slow and futile dissipatation

in the cold air.

Watching TV.

So much of all that is important to me is missing here.

And when they do mention my little country

I fume and rage and curse

at the inaccuracies, the injustice in their blind vision,

but wish there was more of it

another glimpse of a beloved hill

a bedraggled face

a guttery accent.

Maybe these are the hunger years.

Somehow, without reason or sense

with a sense of shame even,

I begin to get used to it.

And that's the worst of it all.

Getting used to it.

To being here, being away, cut off.

Gradually losing something, without hardly noticing,

liking a tan, so laboriously worn.

These are the hunger years.

Learning to do without

or with cheap substitutes.

Living by proxy. For weeks, returning home in the evening

and playing the same songs on the tape

trying to recapture the kick,

looking for the fix

and all the time feeling like cold turkey.

If you were here,

the proverbial you,

I would.


Green and rain

lots of water

blending summer into winter

turning all into rot, into growth

that is never scorched

never dries up,

death by suffocation, by too much of the same thing

neither right nor wrong

simply the same

the kind of evenness, constancy, exactitude

that can only be called grey.







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