January 1, 2021

Four Poems

By Tehila Hakimi

Politics

Translated by Jiordan Castle 

Over the years, 
this exercise in persuasion becomes
miserable. Fed up from listening to so much, 
shut them down, 
shut them all down, 
shut them all down now. 

The truth is, 
a man is a man only when he stands up on his own two 
feet, but this man is bent, down, as though 
walking against a strong wind; 
but anyway, stature is not measured in inches. 

While politicians rarely move from their chair, you will 
learn: a body at rest will remain at rest forever, legs 
crossed, the right foot on the left side 
and sometimes the other way around. 

Other times, they stand or lean forward at the 
podium, the mouth tilts toward the microphone, 
then the look at the camera. 
We have to ask ourselves, where are the hands? 

You begin to feel the burning in your chest 
(the feeling of suffocation always comes in 
waves), then the fog, 
and the last one, 
the head, its strong thud against the floor.

The Wandering Jew

Translated by Jiordan Castle 

I thought of the slack, quiet man, 
a wandering Jew, 
who came to the land 
(mother said they arrived on a ship named 
Jerusalem). I thought about him, 
an old Jew— 
now he is a picture in my head, 
sitting on a swing in the yard— 
resting in the silence of the desert, and the 
flies, his flesh, alive, blood in his veins, still. 
I thought of the wandering Jew 
slumped in me, 
sitting in my chair, 
in the office, wandering, 
looking for a solution for me.

Still Life 

Translated by Mari Pack 

In the garden beside the Carmel Market, I see:  
crows eating the carcass of a pigeon 
under the shade of the trees  
African refugees waiting to be hired for work 
at the station  
old women hitched to their shopping trollies  
next to the swings 
children play 
on fake rubber grass.  

From: we’ll work tomorrow, Tangier Publishing, Hebrew, 2014

What They Say in Conference Rooms 

Translated by Mari Pack 

They say: 
we beg your pardon, Tehila 
and then speak in a unified voice.  

They say:  
cover your ears 
and they speak in men’s words. 

They say: 
close your eyes 
and they all use the same sentences. 

They speak 
in a military cadence  
and ask for my forgiveness.  

They speak words,  
that they practiced within tanks. 

When women are scarce,  
they use sentences 
to define areas  
to create enclosed spaces  
they leave us with only two options 
to join them 
or 
to close our ears.  

They smile confidently  
talk with their hands on the table 
but I am not shutting 
my ears or my eyes 
until we flip the table upside down.  

From: we’ll work tomorrow, Tangier Publishing, Hebrew, 2014

Tehila Hakimi is a Hebrew poet and fiction writer. She was a participant of the 2018 Fulbright International Writing Program Fellowship in The University of Iowa. For her first collection of poetry [We’ll Work Tomorrow, 2014] she received the 2015 Bernstein Prize for Literature. She published a graphic novel [In the Water] and a collection of novellas [Company] with Resling (2018). Hakimi is a mechanical engineer by profession.