December 27, 2022

I Am Qohelet

By Chaya Levy

Translated by Liron Alon | Translation editing by Reut Ben-Yaakov

I am Qohelet I was born in Jerusalem
I have more luck than sense

I am Qohelet, I was a lousy mother and a lousy teacher and a lousy lover

I am Qohelet
My hair is without color 
My blood is without blood

I am Qohelet, I was a queen in Jerusalem
I sat in the street, and imagined things that never happened

I have it all, scorn and a burning in my arteries 
A car and a pension plan

I am Qohelet, I was a haunted child
Olive skin, as if I was always jaundiced 

(And in the heart of Jerusalem of the Heavens I limp to this day
The queen of Jerusalem of Lithuania or queen of stones)

Hear, hear, I am Qohelet. For
everything that doesn’t matter I teach you to rejoice while standing on one foot

אֲנִי קֹהֶלֶת

חיה לוי

אֲנִי קֹהֶלֶת נוֹלַדְתִּי בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם
יֵשׁ לִי יוֹתֵר מַזָּל מִשֵּׂכֶל

אֲנִי קֹהֶלֶת, הָיִיתִי אִמָּא גְּרוּעָה וּמוֹרָה גְּרוּעָה וַאֲהוּבָה גְּרוּעָה

אֲנִי קֹהֶלֶת
בַּשֵּׂעָר שֶׁלִּי אֵין צֶבַע
בַּדָּם שֶׁלִּי אֵין דָּם

אֲנִי קֹהֶלֶת, מַלְכָּה הָיִיתִי בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם
יָשַׁבְתִּי בָּרְחוֹב וְדִמְיַנְתִּי דְּבָרִים שֶׁלֹּא קָרוּ

הַכֹּל יֵשׁ לִי, לַעַג וּצְרִיבָה בִּכְלֵי הַדָּם
אוֹטוֹ וּדְמֵי הַבְרָאָה

אֲנִי קֹהֶלֶת, הָיִיתִי יַלְדָּה רְדוּפָה
עוֹר בְּגוֹן זַיִת, כְּאִלּוּ שֶׁתָּמִיד הָיְתָה לִי צַהֶבֶת

וּבְלֵב יְרוּשָׁלַיִם שֶׁל מַעְלָה אֲנִי צוֹלַעַת עַד הַיּוֹם)
(מַלְכַּת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם דְּלִיטָא אוֹ מַלְכַּת הָאֲבָנִים

הַקְשִׁיבוּ הַקְשִׁיבוּ, אֲנִי קֹהֶלֶת. עַל
כָּל מָה שֶׁלֹּא מְשַׁנֶּה אֲנִי מְלַמֶּדֶת לִשְׂמֹחַ עַל רֶגֶל אַחַת

The original Hebrew version of “I am Qohelet” appeared in Levy’s book Meusheret Ve’atzuva (Happy and Sad), Iton 77 Books, 2020.

To view the original line breaks, this poem is best read from your desktop.

Chaya Levy (born 1967) is a poet and teacher and the mother of two girls. She is working on her PhD dissertation titled “Wound and Healing in the Poetry of Nurit Zarchi” in the Department of Hebrew Literature at Hebrew University. She has published three books of poetry, and is based in Modi’in.

Liron Alon is an editor and translator. She is currently the translation editor for Tangier Publishing House’s translated poetry series, Zarra.

Reut Ben-Yaakov is a postdoctoral associate in the department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University. She is a translator of fiction and poetry, and the editor of Tangier Publishing House’s translated poetry series.