January 1, 2021

Three Poems

By Yosefa Raz

Five Days in Paris

If the world doesn’t explode I will see you Wednesday.
It’s hard to say if it’s more vivid
maybe less vivid
having checked my temperature
having sped down the bike highway on my way to a protest.
I hope everything is okay with you.

I practice divination
by reading novels found on benches.
In Five Days in Paris
a handsome Midwestern corporate executive
stays at the Ritz, longs for more glamour,
admires a statue of Napoleon.
My grandmother, her suppositories
wore through the upholstery of her pink armchair,
ripped through these Danielle Steels,
his useless wife always on committees “for the ecology”
piling on of adjectives, leave her for love.

In the Idra Rabbah Rabbi Shimon says the time is now.
The mystical company holds hands,
their thumbs turned upwards.
We are no longer study partners.
I have new study partners.
He creates a heik, like a lap, meaning
a place that exists only when you make a certain shape with your body.
Having risen it’s gone.
I offered you: a baby.
The time being: now.
He cries because what if he tells
what if he doesn’t tell.
The secret book is about to burn.
Though I have been reassured from within the dream,
it will come again.
Your life and more lives.
But also: now the door opens.

The pregnant women in the dream are eating hamentaschen:
I always thought it was a hat.
It is not a hat
it is a vagina hiding in plain sight
it is the goddess as close as your fingersmouth
while we read about eyes and windows.

Not Day, Not Night

For Caroline Kessler 

I walked through the cathedral at night. Was it with him? The first lover. Maybe he was good enough with his worn-out bag, with his unibrow, with his curls, with his short neck. The cathedral on the rock was lit up at night and I walked through it, and music played and all the lights and colorful carpets and I was homesick for the life I thought I should be having. Then out on the rocks. It was Friday night. Still homesick. I lie on the couch now. He smells like bad cigarettes. That’s Tuesday I say, you do smell like cigarettes. No getting away from it. If I can breathe past the cigarettes and past the allergies and past the fear there is a smell of rain. Pink moon like small ribs of blood in the toilet bowl. I make my own place of non-fear. It was like the beginning of a war, the beginning of a non-war, something blank that would swallow us. All of us with the same dreams. Or similar dreams. We made small bowls of salt-water. We smashed dates. The plague of the firstborn was not only the death of the firstborn, that’s just the story, of course it touched everyone: the secondborn, the thirdborn, the fifth daughter, the twelfth son. The firstborn only because you loved the firstborn. In Florence, the poor were forced to lock their doors and the Sanità sent them bread, sausage, and wine as long as it lasted. Pink moon says no dancing during the plague. Pink moon says don’t look at my face, run sideways. Pink moon bow string. Pink blue yellow.

A Closet Stuffed with Old Hungers

Closet stuffed with all hangers, you said?

No, there’s a man in Or Yehuda who’s very hungry.

The day I felt relieved

there was a movie on ultra-orthodox masturbation

but that was not the relief. 

A Chanukah present:

two fish caught in a net

and the net was our mothers, and the fish were us

and the net was our lives

which had caught us with all that light. 

Funny, I was sure

I was picturing you with a baby at home.

We received mugs stuffed with candies to begin our new job

and a man whispered in my ear: famine, catastrophe

as the president droned on about making protein from the sea.

I did not grow up with brothers but my mother had a brother.

You don’t know that I also felt stupid,

nothing like a man.

Kiss her on the back of her neck,

but don’t interrupt her if she’s working.

Relief of a shared meal, relief of potato skin

something they ate in the war with oil.

That boy told me I was grabby.

Stuff my hunger in the back here with that dark pink silk shirt.

The baby friends bathed in the bathtub,

when I told you I didn’t want one.

It's not going to come clear

you’ll cock your head sideways, play the clown

call him your “friend.”

Sloppy kissing

sloppy needing

the joke didn’t come out right.

Sloppy poem

didn’t sound as smart as you intended.

You shouldn’t be hungry when real people are hungry.

When people are dying and you have what to say,

you want to be good, you don’t want to die for nothing.

You want to arrange your limbs somewhat elegantly when sitting down

there’s a long list to check

there’s something I want to tell you about my heart

about your heart

though I misjudged everything though I thought you were tender

Yosefa Raz is a poet, translator, and scholar. She is currently a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Haifa.  Her work has recently appeared in GuernicaJacket2ProtocolsEntropy, and The Los Angeles Review of Books