Poems by Hadassa Tal, translated by Joanna Chen
Oh days of innocence under dazzling sun
once I loaned a lupine from the bees
The saddest of lemon trees spring from tears
on a leaf of paper a songbird
blinds letters that dance her to the bough-tip
all is you, crushing the silence.
i run barefoot along a strip of sand,
under an umbrella of cloud.
the even lakes speak tears that hide you
grief gripping my temple like a loaded gun
Why. the most ancient assemblage of cadence
at that moment I was no more than a plundered wing.
every night besieged by barn owls. imitating death.
and the world encircled it, obeying the power of weakness
stars burn above the dome of thought
the night vine eats her grapes nipple by nipple
returning the power of solace to earth
once the word was an ear of corn
was a body
a girl running in a field innocent of words
like gamblers addicted to the light,
tossed on tiles. illuminated
you are revealed
as one who touched
Lord, the apple of your eye throbs unrestrained
I searched far, teetering on despair, daunted by distance,
(no one said if there is up or down) —
yes, I know what I find is not what I lost,
but must remember
not to let the light
drift between my fingers
Be seated. Be Silent.
Let her scatter your blood, the fine lines
of your face. Let her be the feather that flutters
your heart, free within and out, from speech
or silence. Let the bitter rise on the slopes of sunrise mount.
Let the taste of storm
The Israeli poet, Hadassa Tal, and her translator, Joanna Chen, graciously shared these poems with Halah. They are excerpted from Hadassa’s newest book, but first i call your name (Shearsman Books, 2021).
In but first i call your name, Hadassa shares an expansive litany of loss. One of the surprising features of the book arises from noticing that the poet never explicitly mentions who was lost. The title of the book, thus, presents a deferred proposition. In an effort to further magnify this gesture of not naming, the poems shared in this article are those from the book that do not bear a name but, instead, are marked by a double asterisk.
Looking at the poems from this book in a new constellation, some of the translator’s choices come into sharper focus. The grammar and capitalization take unconventional turns, as lyrical poetry appears to transform into something a bit more explicitly experimental when translated into English.
Related to this publication, Hadassa and Joanna will be celebrating the publication of but first i call your name in Jerusalem on December 5th (Monday), for more information about the event please visit the Jerusalism facebook event page (click here).