I've been on the internet for 11 years now, publishing my own and other people's poems and short stories.
My intentions are to let people read my works and to share their own work, which I will publish if they care to do so.
I make no money from my work and or other people's works of art, photography or poems.
My Message to Writers
As I mention in my Cirriculum Vitae, I have a Registered name called LITTLE RED HEN PUBLISHING CO. Under that name I have my Music CDs and one book called DOGWOOD EXPRESS, that I have published and put together myself. Thus the name, Little Red Hen.
Very soon, I will be expanding my web space and would love to hear from you. Chow for now!
Charlotte's Web Page
Elisha Porat - About The Author
Elisha Porat - Israeli poet and novelist Elisha Porat, the 1996 winner of Israel's Prime Minister's Prize for Literature, a Hebrew poet and writer, has published 21 volumes of fiction and poetry, in Hebrew, since 1973. Elisha Porat was born in Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh in 1938. His works have appeared in translation in Israel, the United States, Canada and England. The English translation of his short stories collection "The Messiah of LaGuardia", Mosaic Press, was released in 1997. The English translation of his second stories collection "PAYBACK", was published 2002 at Wind River Press. His new novel "EPISODE", a biographical novel, just released by "Y&H" Publishers, Israel, 2006.
His works, poetry and fiction, were translated from the Hebrew into the English, and were published, as print and online. Elisha Porat's works were published at Midstream, Tikkun, Ariel, War Literature and Arts, Rattle, Porcupine, Oyster Boy Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Boston Review, Snake Nation Review, The Paumanok Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Poetry Magazine, Jewish Quarterly and others.
A Diagonal View
by Elisha Porat
translated from the Hebrew by Judi Levi
I position the camera on the roof of the old outpost. I've been looking for the perfect observation point ever since yesterday. What I need is a clear, infinite field of vision. A stretch of road, of course, not too short; long enough for Captain Bar-Oz, on entering the Kibbutz, to be seen on all sides. It would be better to set the range of visibility slightly further back.
Perhaps I'll begin at the junction of the main road. Captain Bar-Oz is to arrive in a fast car from the direction of Tel Aviv. But he may, in fact come by way of Hadera.
Hadera is a smaller town and will rouse greater confidence in the audience. Before screening the junction, together with the road sign, of course, to help the average viewer find his bearings, one could flash on a few shots of Hadera: busy cranes to the side of the water tower and the darkness of the old orange groves, piling up cubes one top of the other; the violet morning-glory hedges climbing through the tops of the cypress trees, struggling up to the sky; long, cracked cement water-ditches. That will do.
Now the camera concentrates on the car dropping Captain Bar-Oz off at the junction. The pace can be accelerated a little: Captain Bar-Oz appears to be ejected from the car door, his knapsack thrown out after him to the side of the road by an invisible hand.
His face cannot be seen as yet but his movements are strange. He is in such a hurry that he forgets to thank the driver. Here one should stop for a moment to consider whether he shouldn't be placed in a ceremonious convoy of cars. Kibbutz cars, yes, cheerfully decorated; tubes of musical instruments stick out the windows and the riders' faces express endless rejoicing.
No, here real cruelty is called for. There will be no convoy of joy. No ringing of carriages of delight. He must arrive alone, accompanied only by his meager knapsack. Something in his clothes must indicate that he has been away a long while. At this point, the camera must be carefully aimed to capture the discrepant sense of estrangement between Captain Bar-Oz and the stones of the road, and the shady avenue of carobs, and the fields and oranges groves which he sees through the gaps in the trees. But it is a queer, imposed estrangement as it is obvious that he is familiar with the entire scene from childhood.
The camera should follow him slowly, surrounding him on all sides and giving the audience the feel of the covering of foreign-ness enveloping him, that unfelt, transparent covering, moving one small step ahead of him like the pillar of fire in the desert.
Now I have doubts. The best thing would be to take a consecutive series of aerial views, at low altitude, over his head, let us say from a helicopter quietly lingering in the air, making no sound. A helicopter hovering above. But without all the damage the engine can cause: strong air waves and the fear of decapitation by the shining blades. Incidentally, that's a good idea.
An accidental beheading, short and brilliant, accompanied by the jet's clamour pouring in a torrent through the tail-pipe. I must think about that. Perhaps I'll leave it to the end. If there is no other, more convenient solution.
If Captain Bar-Oz finds himself in irrevocable complications so that I can't get him back to the beginning, and if the viewers, bent tensely forward, say that the end is no end, then I'll surprise them. I'll think up a beautiful end. A jet end.
Perhaps I could attach a small, even minute, camera to the propeller blades. A camera which would activate itself at the precise moment, not a second too soon, a jet decapitation-camera. Ingenious ideas. Perhaps I'll use them later.
I bring the camera back to Captain Bar-Oz. What defeatist thinking. To foresee such calamities for him from the very moment of his ejection on to the inner road. When the entire world is here, at the end of the road, waiting for him, longing for him, yearning for him terribly! Well, I must accept my limitations. I don't have a helicopter. I have only a portable camera, positioned on the roof of the old cement outpost.
Now I can descend, go up to Captain Bar-Oz, kiss him, shake hands with him, break through the aura of alienation which is surrounding him. I can get even closer. I can forget my job as photographer, give the camera to one of the children who have been swarming about here for hours, and exchange tears with him. The rare but very real tears of man.
Of course one mustn't weep for a soldier returning from the front, or a prisoner from captivity or a shadow from land of shadows. The tears won't show up on film. There's nothing to worry about. I'll see to it. But who wouldn't contribute a few seconds of weeping in honour of Bar-Oz, of his return?
But while I'm preparing the camera for a quick descent down the iron ladder crumbling with rust, I change my mind, that is to say, the angle of filming. I'll simply sprawl on the road, a few steps in front of Bar-Oz and film him from below, upwards. His uniform, faded from so many washings, his ranks hanging on his shoulders in a strange voluntary abandonment, his eyes fixed on a distant point in space; and over his head the dark tops of the carob trees, the wild and meaningless darting to and fro of small, grey songbirds.
The carobs are in flower now, their blossoms give off a horrible odour, the stench vapour rising from an obstructed sewer. But the camera does not capture smells. Only shapes. And the fetid carob flower, if you look at it closely, is of interest. As always, the wonderous complexity of nature, its usual mocking ways, in the flowers, the songbirds crowding together, in the prisoner returning from the land of shadows.
Now will come a slow, lingering but enlarged shot of the meeting of his shoes with the earth that he loved so much. I'll press the camera tightly to the asphalt, lean on it with all my weight until a precise picture emerges, with no movement distortion. The sole's crashing tread, the strangeness crackling between sole and heel, the alienation trampled on almost as an afterthought.
Then a flash up to his face. To the bite of his lips. To a kind of secret blinking of his eyes. To a bead of sweat staring down his pale face. And for a poetic touch, I could light up the curls under his hat, and linger over the few grey threads which have begun to threaten his hair.
I have a proposal which I'm looking into now -- the problems is the reception. That is, the reception for the lost Captain. And if I divide it for filming purposes into points, this would be the order: the origin of the message, receiving of the message, the couriers, the message bringers and the obsessive distribution which takes hold from the moment the message arrives. Here I have a brilliant thought. I must organize, via the film, a concentric distribution.
That is to say, the circle of those who know of Captain Bar-Oz's sudden return, makes a strange skip over a dark centre. The message, on its path of distribution, plays strange tricks on the eye, passing over small pockets of people, especially over one central pocket. His closest family stand there. Or to be more exact, his parents aren't there. Neither are his brothers. His friends aren't there. They are dispersed on all sides of the circles of distribution.
At the centre of the dark space one woman stands alone. His wife. Oh, if only it were possible to move the camera at the speed of thought! From world to world, and under the world and over the world. And perhaps to all kinds of worlds.
There is only one professional question: will the camera really film what can be guessed at in mind? Or perhaps not, perhaps such figures do not leave their mark on celluloid.
When I finish organizing the distribution, I will begin activating a great movement in all the circles. A movement towards a meeting. A sudden flow, new circles kiss the old, a hidden commotion like in burrows. Here one should stand a large camera with an wide an angle as possible and hang it, like the sun, over the Kibbutz. A few hours of hard lighting and then a quick interpretation.
In such cases the developing makes me really exited. My heart beats faster, streams of perspiration crawl on my palms and a sort of quick but monotonous tune buzzes in my left ear. The fingers involuntarily tap out a strange beat on the table. No, I reject that idea. Its too general, encompassing too much. I'll lose Captain Bar-Oz, whether under the thick tops of the old fiscuses by the Culture Hall, or among the women's colourful kerchiefs.
Strange how the kerchiefs suddenly appear on festivals or on days of mourning. Masses of them. It's a pity, with my black-and-white, however sophisticated, the kerchiefs are a great loss. Their colourfulness is really frightening. And the way they are worn is so expressive. How they gather and crowd, all at once, like a herd of frisky lambs, round the dark patch.
The women stands there: his wife. That's where he should be standing too. Pushed by hundreds of aiding hands, flowing with good will. But well come to that later. The dark patch will not let go of us. I'm preparing a special roll for it.
I urgently need the children now. I gather them around me. I give them short, simple instructions. Take cameras, I tell them, many small, and put them into all of the surrounding rooms. Put them also in the tree trunk and on the old benches. And even into the sprinklers. To the children's question of 'and in the woodpeckers' hollows?' I answer, yes, in the woodpeckers' hollows too. They are of special interest. The children disperse like lightning, raiding the rooms, the lawns, the pavements. Thousands of small cameras begin to click, Captain Bar-Oz is now being filmed from every possible angle. Thousands of minute eyes are following him. Every step he takes, every hair doulled out, every twitch of a muscle. The children hide in the bushes, behind the wall closets, beyond the balcony screens, like little foxes. Their eyes are the eyes of foxes in ambush.
A queer scene: from beyond the gate a strange troupe enters the Kibbutz: I am at its head, that is, with my back to front, the helpless camera fastened to my shoulder, my stomach, my hands latched on to it in a kind of fear and anxiety. Behind me, that is in front of me, since I am walking backwards (like a stumbling reluctant crab, scrambling and halting, probably falling into potholes) walks Captain Bar-Oz. The distance between us remains unchanged, as if set by someone other than ourselves. Not large, but strictly maintained. I try to regulate my paces to his. And he, although he is not looking in front of him at all, knows with a wonderful sense of degree, not to shorten the range between us. Not to shorten it beyond the seemingly agreed upon, beyond this dryness. And round us, unseen, hidden in the transparent air, all the children of the Kibbutz are ready and alert, like springs yearning to uncoil.
Prisoners of my command, dispersed like tiny spy cameras, all their mechanisms clicking. Trembling, a dryness in their mouths, and a great shout balled up in their throats. They lie in ambush and see his wretched knapsack on his shoulder, his clothes almost disintegrating from washings, and the lump of estrangement dancing before him like a gay troupe of monkeys tied to its master by a hidden collar chain. An immense curiosity seizes my mind: Will the cloud of estrangement leave tracks on the film? Or does that too leave its mark only on my cornea, unable to penetrate the barriers of the indifferent lenses? But I don't have time now to stop and answer myself. The lost Captain's dogged, harsh movement makes me run in front of him. And I am already skipping backwards in a bad posture, so uncomfortable. My whole body aches.
This is where I should break away from him. I am thinking of taking off to a better, a higher, filming position. But now it is impossible. He continues to walk. He has even increased his pace somewhat and the field is completely deep shadow. I put my trust in the children whom I shook off in all directions. Profiles, half-length, diagonal shots which could be wonderful, right from the insides of the woodpeckers' hollows. I feel as if I'm a prisoner in the pace of his advance. Because he still hasn't bestowed a single glance on me and we haven't exchanged half a word, and despite all the manly embracing and kissing, not one tear has fallen. He dictates a fast pace of filming and skipping backwards. And so we move for a while, film and skip, skip and film.
Now, just before my fall, I halt the film, raise the question and put it on the cutting table. The tension is great. Children hiding in the gardens. The square in front of the dining-hall is about to burst with anticipation. Masses of the men who have put on their sunglasses and women who have donned their coloured kerchiefs, are locked in their rooms. Just behind the doors. Waiting for the hidden signal to pour outside and be swept into colourful streams gushing to the large square. The heavy rag smell of the carob blossoms stands in the air and the burdensome sound of the bees swooping down to the nectar drowns almost every other noise. There are no screeches of planes in the air, no call-signals from the radio sets. There are no tidings heard anywhere.
The calm is so suspect that my heart-beats, even here by the cutting table, suddenly jump. One moment, I'll just take advantage of this tension-ridden pause before the decisive event, so flash on a few background stills for relief: here is the lost Captain as Amos, a smiling baby whose fat, creased limbs are entwined between the wooden poles of his cot of hastily-put-together boards. And then the boy Amossi, in a white, sweet-smelling shirt, with a stiff, overstarched collar.
Now the camera moves. The picture of the boy will come closer and closer until it fills the entire frame. Of course there are difficulties. The downy moustache suddenly appears, before its time. Unseen wrinkles show up. And badly-healed scars of childhood are especially, exaggeratedly exposed. But these are the usual ills of enormous enlargement. There is no getting around them. The quick flashes on the screen light up the faces of the viewers. The faces assume a strange pallor. As if they already know the end of the boy with the downy upper lip who is now crossing the lawn with his meager satchel swinging from his shoulder. The material of his clothes is so worn, and what has he left? I mustn't linger so long at the cutting table. I must run and take shots in the field. And I can already hear voices buzzing and shouting, where is that photographer who was just here, where has he disappeared to? I hurry. I have a very short way to go. At this point Captain Bar-Oz is already crossing the lawn. The paved dining-hall square is no longer far away. I attach myself to him as before, a crab-like attachment, embarrassing. Here I'll have to put something in. I feel that there is a gap in the series of takes. The Captain has been abandoned and somebody must fill in all those dark spaces. Amazing close-ups of his face. The pallor of his skin will compete with that of the screen. The backwards walking was dangerous from start. It's a miracle that I've reached the edge of the lawn. I should thank God that I haven't failed thus far. But now it's coming. A small hole, an unimportant bump, and I'm still attached to the Captain's walk, the camera pressed hard to my chest. The heel slips, the foot searches for firm ground, turns, and I go after it. Thrown forward on my back, struck backwards, stunned, momentarily dizzy, and then I see, with my eye in the camera protruding out of me, that Captain Bar-Oz does not stop walking. He continues straight over me. His shoes throw a shadow over the lens. The air-brush of his trousers blows over me like a breath of wind. A wonderful shot.
From the bottom of hell. From the lowest possible place. His heel slips on the straps. I am dust under your heels, photographer dust. I forgot, there's no soundtrack. There's no reason to shout. I pull myself up to overtake him. Someone must warn him. Not about the pits on the way, those are unimportant. But the dark patches outside the circles. I fear a serious development. I do a quick change of film under pressure. Faster than the change of magazines under fire. This is the special roll. I've kept it for this moment. It's just as well that I fell and the filming stopped for a moment. I am ground under your heels that do not turn back. I am crushed beneath you. Oh, would I were in your place.
The earth splits open with an immense roar, a river of people breaks through and flows and streams to the square. Colourful, singing, moving and dancing. The air explodes from the howls of the children who are set free in a split second. They break out of their hiding-places with wild jumps, as if my fall was a signal to them. A benevolent human river surrounds Captain Bar-Oz and he is carried and pushed on the waves of hundred of well-wishing arms. His clothes disintegrate on him from the patting, the embracing and affectionate caressing of those around him. His knapsack is removed, passed from hand to hand, goes round the whole circle. Its old strap is torn and throw somewhere outside the dancing circle. I scurry around the crowed like a madman. I'm looking for an observation point. I'm dying to position the camera so that it will have a free, infinite field of vision. I need clear, long shots: the square empty, before everything; the square half-full, something beginning to happen, and the last precise shot, the square seething with the crowd. But there is no vantage point round the celebration anywhere. The roofs are far, the carob foliage is heavy and obstructive. I've no choice. I must apologize, send the entire crowd back to its burrows, the children back to their dens. And while the square is empty, stand a painter's ladder on it, or a blacksmith's iron tower. I climb to the top of the tower, slipping in haste, give a hidden signal with my finger, and the earth splits open around me again.
Oh, if only I had a small helicopter now. A jet-copter with tiny cameras welded to its blades. From its jet tail-pipe a yellowish cloud of the carob odour would be ejected. The heavy smell mists over and envelops the whole crowd and as though anaesthetize it with its drog-like aroma. There is his closest family. She stands here: the woman, his wife. It is to her he makes his way constantly, indefinably. For her he sheds his disintegrating clothes. For her he discards his wretched knapsack. Now I'm filming him from right above his head in a long, continuous series of wonderful aerial views. His covering of alienation melts. I can see it with my eyes. The people touch and touch him again. Touch his torn clothes, shoes, hands, flesh. There is no barrier stretched between the crowd and his heart. Someone wants to tear out his heart and embrace it. But to him these are all obstacles that have to be set aside. He is drawn towards her alone. Now the last circle breaks open and he penetrates the dark path. My special film works frantically. I pray for it to last. I put the brakes on the blades of the helicopter, slow down. Now everything is shot in slow motion. He falls into her arms, she into his. Some sort of turbid vapour disturbs the functioning of the camera.
The penetration of lights is somehow impeded. Wait, she actually falls out of his arms. I curse the obstructing vapour. What is he doing to her with such force? Embracing her? Strangling her? The dark patch turns quite black. The crowd presses on to them and a whirlpool of screams, bodies aloft, cries and frantic runs covers the square.
I jump into the whirlpool with my jet decapitation-blades. It's too late. There's no need. They're ahead of me. She is already being carried outside the circle. What a pity, none of my schemes worked out. The crowding interfered again. Now I leave everything and run to my dark room. A strange excitement is bubbling in me. I identify the perverse lust for interpretation. When I enter I rush to the window. I must close it tight. The yellowish cloud of the thick carob smell is threatening to choke me.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- THE END
By Elisha Porat
On Memorial Day I surrender
to a longing for my dead.
The wail of the siren shrieking
above the Eucalyptus tops
is sounded from afar as if
it were a private whistle-code
between me and them. As if
presently they'll rise
shake off the dust,
lean their bikes against the fence
and whistle back to me.
As if time gathers again
into the funnel of the electric siren:
it goes down through iron and grounds
the awful wailing
deep in the earth.
Translated from Hebrew by Tsipi Keler
By Elisha Porat
On Memorial Day I take-off to the woods.
Again I'm moved.
Through the smoke I observe
the earth veiling its shoulders.
As they gather before me from the rocks
I command: You're all released to memories.
I turn aside and to you I whisper:
This is it, folks, they're trapped.
They can't escape. Their will and testament
they've left with us.
Translated from Hebrew by Tsipi Keler
By Elisha Porat
Translated by Zehava Lerech
Pleasure trips were out the question. They were too complicated and aroused suspicion. She did not want to be revealed, even by chance, as one who has fun in the corrupt coastal city. And he was afraid of being recognized accidentally by one of his many friends from reserve duty on the Northern front.
It's really hard to believe how many people he met in trenches and convoys. Not to mention a worse possibility, being recognized by a member of his kibbutz, one of those who pop into the big city all the time. Yet in spite of their apprehensions, they met again and again in Tel Aviv. Meira had the use of an empty apartment of some distant aunt who had vacated quite a while ago.
Meantime, until the war of heirs ended, the family agreed to Meira's using it. The apartment was in a small house on a side street not far from the sea. The tremendous din of the new business center, just next to the flat, didn't reach them. Their trips to Tel Aviv were like short, sweet pauses in a stream of sorrow and imminent disappointment.
They traveled separately, at different hours, not to end up on the same bus seat, god forbid. A seat loaded with sin and temptation in the crowded bus descending from Jerusalem. And once, in early spring, they traveled to Tel Aviv and went down to the beach.
In Jerusalem it was still really winter. The nights were cold and the heating in the dorm rumbled and roared like a mid-winter. They passed the busy square and settled down on the pure white sands beneath it. The beach was clean, windswept and rain-washed. And between the towers of the new hotels spread the warm spring skies - high, empty skies that arose a vague longing and a strong desire for distant journeys.
He drew her to the cool sea, among the few madmen that swam and exercised on the beach. They swam a little until the cold got them. They rounded the breakwater that had been damaged by last winter's storms. On the gigantic rocks, brought from mountain quarries, fishermen stood as if petrified. For hours they stood without moving, bent and bowed toward the surf. They watched them from afar, emerging from waves to dry off. Like the points of a sundial they stood, pails at their feet, fishing rods in their hands, and the sun circling round them. He envied their undisturbed serenity and he envied their lives, obedient to the law of the sea, not to a woman's passing whim.
The sand that washed off their bodies when they came out to rest awakened many memories. Their bodies were washed and then covered with sand again, and the sunken imprints of limbs that they left in the sticky sand reminded them of the past. The coating of warm, thickly sand, the gifts of the swam scattered on the beach, remnants of rotted fruit, rust-eaten poles, everything moved them and took them back to their childhood days. The bather's carefreeness, as if all their lives were summer vacations, the weight of real life left up on the street, and the liberating ease on the wharf and the piers, just as it had been years ago.
For some reason, he recalled the little wagons of the hot corn vendors, the tanned, lively children who rented out beach chairs to bathers. He remembered one boy who carried a tremendous chair twice his height, streams of sweat running down his back, lips clenched with exertion, and he could see those tensed muscles clearly as if it were yesterday.
He awoke and sang to Meira the song of the ice-cream vendors that he knew from childhood, stored in his memory, in exactly the same tune and same words. She laughed and snuggled into his pile of sand. And for some reason, she remembered her hated swimming lessons, the reprimands from the strict, pedantic teacher, and the fear she had never gotten over, of the threatening treachery of the sea. She was not attractive in her old-fashioned bathing suit, her body looked tired and too old for the beach of early summer. And in her own way, she managed to seem modest and buttoned-up even when almost naked. In the worker's settlement where she grew up, they were very strict about modesty.
Shaya Ben Yosef got drunk on the smell of the sea and the smell of the salty distances that scorched his throat. He had melted for a while from childhood memories and even forgot his constant fear that he might meet one of his acquaintances, that the story of his infidelity become known. But with the outburst of the first days of early spring he already knew that the days of their love were nearly over. Revelations always came to him on the beach. It was the amazing, direct connection with the strongest powers of nature that did it. The moist, unceasing wind, the huge masses of saltwater, the surging waves and their bubbly froth - a very special arena that always aroused him to envision catastrophes still hidden beyond the horizon.
With the wiles of an experienced lover he heaped her body with the warm sand, and with the subtlety of a seducer he stroked her skin under the cover of sand he piled onto her thighs. And when he felt the time had come for frankness, he gambled and asked her, "So which teacher are you addicted to? Maybe I'm allowed to know too and maybe I'll also join in at long last? And what do you do there, in the group of the chosen, your good friends?"
But she noticed the trap he set for her. And she noticed soft fingers wandering on her legs. She did not remove his pleasing fingers, but sighed and said that she was ready to give a full answer. But only after he went through an appropriate preparatory period. "What's that? Basic training again?" he asked.
She said, "What did you think, you'd get off easy?" Long conversations and diligent reading from some books she's willing to lend him. "And one more condition."
"What's the condition?" A hard condition she fears he may not live up to. "Please, please," he implored, "what's the condition?"
"Well," she said, slowly while spreading her legs and dusting off a speck of tickly sand, on condition that he opens up. On condition that he himself break the seven locks that confine his soul. On condition that he burst the dams that enclose him, that fill and load him with impossible tension. And he remembered the young American painter who had clung to his neck at their last meeting. Distant from him, aloof, and no longer open to temptation. Adult and level-headed and entirely different from the girl he knew that wild summer in her cabin. And she had said to him in the same tone as Meira, that he should hurry to urgent psychological therapy, before he blows himself up from all the pent-up tension he is loaded with. And before his soul flies from his body in astorm. And he never ceased to wonder, while trickling grains of sand onto her body, how the two who had never met could reach such full agreement about his captive madness.
In the evening, after they had rested up and bathed in the aunt's apartment and after defiling it too with their intercourse, as they had already defiled several rooms that last winter, he drew her to the deserted port of Yaffo. They took a table at a well-known restaurant on the waterfront, walked down the stairs, and sat clinging like a pair of teenagers. She was still warm and a pleasant softness wafted from her. Pressed close, they silently watched the fishermen preparing for the night's fishing. They ordered fish and chatted a bit with the fishermen. His other side, practical and energetic, that Meira didn't know at all, took over. He dragged her to the restaurant really against her will. The stink repelled her. She couldn't stand the gasping fish, their jerking gills, that she remembered from her aunt's bathtub. She didn't like to see how they were killed with cold cruelty. Though she refrained from eating meat, fish she allowed. But she never gave a thought to how they are caught and how they struggle and how they die. She didn't want to know how they are finally prepared for the meal. The sights of bathtub captivity she had seen in her childhood were enough.
Shaya, in contrast, showed interest in the sights of the harbor. The measured rolls of nets on the humming drums, the strong grasping hands, the broken floats, and the dripping pails reminded him of his former work in the kibbutz fish ponds. Then, when he was still a young, healthy man. The grading tables he used to work at till worn out at dusk, the fishermen's rubber suits that filled up with the day's stinging sweat. Oh, what a sudden landslide of memories caught him. And he opened up and he told Meira about those hard days of fishing he had spent in the boggy ponds. How he used to get up early and how they closed the net on the massed fish. How they cruelly spiked the water turtles on the points of iron barbs. He purposely raised his voice so that the fishermen near the boats heard his story. How they freed and threw back into the water the old mothers who sometimes weighed 15 kilos and more.
The fishermen whistled in admiration and he was encouraged by their attention. In a burst of growing enthusiasm, he told her about the lengthy grading and the backbreaking loading. And about the fish that slipped away into the stream that flowed below the ponds and maybe were carried out to sea and reached Yaffo. And maybe they were caught in the net of the harbor fishermen and maybe they're the fish they had eaten just now.
The fishermen laughed, and one or two of them who answered him was drawn into a direct, masculine conversation about fishing business. He was proud of himself and proud of his strong, physical past, and proud, too, of the woman sitting at his side whose warmth had not yet faded. He knew there were prettier than her and younger than her, but what he had done with her just an hour before at her aunt's vacant apartment would not have shamed even these hardly fishermen.
He turned to her with shining eyes, full of conceit at his dark side that flashed for a brief moment among the gray years. He drew her to his shoulder and held her in a sure, protecting movement. A minute more and he would open up, liberated, and tell the fishermen in that same direct, masculine language how he had rolled her under him on the floor, in the old house on the little street. How he had smeared their love-juice on the bed and on the floor and on the towels, deliberately to anger her, just as his face had been sprayed by the sticky crust of fish scales at the grading tables.
Exactly at that moment, when she looked at him in amazement as if seeing him for the first time, he remembered how he had seen her on one of the cold nights in the little apartment. He lay covered up in bed, the favorite Mozart quartet playing as usual. He watched her as she set up the ironing board, heated the electric iron, and ironed her conservative winter skirts. In the room, between her bed and the ironing board, time crystallized and froze. The space between them evaporates, escaped from the furniture and into the street. Meira's housecoat gave off a pleasant, homey warmth, and he smiled to himself because his finger knew every patch of skin underneath.
From the nearby apartment came sounds of children playing, and from the little kitchen window that she never closed a whistling wind blew. He discovered that he was granted an extraordinary sight, a domestic revelation that suddenly grew from the ironing board, from the skirt's rustle and the iron's hum. He rested his head on his palm and looked at her, past the bubble between them, severed from time. He asked himself, "Could we really have lived together? Could we really have been a family? Could I, had I wanted to, have helped her with the housework? To lie and look at her like that till the end of days. To feel that what I see will come true after many years. And to desire her from the beginning, a slow, warm desire, a homey desire that climbs from her feet up her body while she bends over her ironing wrapped in her old fashion housecoat." He was entranced by sight for a long time. That's what the great writers mean when they said "a short fleeting moment of happiness." He didn't dare make a disrupting movement. He secretly asked himself if that's how happiness looked? Even the vapors rising from the skirts lowered their whisper in honor of that moment, which he knew would never return again.
He lowered his gaze to the table of fish and noticed that Meira's spirit had long since left. He understood that she could never tear herself away from her world of books, her total addiction to her research, and her paper discoveries that made her so happy. Maybe she too had a brief, forbidden glance into the future. But what she saw wasn't at all like what he had seen. He was sorry she didn't finish eating her fish. Too bad that everything was ending so sadly, without happiness at all. It wasn't pleasant to grasp that she too had discovered that he - like her - could not part from his family or from land of his kibbutz, from his wife who was banned from mention between them. And he couldn't distance himself from his children. Nor could he get rid of some irresistible attraction, bursting to be revealed, to his past of active deeds. And his pride in this other life, practical and strong, which was just plain vanity. The parting was simply inevitable. He was a bit intoxicated from the frank heart-to-heart talk he had had with the fisherman in the harbor and from the smells of the active world, the world of physical strength that opened to him for a moment in Yaffo.
His past awakened, powerful and vital. He felt that he was not really old. He still had the strength to renew the joy of youth that had passed, to go out again at dawn to the steaming fish ponds and return only at dusk, to strive all day in the cold water with the weight of the full nets and the teasing of the young men who just yesterday had finished their army service. If those men only knew what a young, energy-draining affair he'd been having last winter with the woman at his side. She isn't so young and had never been pretty, but she has some hidden sensual power that attracts him. And he enjoys laying with her even at noon, on the bathroom floor, near the carp bathtub in her aunt's neglected apartment.
They slowly climbed the sandstone steps to the top of Yaffo hill. From there they walked north to the city. The old harbor blinked beneath them with colored lights and the smell of polluted smoke. He could sense the heaviness of the blackening waters. The sea water of Tel Aviv on their left blended with the waters of the kibbutz ponds and with the dark waters of the deserted Yaffo harbor beyond. And he felt his past was washed away like his youth had been washed away. Sliding from his body like the distant dreams he had dreamt when still a young man. Had the war done all that to him? The harsh memories from the battalion field hospital that he can't forget even in his sleep? What should he expect now with the separation from his woman? He turned to Meira and out of the blue asked her, "And youth, can they restore it there where you come from?"
Walking along, they came to the lighted streets, and not much was left of the memories of intimacy in the harbor, moments that would not return. She wasn't trapped this time either, almost the last time. She blocked him as usual, dryly and aggressively. Those fish they served in that restaurant simply nauseated her. And what turned her stomach was the phony name "fruit of the sea," really only nasty, disgusting snails and clams. And he won't get to hear about the work and the teacher from her because he doesn't want to develop himself. Whoever doesn't make an effort, let him please be content with scraps. And he can, pardon the expression, peek through the cracks like an adolescent. And she turned into one of the yards to look for a water faucet to wash away the stink of fish that clung to her hands.
© Elisha Porat
A Cracked Statuette
translated from the Hebrew by Asher Harris, 1999
In the summer of seventy-nine,
Sheltered in the shade, on a step in Market Street,
in the shop of a Christian Arab,
While my hand was stroking the halo of hair
Of a graven statuette -
A startling voice suddenly broke out,
A young announcer begging, pleading: hurry, whoever is able,
Whoever is near, run to the tower
Of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher -
Through the lattice you may know her:
Wrapped all in black but her hair is fair,
And her car still pulses below her.
And when I arrived - I was late -
With those who were called to her aid,
The helpers, the radio was screaming,
And all the city was frozen, holding its breath -
Already she lay there, stretched out in the square:
Innocent, beautiful, and wrapped all about in the shining
Radiance of a cracked statuette.
translated from the Hebrew by Vivian Eden, 1999
Hush now, proud
heartworm, stop your gnawing,
leave off chomping. I've suffered enough
because of you. Down girl,
down. Stick to the bottom
of the pit; and quiet there, you arrogant thing.
Maybe if you shut up in time,
it will hurry, pass over us
too, like it did then, and again
nab, grab and take down with it
those who aren't careful.
On The Way To Nabatiya
Translated from the Hebrew by Tsipi Keler.
On the way to Nabatiya
the rocks along the curves
seem to resemble the stone columns
of the bay in San Francisco
or the collapsed fences
in a Hasidic community in Jerusalem.
As I tie the belt of the helmet to my chin
tightly fasten the prickly velcro of my vest
adjust the goggles on my forehead
all at once my eyes grow blurry
and for a moment I can't tell
which is farther away:
The United States or Me'ah She'arim.
ON THE WAY TO NABATIYA
Translated by Ward Kelley with the author
The path to Nabbatiya is truly unpleasant,
even for veteran soldiers such as myself
who, as you know, "are not killed,
but simply vaporize . . ."
I try to bring a quick smile to the lips
of my escort rangers crew, "What do
we really have to lose?" I ask them,
"We'll go back home, and what good things
are waiting there for us -- boring work,
heart attacks, accidents? But here,
you'll be gone in a minute, all at once,
and you won't even know where the bullet
comes from, the one that rids you of all
your troubles . . .
then you'll be granted a charity,
because you'll finish your life
in 'dignity,' as a brave soldier;
soon you'll be posted in the newspapers,
even the weakest of you who never would have been absolved -- not for a single word --
in your entire life.
And the principal charity?
You'll remain young forever,
for generations upon generations,
for eternity, and no one can take
this from you."
Then suddenly, unheedingly,
the joke transforms into an unexpected
seriousness . . . the curvature
of the narrow path becomes sharp;
dark, little bridges appear from nowhere,
as the rocks aside the road draw near
with a frightening closeness,
and the dark, green wood
© Elisha Porat
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