Poems by Sharron Hass, translated from the Hebrew by Marcela Sulak

Summer Solstice, Cynthia Weiss

Translator’s note

These poems are excerpted from a larger cycle called “Hehasnoname” and
appear here in a different order than they appeared in the original.
“Hehasnoname” was published in Muzikat hanateev harakhav (Music of the
Wide Lane) Tel Aviv: Afik, 2015.

I am not an invalid who needs a strict schedule
wealth to me is being undisturbed
while someone else, a lover, stands in the doorway
a wide threshold stops him like a monstrosity
bureaucrats and evil
while the water is running and the electricity is flowing and bills are being paid
his body—unwittingly—is wounded by ghosts
who pass him back and forth through their strong jaws

in a voice that isn’t mine—but not exactly anyone else’s
I try the impossibility that is open to me
and it’s not a gate or a portico, mirror or sea
the page—that’s already not a page—flickering electrons—a curtain without folds
rising, restless white
the syntax—witness to the tectonic
language and the necessary-unknown-to-me

the poem
is it the form that the surplus can take (a shining winged
creature?) a kind of mantle to hide in, or the miracle of a mask
that you don’t remember and touch in surprise and the face falls

chance again tries your nerves—it wants to be called fate
sleepless nights when the bed
is a river or a pit, you will change face and you will be
unrecognizable, grief will be royal jelly in the morning—
who is the one who without motion traversed the night
and stood next to the sun, sawdust and broken bottles, almost a girl
washing her face, belief-doesn’t-believe in the capricious wing tails talons

Apparently to be a poet—dogmatic on the outside
and lacking conviction within

is a hell one can leave
but doesn’t

Yesterday she devoured my kitchen
grabbed the latkes strode to the fridge
pulled out a jar of something salty
the bread she almost threw into the garbage when she looked
for how the hell does one make a toast around here, stabbed a spoon into the chocolate spread, threw two olives into her mouth, maybe there was
a thrashing fish as well, I can’t remember, in the middle of wrecked world
my mother sat and chewed, and no, I didn’t have any idea what a table was (that entity upon which philosophers hit for examples) again I had to invent the wheel
and move ahead—erect—as if the path itself were a step followed by a step, ahead not backwards, not spiraling—ahead! surely somewhere there is a center, lit calm
around which we are toddling as if only now we’ve learned how to walk

Where is the origin of the error—in which book—
who the hand that asked to divide a thing from itself
and ruined the mind to rigid structures—
cumbersome love, left and right, black horse, white horse
the world’s food, bread, beans of mana, divided.
Who was this sinner, and we followed him from amazement
and we learned to be wise, on the path to the king,
stooped and limping with choices—while Eros, the beggar
goes gaily in rags (and I wonder if I was ever like that?)

Not like Pharaoh or Ahasverus who have solutions
for their insomnia she knows (sometimes) that
who-is-not-she exists; but not her beloved
although their blood is dear, in the course of the years
more and more they are figments of her imagination and her rage, oh God, is scorching


Sharron Hass headshot Sharron Hass is poet, essayist, and author of six poetry collections that  lectures on literature and poetry at the Alma Institute (Tel-Aviv), at the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, and teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Tel Aviv University. She is the recipient of several poetry awards, including the Hezy Leskly Award (1997), the Art Council Award (1998), the Prime Minister Award (2003), a Fulbright America-Israel Fellowship (2005), the Bialik Prize (2012), the Dolitsky Prize (2017), and the Amichai poetry prize (2018).

Dafa portrait.smileMarcela Sulak’s translations from the Czech include Karel Hynek Macha’s May and K. J. Erben’s A Bouquet of Czech Folktales, from the Hebrew Twenty Girls to Envy Me: The Selected Poems of Orit Gidali, nominated for the 2016 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. From the French, Mutombo Nkulu-N’Sengha’s Bela-Wenda: Voices from the Heart of Africa). Sulak’s fourth collection of poetry is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press, with whom she’s published the lyric memoir Mouth Full of Seeds. She’s co-edited the 2016 Rose Metal Press title, Family Resemblance. An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres. Recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship, Sulak is an Associate Professor of English at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Cynthia Weiss headshotCynthia Weiss is studio artist, public artist, and arts educator. She has directed public mosaic projects throughout Chicago transforming neglected spaces into local landmarks. She has exhibited at the Hyde Park Art Center, Uptown Art Center, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, and Woman Made Gallery, among other spaces. Cynthia facilitates workshops in the arts and literacy, including with Habla: The Center for Language and Culture, in Merida, Mexico. She has been a Ragdale artist fellow and holds an MFA in painting from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a member of the Chicago Public Art Group. In her paintings, collages, and cut paper installations, Cynthia explores themes of ecosystems at risk, and the need for sanctuary in the human and natural world.