IV. House Made of Paper


Thoughts, not stories
will get me into Heaven.

I think, therefore I don’t know
where thoughts will lead
except to more,
but they will be originals.

I don’t mean to imply
all my thoughts are unique,
but they seem satisfying
in a comforting, personal way,
full of angles and breadth.
As for width,
there are many inherent angles
making the right moves tricky.
For example, how can I hurry
a poem along, knowing
there is an anthem in a word;
why would I paint a wall
without primer
knowing that a crack might appear
in an adjacent wall.

The instructions advise:
allow one shade
to build upon another
until oils are overrun
with possibility.
In the current glare
some of that paint
will naturally permeate.
                                     —Irene Mitchell



Sound boxes stand up straighter than ever today
If you know how to listen lucidly to yourself
If you know how to dance the movement that your soul is already sketching, flexibly, effortlessly,
If you gaze down from the ceiling on your willing heart and your purified will.
Stretch out your hand and touch the invisible thing
See, you are catching the golden bird that has been flying circles around your head for years.

The mirrors will return your love doubled
Your feet will be lighter
And if you don’t know now
You’ll know later
And more correctly
                                  — Shefi Rosenzweig
                                       tr. EC



Noises of a tortuous night
Noises of a house pondering
How it will be for its dwellers
Noises which have no audience most of the day
The scenery turns actor
As the smell of the meals
Begins to dissipate.
Soarings into pure poetry are registered
As well as the plunge into the valleys of ego.
Just as G-d drew the topography
The walls of the valley climb and from the peak again fall down. The plain is very devious
The poem is very urgent
But its buyers are weary of themselves.
The eyelids fall
The last signs
Of a painful and disillusioned consciousness, miracles of exactitude from heaven,
Are inscribed
Into deep sleep.
                                 —Shefi Rosenzweig
                                     tr. EC




The window is not the thing
But the four photographs you developed and in each one
Two doors openings to the living world outside

When the openings are closed
The world inside is a theater for shadows and sounds that get knocked

When the shutter is dragged up and some kind of window opens
There is a place for the presence of mystery that is the thing I wanted to point out
A metal frame that the man made in order to say a fragile word
About the world outside the picture.

What did the man feel when he thought about the woman who would sit
Facing the wind that would fold for her sake into three equal parts
And the light Vermeer captured would fall upon her
What did he think when he affixed the yellow metal handle to the wooden door of her room
And the key went into the mouth of the lock

This is music that you allowed me to touch
The rising and falling of the closed
On the open and the light that penetrates
Into what was torn for its sake
The play of variation within the boundaries
And my soul goes out to him
And you will not see me here

                                           —Hava Pinhas-Cohen
                                               tr. EC



A man rewrites his house
Sketching it from within, hurting from without,
Bare concrete covers illuminated rooms.

A solitary window looks out on the world:
Trees, children, uneven sidewalks,
Well-dressed women walking the path.

Never has anyone knocked at his door.
Never has he publicized his written house.
The pains put the gazers to flight
The dogs drove off the few curious ones.

And within the house the furnished quiet,
The light spread out smoothly through the rooms.

                                                                      —Amichai Chasson
                                                                          tr. EC




I write motorized poems
I build my motors from the silence
silence within the words
the body of matters that cannot be said
I lift what I could just manage not to say
I Iift it and only about it I write my poems on
The text I say resembles blank sheet of paper
I write my motorized poems and only I
write my poems on the motors that activate
my poems on the motors that roar with rage
in my poems on my mighty raging motors

On the motors that activate my poems
which do not say any words
since the time I have changed
my poems have bigger motors than theirs
in place of words in my poems
I show the poems themselves how
my techniques and why for most of my motors I place
very far away on the range
from faith in prayers and only activate them
from there when no one is looking
at what is motorized
in the poems and my words and workers
on giant ladders and wheels
in a hurry in rush in whirligigs
till my machines have all
instantly taken off.

                            —Admiel Kosman
                                translated by the author




When angels get new clothes
their discards pile up
at the curbs of city sidewalks

their capes clog sewer pipes
their togas swoop down to mound in dumpsters
get tangled in telephone wires.

Shouldn’t they be salvaged to cover the homeless
the chilled and the fevered?
Shroud the dead?

Flagrant bandannas, canopies for weddings
recycled for tent cities in Bangladesh,
antimacassars, adult diapers

fun for kids who like to kick stuff.
Poets out looking for stuff
to stitch into heart-shaking metaphors.

                                                        —Florence Weinberger



Early mid-September Saturday morning cold
and I am in third grade struggling with making letters
with a pencil on white three-punch paper with
blue lines. “What are you doing,“ my father asks.

And I respond by telling him I am writing—
for hours. I have found timelessness in
what I describe today as listening to guidance,
which is not so much hearing my inner voice

as it is hearing voices that guide my hand,
in writing cuneiform characters, some of which
I have copied from the entry I have found
regarding them in The World Book Encyclopedia.

Exhausted by sometime that afternoon, I look up,
finally, and squint into the downward slant
of light spreading into beams among the pattern
of roses that repeat themselves on the linoleum

that curls up on the corners of the kitchen floor,
shadows just beginning to appear in the corners,
my grandmother starting dinner in a skillet
on the stove behind me where I have written page

after page in a strange alphabet that
I don’t even question, and will not remember.
Years later, as a young man, the volume
of the encyclopedia in which I placed these pages

will mysteriously open in my hands, and I will
feel embarrassment about having written
such childish scribbling, having already begun
my journey and apprenticeship as a writer;

whereas, now, as an old man, what
I remember is making cunieform characters
in an alphabet I didn’t know,
and my exercising an ability to listen

vigilantly to what was being sung,
and my making letters that I strenuously
formed into words
in attempting to replicate them in song.

                                                         —Wally Swist



She loves red is excited
by red (and by Rosa Luxemburg)
but wears black a lot because it’s slimming
shoulders her way through demonstrations reads at rallies
The suffering a heavy fan spread out on her palm
does not let go,
sometimes she laughs because it hurts
takes joy in order to relieve it
She’ll never weep openly,
when something hits hard
she is silent, withdraws
into herself
tries to find words,
She’s dying for a political poem
She can't help writing a political poem
on the pale mute page

                                    —Yudit Shahar
                                        tr. EC


To Section V