To Chris Abani
You promised a poem and you came
Just as I was tucking the kids in bed.
You show me a few words:
Fear, loneliness, passion, heartache
Of a man my age, same status
From their side of the border,
As far as the eye can see – from over there.
I try to unwrinkle the words, straighten them,
To peel off the personal and reach the universal,
Trying to uncover the human beyond the man,
Something that will speak to me, nonetheless.
‘This is not even a man,’ you say, ‘it’s a woman,
A thousand years ago,
From that continent, over the sea.’
Shocked I raise my eyes from the words
To see you trembling and crying.
No sirens, no explosions, only sheer silence.
They say it is all over.
‘Your nose. It is bleeding,
Again,’ you say, suggesting
I’d use the poem.
Eran Tzelgov is an Israeli poet, translator, scholar and social activist. He is the recipient of the “New Poets” award from The Ministry of Culture for his debut poetry collection “[S]elections” (2013), and the National Library Award for the his second book “Also the Cat” (2016). He is a founding-member of the independent publishing house Ra’av challenging the often “too homogenized” nature of the Israeli canon. He is the co-editor-translator of Chris Abani’s collection in Hebrew, currently working on the translation of Alicia Partnoy’s “La Escuelita” into hebrew (with Yael Dekel) and his third book of poetry.