ILAN SHEINFELD

NIGHT OF WAR 1

The flesh enmeshed in a cover of memories

sewn of dreams and actuality.

Plastic‑coating history with myth, I fill the scene

with military cabins humming with radar and communication equipment.

In the yard, five round women disclose their breasts.

I watch them in longing from my window. As if in a deserted land.

Like a foetus relearning his swimming movements on land.

The careful house wears a condom. But between the plastic and the walls

a thin crack of desire shows. What do I care for the mask:

If they were with me right now, I'd sleep with all the men and women

in the world, with the certain passion of propagation, sperm, yearning,

madness. Just don't hold me to my word. In fact, so what if I

exaggerate. Ten minutes to the news. Enough time even to jerk off.


 

 

NIGHT OF WAR 2

I'd decided to stop the tide,

to accept us both as a fact.

To give up on my questions. To swallow

my fears of being left in love.

In the midst of this the war broke out.

Terror‑struck I left your arms for a woman.

I slept between her breasts. "You're like

my girlfriend," she said. "And you

are like Uri," I whispered to her belly.

We coupled until before the bombs.

When she left, some friends came by and stayed with me

in the flood of telephone awakenings that landed

with the morning missile on the people of Israel.


All these filled me up.

I was gathered into myself, but

think of you many times a day.

Now I gather heat in the timefreeze

in a plastic tent, waiting for you

to renew the ruins of our love.


NIGHT OF WAR 3

to Uri

We sat for hours in the shelter

until the missile that stormed our home

was deactivated.

The woman author talked with the weary whore,

my neighbor the actress with my neighbor the widow.

The terrified gallery owner stared at

the jachnoon seller, who forced her mouth to sing.

When the border‑control announced that all was well

we all walked home

everyone and his mask.

At night I woke opposite the painting sun

which decapitated a wealth of colors on the sky canvas

I gathered light in my hand, and bowed to him in thanks


After that I closed my eyes

and left my body, far away, to Kedumim

just to stroke your face

in astral love

And to be seen before you, if not nude

at least adorned with light. I smiled.

You felt me. It only seemed to you

that your longings drew me out of your memory, from the distance.


 

NIGHT OF WAR 4

The root of evil is not in the seed.

It is buried deep in the knowledge‑bank.

Cyclone is a storm accompanied by clouds

Zyclon B is a name with no meaning in Hebrew

Cycle is an endless chain of phenomena and happenings

whose end is equal to its beginning.

Cyclops is the legendary giant

with one eye.

Knowledge is a saleable item.

Evil is translated to cash

and is at the service of the highest bidder.

The serial recurs with exactitude

Cyclops blinks and stretches out his hand

to Allah's barbarians, and we fornicate

in the sweetness of lips of the Vatican bakery,


 

and enter the sealed camp so not to die of gas.

History repeats. The mask liberates. The Patriot

is no more a partisan, but a defensive missile.

Anti-semitism is still alive and working

in Eastern Europe, under cover of antipathy to zionism,

in the Arab states as well. The dictionary knows. Man forgets. Blood

does not make up for it. The Rabbinate lies. The mezzuzah

is only a totem. Everything comes around again, but differently.

He who blessed our forefathers shall bless our soldiers,

defenders of Israel. Cursed be the land of Europe. And we shall say amen.


 

NIGHT OF WAR 5

Suffocation freed me from the house to the sea.

The seas stormed. Exaggerated as a tall tale. Like

a blanket of deceit or a proverb, and nothing else.

Jaffa stretched out, up ‑

all of Allah's missiles, threatening

to take off from the stone ‑ rest inviolate

like a pad for launching of barbarians of Islam.

A yellow light of divine revelation rinsed and seduced

through the panes of sealed sky. In the world aquarium

I opened my mouth and closed it. A little dryland fish.

A sardine with a gas mask resting on the rocks.


The birds glided from the waters

to God's red pits of compassion.

The more it darkened the tide of fear rose. I returned home,

rush to write another poem before the attack,

keep the black rubber skull at arm's length,

to be comforted a bit

from the fear of Zyclon.

Actually it was a wonderful day.

I dared listen to a Mozart violin concert

instead of listening for the siren. I ate, wrote.

Now I will close myself in for the night in my sealed room

with the ghost voices that come to visit

from the time we burned in Auschwitz.


NIGHT OF WAR 6

On the Sabbath I woke in fear.

A special kind of fear: Petrol‑air bombs. Okay,

to die by gas, but I don't want to burn up in flames.

I've begun to weigh what to take and save from my home

where will I take refuge, and with whom,

where abroad I can send my writings,

so that they may be saved.

Then my neighbor Yossef came down.

We drank a morning toast in honor

of the continuation of the war of independence

and the explosion from the Hassan Bak Mosque.

I'll hang on here by my fingernails.


 

But to be sure I opened the talisman,

the Bible, the Jewish book of questions and answers.

Shall I flee, I asked. He answered:

"Be honored and remain in thy home, Wherefore

shalt thou tempt in evil and

fall together with Judah" In joy I kissed it

and went out to the pub.

I ate and drank. But through the haze

of alcohol no one noticed

that I said "Shechiyanu" and added in my heart,

The Lord, Neve Tzedek*, and the hope of my fathers the Lord.

(*Neve Tzedek, the name of the poet's neighborhood, can be translated as the Oasis of Righteousness.)


 

NIGHT OF WAR 7

The gods of myth eat time.

Hormes emits morning milky light, like a soft baby

and after a dozen hours Ahimuran comes to the dark

with a lightning storm, stars and fireballs rolling into the horizon.

At seven a.m. hope springs from me. Opening my eyes I

say the morning blessing of orifices,

all warm and steamy like morning urine. But at noon

I roll a condom over all the openings of the house.

At seven p.m. the knee-quaking begins, the belly begs

the dog from Baghdad to bark and finish. Here it is ‑ the alarm.

Raising the mask to my face and a pillow to my head, I sit in the corner,

in the armchair, a frightened dog on my lap.

Suddenly the quiet is torn with illuminated whistles

of thunder. Packed explosives. It flies over me again and stops

in someone else's life.


 

Arm in arm we go out to the pub, my gas mask and me.

We'll celebrate, we'll get drunk and seduce a little.

On the way the car slices the arteries of Tel Aviv,

sharp as a scalpel.

The city is full of dark windows. Her houses are deserted,

a cemetery of intimacy, which has given herself into the hands

of the grave digger: exile.

I come back to Neve Tzedek by the sea road. From the water a breeze rose

and with it the words of the Lord, "Come let me close up

inside your home." Short, appropriate, and

effective like the phrasing of the Lord of Commandments.

I locked the door, spread out the plastic talit

over the house's shoulder, and fell asleep with four commandments.

Angels guard me between the sandstone blocks and the sanctum sanctorum.


 

NIGHT OF WAR 9

The Jihad is managed according to the best tradition of desert song.

The warriors fill their mouths with chants of curses and words of derision,

and I too hunger to insult the barbarians of Allah:

When you come home we'll screw like Moslems in their prayers,

I write and immediately retract. Love isn't a weapon. Religion

becomes cheap, as always, in the hands of power. But it doesn't

diminish in its purity. Poetry doesn't have to surrender to

the images of politics, and I have no quarrel with Islam,

but with the petty marching in its name toward the blood bowl of Jesus.

Pardon me, the coalition. In this covenant between us,

love me like a Moslem. Touch me. Be with me for hours,

wound me with your gentle caresses, for all the time

that was fossilized in the room.


NIGHT OF WAR 10

A silver‑haired commander came and took me to the firing zone.

I cuddled in his warm hairy chest. "David,"

I whispered, "I've always feared you. But now you're

all there is." "My name isn't David," he grinned back.

"You're totally confused. I'm Yohoram."

"To me you're David," I laughed.

"Come," he said, and pulled me into his arms. "Here,

you see this slope, it is the front of the outpost.

No one can conquer so fortified a place."

I kissed his cheeks. "You're a hero. Will you watch over me?"

"Of course," he smiled and fed me with an orange delicacy, warm squash.

I woke with the taste of puree melting in my mouth.

All day long I wondered if I been graced with the Messiah,

or had I just slept with an heir of Jesse.


 

NIGHT OF WAR 14

For two weeks already I haven't heard from you.

You're probably skipping between the craters in Tel Aviv,

documenting the human interest in the area of destruction. Did you think I'd phone?

I hoped you'd be back here, with the shine of your perverted eyes, and seduce me.

I mean after all, in the moment before you left, you bit me.

But when I tried to press you to the wall, you withdrew

to the secure borders you drew in advance,

leaving me waiting, idiotic, with the waving flag of an erection.

After two weeks of the moaning of sirens

there are no signs of you. What, are you carousing with death? Were you insulted?

I'm thirsty for a portion of translucent liquor from the vineyards of your womb.

Here, my pink tongue licks the air.

Sweet, let us lie under a canopy of nape kisses.

If you don't bring me your hairy mound, out of hunger I am liable

once again to inhale Rose from the orchard of testicles.

As you know, there's no harm in it,

but lately, my dear, I desire only

to nip the berries of your nipples.

 

 

Translated by Karen Alkalay-Gut

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