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See our feature on Robert Friend

and translations from Found in Translation: A Hundred Years of Hebrew Poetry

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Found in Translation: A 100 Years of Modern Hebrew Poetry

Agnon's Alef Bet

Selected Poems of Leah Goldberg

Sunset Possibilities and Other Poems



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All work copyright © Jean Shapiro Cantu. All rights reserved.

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Robert Friend Robert Friend

from The Next Room (The Menard Press, London, 1995)

Breakage

Something is always breaking.
If not the heart, something else.
A tape rattles into silence.
A cup shatters.

Fragments yearn for each other.

Splice the tape,
glue the cup-pieces,
heal what you can
with spit and tears.


from The Practice of Absence (Beth-Shalom Press, Jerusalem, 1971)

Letter To P.

Help me to help your life
and so help mine.

Words! Words!

Your needs are children of a past
so strewn with murdered desires
that you must want and want
murderously.

I am willing to be
only a tongue speaking sincerely
the praise your life grows tall on,

the mirror necessary
to render your face its beauty,
your body its splendor,

a sun to light your moon
that otherwise rolls, cold stone,
in darkness, infinitely.

But where I stand
— outside your any recognition of me,
who also need a tongue, a mirror, and a sun—
I cannot help you.

Help me to help you.
I do not utter now
the word "love."


from Salt Gifts(The Charioteer Press, Washington D.C., 1964)

Exorcism

I know who's scratching at the door.
Clock, there's no use yawning.
More than boards are loose in the floor—
I wasn't born this morning.

Beneath your gurgle, Water Tap,
I hear the water slither.
I know you well, Barometer,
and all your inner weather.

Soap, you're not all lather,
and Cane, you're more than stick.
I know who hangs on you, Clothes Hanger.
I know you, wicked Wick.

I hear your silence, Telephone.
I know your meaning, Saw.
O wily, absent-minded Fly,
I've heard your voice before.

I have turned about thrice,
blinded the mirror,
snipped the end of my laces
with a rusty scissors,

trod on my shadow,
strewn on my pillow
three seeds of the fern
and a leaf of the willow.


Be gone, ogre of the Candle,
djinn of the grinning Fire;
be gone, harpy of the Lintel,
worm of the winding Wire.

Cerberus of the Threshold,
run howling through the town;
imp of the Ingle, shrivel;
nymph of the Mirror, drown.

Die, demon of the Cupboard;
fly, spectre of the Stair;
and die, you lean Clock's warden
who whispers in my ear.





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