Poems by Karen in Spring 2000

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Translations by Karen Alkalay-Gut in this issue:

Miriam Baruch Chalfi
Raquel Chalfi
Yaffa Zins

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Translations by Karen Alkalay-Gut in Spring 2000:

Iris Le'al
Leah Rudnitsky
Ben Zion Tomer

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Ms. Karen Alkalay-Gut
Karen Alkalay-Gut

In My Skin In My Skin

by Karen Alkalay-Gut

The Arab-Israeli Conflict
a perspective

It was long ago— my son is now twenty-one
and the blue dress I wore to Maternity
has long been ripped into rags and thrown away,
piece by piece. But that night it was
the most comfortable thing I owned,
and while I was alone waiting in Reception
(the nurses were probably out to dinner,
and my husband didn't really believe
it was time yet), and leaned against the wall
to counter my backache, I was grateful for it.

I wasn't alone— the Bedouin woman in her black robe
was also in pain and pushing too against the wall.
But we had no common language,
and could only show each other
what we felt, and what to do.
There were no chairs,
and the gentle lined woman
was my only inspiration and succor,

and I got the idea of crouching in a corner,
pushing at both walls at once
and the floor as well. Ah, she said,
and joined me in the niche near by.
And I knew she was telling me that corners
were a great invention of society, and I agreed.
Better than the nurses who eventually came along,
picking their teeth and scowling at our primitivity.

We never did
get to talk. Both of us left
with our sons the next day.


Karen Alkalay-Gut teaches English poetry at Tel Aviv University. This is her 13th book of poetry. In it she "focuses exclusively on the interrelationship between personal and Jewish identity."

Praise for In My Skin:

a whole new approach to intimacy—Tad Richards

They remind me that poetry is meant to delight, to remind us that language is one of the joys of being human, and they also probe the depths of the heart. They make me want to write poetry again—surely the sign of the real thing.—Erica Jong

stylish, startlingly moving—Haim Chertok

Karen Alkalay-Gut's work is never less than a carnival of her (and our) multiple selves. She is funny, tragic, sensual, powerful, poignant, sharply intelligence, and above all, alive.—Alicia Ostriker

In My Skin is published by the Israel Federation of Writers' Union Publishers. ISBN-965-7030-09-9. Tel Aviv, 2000.