More translations by Karen Alkalay-Gut
Ben Zion Tomer
Translated from the Hebrew by Karen Alkalay-Gut
My demented sisters,
souls resting in peace in the stone homes
they built for themselves in the suburbs,
huge hounds of drama
with healthy appetites, gobbling
cold death from tin cans.
They lack for nothing—
Once a year they go off on holiday
with their matched luggage
and a guidebook for the land of the dead,
order a white room in the white hotel
they learned to like with the years—
No visitors allowed!
After lunch they sit
on the patio, giving in
to enormous-handed massages
of sun, God's way
of making love to their bodies—
Even He wants them.
The Sister is white as well
and smiling, gathering from their fragile wrists
all their heart aches:
sixty a minute she says, that's good.
I'm their Sister too.
Hallelujah! they sing
Hallelujah to the blues, to the yellows, to the reds,
Hallelujah to the nettles, the nettled-by-madness
to the witches.
Toward evening they descend to the lobby
wearing cocktail gowns
slit up the left side.
They are lovely. Make a date for a hairdo
and shock treatment.
Soon their last rehearsal will be arranged
on doctors' orders:
they will lie in bed motionless and breathe
in rhythm to three open-mouthed tulips.
In the mean time
they sip coffee
from a cup deep as a well, in darkness they see all—
take from the drawer good stones,
bad stones: they pound, they spit
they distill an emulsion
of self-love. Motionless. A pure imitation.
The wind emits dangerous harp music
from the nerve delta.
In darkness they know
Bad witches from the mid-lands
with hawk eyes
and a talent for do-it-yourself death.