Four Poems by Elhanan Nir
She Walked into the Stories
For the last several nights, I walk into the house
the children pass in front of me, out from the room we built for them,
and they tuck themselves into our bed. The windows are closed, but fear crawls into me
they are breathing in gentle melody
I check that the blanket covers their soft feet
what am I supposed to do with this fear? I want to ask you—
who said to you that I am alive
and you are dead?
Before sleep, the child notices your shadow in the living room and says, Grandmom
and she walked into the stories.
Your spirit and your soul
The place inside no one
Understands and your adornments
Do not enter
Your sights and your smells
Your health and your illness
The moments of your sorrow
Your great joy rising up in a whisper from the depths
Your sightings and your disappearances
Your days and your nights
And your fruits and your fears
Your desires and dreams
Your freedoms and that which binds you
Your yesterdays and tomorrows
And your sighs
And your face
Again this game of all these known responsibilities—
I’ll let it be known from the beginning:
We sinned. Always.
From the beginning to the end,
from one seal to the next.
We are guilty. You
are always right.
This is how You love us?
My Rabbi is Getting Older
My Rabbi is getting older.
He uses a magnifying glass,
coughs so often and it’s hard to hear.
This is the time of life when the body is tired,
memory grows a thickening shell
the orphan in me knows
he is going
in class he already doesn’t remember
he confuses our names some
the problems posed in the Talmud are no longer problems
its answers do not answer.
His son tries to remind him gently
repeating aloud some of what’s been said, and offers a few corrections
facing my Rabbi’s eyes, I see they are emptying out—
one moment his pupils fill with sand
the next, letters are blossoming out of them
(desperately, as though they only exist for letters)
next, the short bursts take hold of the long blasts
the Holocaust is already coming out of his eyes
and I want to scream to him
my father, my father
how much dying am I able to press into one small body.
But he falls asleep in the middle of the lesson
and leaves me here alone
facing all the generations