Image credit: Kevin McNamee-Tweed, "Untitled," clay

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First Thing

I open my eyes in the morning,

first thing,

I look for my body

to wear.

It’s laid where I left it

in the night,


It’s been like this for years.

I always find it and I always





And my mother gave me

a long list,

her handwriting,

on a scrap of paper.

Excited with my mission,

child prophet,

a child of hope, a child on a string,

I set out in easy future

steps onto the winding

path of my childhood.

High above my head

the sun passed like a giant clock

on the wall of the world.



Poems in Nature

When I was a child I tore off wings.

The beauty seemed

more important than the benefit.


One ant hesitates

as if her

cause were exhausted.


A mole’s mound

reminds me

there are entire lives concealed from sight.


Even here in the shade of the trees

a thought about money

slithers off like a snake in the grass.


I am not from here.

My instances of certainty, brief

as light

in the stairwell.




The staticky voice of the soldier girl

asks me to ascertain

that nothing out of the ordinary

is going on, nothing strange.


Well, sheep punctuate the line of a hill,

one Arab shepherd, a hawk

is gliding overhead, and all is still

as oil on canvas. 


What can I say, wireless girl,

nothing here is strange but me.




The roughness of his hands that grew tired

from turning trees into tables

all day long. The silver hair shining

above his bright moon face.

His body bending over the electric saw.

I insist on remembering

for his sake, but mostly

I insist for my own.

דבר ראשון

אֲנִי פוקֵחַ עֵינַיִם בַבקֶֹר
דָבָר רִאשון
מְחַפֵש אֶת הַגוף
הוא מֻנַח הֵיכָן שֶעָזַבְתִי
,אותו בַלַיְלָה
.כָכָה כְבָר שָנִים
תָמִיד אֲנִי מוצֵא וְתָמִיד




וְאמא שלי נָתְנָה
רְשִימָה אֲרֻכָה
בִכְתָב יָדָה
.עַל פֶתֶק לְהָבִיא
,נִלְהָב מִשְלִיחותִי
,יֶלֶד נָבִיא
,יֶלֶד תִקְוות, יֶלֶד עַל חוטִי
יָצָאתִי בְצַעֲדֵי עָתִיד
קַלִים אל השביל
.המתפתל של ילדותי
גָבהלַ מֵעַל רָאשִי
נָקְפָה הַשֶמֶש כְמו שָעון עֲנָק
.עַל קִיר הָעולָם



שירים בחיק הטב

.כְשְהָיִיתִי יֶלֶד תָלָשְתִי כְנָפָיִם
הָיופִי נִדְמֶה אָז
.חָשוב מִן הַתועֶלֶת
נְמָלָה אַחַת מְהַסֶסֶת
.אָזְלו נִימוקֵיה
גֻמְחָה שֶל חֲפַרְפֶרֶת
מַזְכִירָה לִי
.שֵיֵש חַיִים שְלֵמִים סְמויִים מִן הָעַיִן
אֲפִלו פהֹ בְצֵל הַעֵצִים
מַחְשָבָה עַל כֶסֶף
.מִזְדָחֶלֶת כְמו נָחָש בָעֵשֶב

.אֲנִי לא מִפהֹ

רִגְעֵי הַוָדָאות שֶלִי קְצָרִים
כְמו אור
.בְחֲדַר הַמַדְרֵגות




קולָה הַמְקֻטָע שֶל הַחַיֶלֶת מְבַקֵש
א קורֶה מִמֶנִי לְהַשְגִיחַ שֶ
שום דָבָר יוצֵא מִגֶדֶר
.הָרָגִיל, שום דָבָר מוזָר
ובְכֵן, כְבָשִים מְנַקְדות אֶת צֶלַע
הָהָר, וְרועֶה עֲרָבִי אֶחָד, ובָז
בְעֶדְנָה מֵעַל, וְהַכלֹ שָלֵו
.כְמו שֶמֶן עַל בַד
,מַה אמַֹר, נַעֲרָה אַלְחוטִית
לא מוזָר כָאן, מִלְבַדִי




חִסְפוס יָדָיו שֶכָל הַיום
עֵצִים הָיו מִתְעַיְפות לַהֲפ ֹ
לְשֻלְחָנות. שֵעָר הַכֶסֶף הַנוצֵץ
.מֵעַל פְנֵי הַיָרֵחַ הַבְהִירִים
.גופו הָרָכון מֵעַל הַמַשור הַחַשְמַלִי
אֲנִי מִתְעַקֵש לִזְכרֹ
אֶת זֶה בִשְבִילו, אֲבָל בְעִקָר
.מִתְעַקֵש בִשְבִילִי

Translator's Note

Compared to the tempestuous, spirit-drunk prophets of the Bible, Eli Eliahu is stone sober. Born in Tel Aviv in 1969, he is an editor at Israeli’s longest running daily newspaper,  Ha’aretz; he is a father, and, like nearly all Jewish Israelis, he was once a soldier. He is a secular man whose poetry is deeply engaged in Biblical narratives—indeed, his poetry engages in all of aspects of his own life in conversation with Biblical narratives, especially those featuring the scribes and prophets.  Eliahu’s poetry befits the son of two Iraqi immigrants who descend from one of the most historically significant communities in the Jewish world. For Babylon (in modern-day Iraq) plays an oversized role in producing the scribes and prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Ezra—as well as the material of prophecy itself.


Eliahu’s poems are simple in structure, arranged around a single message, and they are exquisitely crafted, with sleek parts of speech, and lines so beautifully aligned that reading these poems aloud is like moving a finger over the lip of a crystal glass—the air will echo for a few minutes after the words leave the mouth. For his three collections, I, and Not an Angel (2008), City and Fears (2011), and Epistles to the Children (2018), Eliahu has been awarded one of the first Matanel Prizes for Young Jewish Writers (2013), the Levi Eshkol Prime Minister’s Poetry Prize (2014) and an honorable mention for the first Dr. Gardner Prize for Hebrew Poetry, established by the First Lady of Israel, Nechama Rivlin in 2018.

Marcela Sulak


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