Translation Tuesday: Poems by Ronny Someck

"In his painted eyes you can see a whole herd, / the prey in his dream’s forever-forest."

Bloody Mary 


And poetry is a gun moll

in the back seat of an American car.

Her eyes pressed like triggers, her pistol hair firing blond

bullets down her neck.

Let’s say her name is Mary, Bloody Mary,

words squeeze out of her mouth like the juicy guts of a tomato

whose face was knifed just beforehand

on the salad plate.

She knows that grammar is the police force of language—

her earring transmitter

detects the siren at a distance.

The steering wheel will shift the car from question mark

to period

when she’ll open the door

and stand on the curb as a metaphor for the word



The Leopard and the Glass Slipper


It is impossible to describe a leopard without some piece

of the Judaean Desert.

In Wadi Qelt, next to the abandoned mill,

he is the prince fitting the glass slipper

to the mountain’s heel.

Once the turbines were heartbeats,

apples of Sodom hung on the wide-leafed bushes

and a desert Cinderella tied a scarf around her waist

to drift barefoot

down the Euphrates River.

I want to tell her that her face is carved of stone,

that her flowing hair is proof of the wind,

but inside my mouth, a bandage drenched in shame

is blocking pharmaceutical words.




A porcelain cheetah crouches in my room,

his legs tucked into his stomach.

In his painted eyes you can see a whole herd,

the prey in his dream’s forever-forest.

I too have learned to hide my fingernails,

dilute myself with wild animal cognac.

I once saw a black girl whose every word

was an uphill road to Kinshasa.

She had a room where King Solomon would meet with Frishman, the poet,

two tribal shamans.

A sword polished on her eyes, an arrow pinned in her hair,

but in this city the telephone numbers are scribbled on matchboxes

and if the world is a narrow bridge,

here, all bridges are burnt.


Ronny Someck (b. 1951) was born in Baghdad and immigrated to Israel as a child. He has published 11 volumes of poetry which have been translated into 41 languages. His awards include the Prime Minister’s Award (Israel), the Yehuda Amichai Award for Hebrew poetry (Israel), the Wine Poem Award (Macedonia), and the Hans Berghuis Poetry Prize (Holland). He teaches poetry writing in low-income schools and mental health institutes in Israel.

 Avia Tadmor (b. 1987) was born in Israel and is a student of poetry and literary translation at Columbia University in New York.