Five Poems

David Avidan

Calling Card

We go in the night, go go go
along the long and filthy roads.
Days of peace. No rifle in the bush.

But the going never comes to an end
even though we said our goodbyes to all
and the last debt was finally paid.

Whence have we come where are we going and no end in sight?
Are we quite certain we've had time to love?
And why have we been so betrayed by the good end?

With ease we carry our young bodies.
It is not a world of indifference that led us to a world of frivolities.
The final report on us is drawn from erroneous sources.

We'll respond to all questions in a very specific order.
Our hands in our pockets and warm even in winter.
Not by the chance they gained young girls' favor.

Not by chance we swiftly crossed worlds.
Not by chance we got lost on long nomadic roads.
Not by chance we missed all the prologues.


Even then he felt thoroughly refreshed,
a youthful figure and a greedy snout,
and the sudden delight that fell upon him like a cloud.
And then he felt that his strength has returned
and that everything was so very silly,
and suddenly a feeling of ecstasy,
and suddenly a crazy desire to open up
fully fully to the appalling delight.
To open up without holding back like a sleeping bag
in which all the seams have been unraveled down to the last
into the absolute nights, leaving not
even one tiny thread of individuality.
And to desist desist desist
and to be complete complete complete.
And to be swept with the great jet
and to be picked by the great wind.
And still not to lose the taste
for the sudden pleasurable act.
Remember always: you're sleeping with a woman
and not with some cosmic harmony.
And so they stitch you up like a sleeping bag
within minutes of your suicide.
And so they rob you of the joy,
and so they rob you of your death,
and so put a stop to your folly as well.

Summer 1962

(draft for a cool script)

A man waves hello to a woman.
A woman waves hello to a man.
Half the world waves hello
to its other half.
A fleeting alert moment, nearly imperceptible,
as everything moves, settling into two parallel rows,
waiting. The sun crosses in the middle, as if in a formation,
not turning left or right, not granting either of the rows
any glow-attention, a grade, or a promotion,
it spins on with dubious speed, howling
like a red boar pierced with African spears,
but still here.
A moment of discord. What will come
of it? Will something come of it? Will someone
come of it?
The ruse, well hidden in the facial creases, refuses
the draft, reveals
treacherous pacifist tendencies, and only at the finish
is submissively willing to reassess. An expression
of "Yes, but," on the withdrawn face.
Yes but, yes but, yes but. But,
is this for me? Is this for you?
Could you compete with my self-love?
Could you compete with your self-love?
Could we compete? A moment of accord,
a moment of peril. The stylish killer
sharpens a photogenic razor on his victim's tie.
With surprising grace he defies the inevitable
noose that has been lurking since his early youth.
He entertains. Reaps success. American humor.
He leaks promptly, eagerly, heavily, like tropical rain,
on the distant sounds of the church's choir, attempts
to turn to mist before reaching the ground, but seeps
through it with a desperate wail. And here's the place
to return and recall, for a fleeting alert moment, nearly imperceptible,
return and recall for a moment the nebulous rules of engagement.
The skilled fingers on the typewriter are a wonderful fountain
of kinetic energy. They possess all the necessary elements
to obliterate the world. The world possesses all the necessary
elements to be obliterated, to receive the kiss of death. At last,
we've come to the kiss, to the desired validation. Ambiance
is a captivating camouflage net, smoothly spread over open perils. It
frequent victims, and not only from the art world. It forces
the dear end to become, once and for all time, once and for no time,
something else, to become something more than it is. And here's the place
to return and forget again, once and for no time, the rules
of engagement. We've lived through another winter. We
live from summer to summer. The complex illusion of gradual
progress between the seasons is our best defense. After all,
where else in the world has such a wonderful sun remained
as in the Mediterranean Basin? Not to mention
that we came here on the authority of an ancient edict
that no one can contest or rival. We file it anew every summer
in its summery, every summer in its summary. And there's
water, sun and water, water and sun, water and water. In the beginning
there was water, and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the water.
In the end, there will be water, and the spirit of God will move upon
the face of the water. And while there's in the world more water
than no water, more sun than no sun, it is permissible still
to plan quietly and with relative comfort for the next
         generation. Now
something must move from here to there, must set in motion
the inevitable exit without which no art
or renewal is possible. In this frame of mind
the stranger walks farther away, deep into the long
and never-ending boulevard. A man
waves hello to a woman. A woman
waves hello to a man. Half the world
all at once detaches from its other half. In the main:
the red boar, pierced with African spears,
has recovered with surprising speed
and went back to its suitable place. Odd:
it's done it again.

Concerning the Gloomy Love of J. Alfred Prufrock

One day the sober wisdoms will come to wake us
from our dull and heavy slumber, like cannon balls
on a very bright Saturday morn. Then behind us
Alfred Prufrock's gloomy love will travel to our towns
across a long and shifting road that will tactfully go round our throats –
and there it will become when the time comes
a well-preserved collection of late recollections
yet our songs will refuse to take and be taken
and this will be a sure sign of our youthful days.

And yet, either way, every resistance breaks.
Let us then take the last road
leading to our seashore, to the sands,
into the kingdom of lost precincts where only
we are allowed entry, and the secret password
is to be uttered firmly but softly,
and there's a door that will open and shut,
and there's always yet another untried
option, and the day is still wide open.

And there, in underwater housing projects, sea-maidens
will frolic across our knees, on their faces
the appearance of frightened bliss, and the remembrance
of skies too high and too many eyes,
and the incessant question who's coming who's coming,
and there, our legs outstretched,
to the distant sound of interlude singing
we'll suck their lips until we sink.

Six Local Poems

1. before man

Before man goes to bed man takes off
his pants hangs them on a chair
asks for a wake-up call goes to the lavatory
from hereon bathroom from hereon restroom from hereon toilet
before man goes to bed man takes off
his clothes checks himself in the mirror and goes to bed
with a worry flicker in the center of the eye of a spacecadet
with instructions on how to better land and better communicate
when one lands and goes to bed

2. man hangs

Man hangs his pants and plans his manhood
hangs his pants on a chair and takes a stance
takes a stance regarding his future poems and brings down a leg
brings down a leg casts a glance in the mirror and makes a movie
makes a movie hangs his pants and plans
takes a stance regarding his future plans and brings down
then raises looks in the mirror and makes a movie
man puts on his pants and handles his reign
so many feet from his crotch to his zipper
till here his debts from here his returns
man wears out his pants slices up his land
east west north south and anywhere
the Sixth Fleet and the Red Fleet may reach

3. when man rises

When man rises in the morning man puts on
his pants and instantly opens fire upon
his bed his terrace his books
upon the jets of water in hot pursuit of him
a drowsy man rises in the morning
unafraid to put on his pants and open fire

4. man pesters

Man returns to his flat and pesters a machine
pesters the typewriter out of season
man pesters a typewriter and delays his sleep
for how many minutes hours years will he remain alert
man alerts his typewriter and pesters his sleep
man returns to his flat and turns on a machine
more or less the right machine
man turns on an alert-machine and delays his sleep
for how many minutes hours years will he remain alert
in this flat in this land and anywhere
the Sixth Fleet and the Red Fleet may reach

5. summing up

before man
man hangs
when man rises
man pesters

6. a tax-free supplement for diplomatic relations expenditure

Two words on the problematic status of erections
against the backdrop of the decline in class warfare
and the hardening positions of the superpowers:
it is clear, for instance, that each visible hardening
is more and more visible vis à vis a softening,
a sizeable softening of the other side which, by the by,
is only rarely soft enough to allow a real hard position
to bloom fully in secure and agreed upon borders
with minimum speech-letting
and God the Lord will take pity on all Jews
and Allah on all Muslims
and the armies of GodtheLordIsraelandGodtheLordAllah
will clear away words and dung
day and night.
This is the framework
voted verified certified
for a peace-strike
to be initiated
when the time comes
right after the war.

translated from the Hebrew by Tsipi Keller