poem for when poetry is not enough

29 january | 24 shvat

you think of poetry as life-giving nectar
or some kinda IV that you inject yourself with each time you’re close to death in order to keep yourself going just long enough until you write the next one

but what about the times when poetry is not enough when you’re cold & broke & lying awake in bed fearing for your people
& meanwhile everyone is trying to assume what you mean by “your people” : each assumption at first a fly around your face that you swat away,
but slowly now they become knives and rocks
only in your head of course,
so that your anger out loud is unreasonable

& poetry is not enough
when you pick up a handful of stars & they’re all written upon delicately in her hand with her reasons for living when poetry is not enough:
avocados
hands & feet
menstruation
the moon
bein’ broken n’ gettin’ fixed
& yet when you see her it’s nothing but despair and you long to throw the stars into the fire
as if stars are anything but burning gas in the sky anyways, literally

& poetry is not enough so you try to remember happy things like your reasons to live not written on stars in the sky or in your hands but here are some,
like walks on the beach and inside jokes & the times when you feel energized after a protest instead of beaten down
& even just the old standby of chopping vegetables while ofra haza’s in the background all like בוא אלי מוכר פרחיייייים
& even that’s not enough so you imagine a different song your dear friend from far away singing קח אותי playing the guitar & you watch your own response because he doesn’t have video chat capabilities but besides you’re just really glad to hear his voice
& for now you shut off the music because it’s hard to imagine one song when you’re listening to another and yet still

poetry is not enough.

when people are dying in the streets in cairo in falasteen & hell people are dying in the streets of miami & lake worth & you try to say كن مع الثورة but the words just don’t come out right & you feel hopeless to do anything to help anyone
& g-d forbid you have to choose your priorities because amichai will read back to you as if he’s interviewed you just to write poetry he’ll say

לבך לעולם לא ילמד לאמד מרחקים.
הרחוק ביותר בשבילו הוא מעץ הקרוב ביותר,
שפת המדרכה, פני האהובה.

& you’ll wonder for a moment why is it that you as a queer mizrahi women are turning to amichai for comfort & maybe someone asks you in a dream & you cry out in your defense “but there’s nothing else in the library!” and that someone says “no excuses”

& when poetry is not enough you valorize the joint popular struggle in all its glory & all the collectives and grassroots initiatives around the world & try to think for a moment of all the material advances people have made as if that is not also poetry but you get discouraged anyways because you can think only of the spies and backstabbers and even the people who wreck the movement without meaning to just by virtue of taking up too much space and not listening when someone calls you out

& at this time when poetry is not enough you wish for a giant to come and hold you in her huge warm arms & tell you it’s ok, take all the time you need, you will heal and the world will be ready for you when you come back to it, just stay right here for now and don’t worry
& you get tears in your eyes just thinking of those words & writing them down
but then she doesn’t come & so you look up

& now there’s a lightness in your back & a clearness in your mind which comes from writing poetry & it might not be enough but it will do for now
so you can fill that space with other stuff & tell yourself צדק צדק תרדוף & keep going until you have to write the next poem
& so on.

—-
translations:
בוא אלי מוכר פרחיייייים: bo elai mocher haprachiiiiiiiiim, come to me flower seller [you can listen to the song here.]
קח אותי: kach oti, take me [you can listen to the song here.]
كن مع الثورة: kun ma3 a-thawra, stay with the revolution
צדק צדק תרדוף: tzedek tzedek tirdof, justice justice you shall pursue

לבך לעולם לא ילמד לאמד מרחקים.
הרחוק ביותר בשבילו הוא מעץ הקרוב ביותר,
שפת המדרכה, פני האהובה.
your heart will never learn to judge distances.
the thing farthest from it is the nearest tree,
the pavement’s edge, the lover’s face.
[translation by ruth nevo, from the bilingual edition of travels]

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About mirit mizrahi

artist, writer, activist, giant. זהירות! אני מזרחית
This entry was posted in mizrahi identity, palestine-israel, poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

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