Signals From Creation's Womb

poems

By Oded Mizrachi

79 pages
Cover: Yehudit Ben-Yosef
Translated from the Hebrew by E. Kam-Ron
Printed in 2008
The title for this collection, Signals from Creation’s Womb, was suggested by Rabbi Ginsburgh and is similar to the title of Mizrachi’s first collection of poetry, Tza’akah be’Chalal ha’Panui (lit. “A Shout in the Empty Space”), destroyed by the writer. According to Kabbalah, the world came into being in the apparently empty space that resulted from the contraction of Divinity. However, in truth the Creator fills the whole universe in a concealed way. In Kabbalah, this “empty space” is also called the “womb of creation” and the connotations of pregnancy and birth are certainly appropriate to the content of Mizrachi’s poems.
These poems require the non-religious or Western reader to assume an unaccustomed perspective; but they look out on a very real, and often quite modern, landscape. And the picture received is of high resolution.
Esther Cameron

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
Esther Cameron, a convert to Judaism, was first drawn toward Judaism by the poetry of Paul Celan, on whom she wrote her dissertation for the University of California, Berkeley. After converting to Judaism she came to Jerusalem, where she studied for some months in Orthodox women’s yeshivot and where she lived from late 1979 to 1990. During her years in Israel a collection of her poems, Or Mudrag (A Gradual Light), was translated by the late Simon Halkin and published by Hakibbutz Hameuchad; her memoir The Autoanalysis of a Golem was translated by Ruth Blumert and also published by Kibbutz Hameuchad. In 1983 she began writing an epic on the ecological crisis, The Consciousness of Earth, partly with the help of the Peter Schwiefert prize which she received in 1985; this work recently appeared serially in The Bellowing Ark and is forthcoming with Multicultural Books. Her works also include The World’s Last Rose: Sonnets to the Prince of Twilight, and Rim of Gold, a cycle of sonnets on the weekly Torah portion. She also edits a poetry magazine, The Deronda Review.

Excerpt

ONE WHO SEES A GREAT LIGHT*

for Reuven Ben-Yosef written during the year after his passing

As the days pass,
Reuven,
the pain becomes paternal
and the grave a great light.

And you
go beyond the speed of light
in words and letters
and melody infinite.

Reuven,
you recede in space
from the lowly world that did not see
your light in its days.

You detach yourself more each moment
from a world of narrow horizons
like a grave,
from the mystery of contraction
that chained you to your abyss

and pressed from you in pain
the holy anointing oil
with which you shone for us
in the restrained wisdom
of your poems, precise

as the laws of purity
in the days to come.
You were a poem of great love
moving through all your days
to all the directions of heaven.

You knew how to travel
in the chariot of poetry
from war to love,
till you returned from the regions of space
to simple faith
in the here and now.

Some forget you like a picture,
but others open you
like a narrow door
on the threshold of the infinite
to the wonder of space.

To the great light.

*According to the inner teachings of the Torah, the name “Reuven”
means “one who sees a great light.” [Author’s note]


Translated by E. Kam-Ron from "Lights Of Chaos In Disposable Cups"


SARAH, MY DAUGHTER, LOOKS AT ME


Sarah, my daughter, looks at me
From a framed picture
From a frozen past.

The graceful ears of wheat beside her,
The balcony in Jerusalem
And its spectacular mountain landscape,

And especially that restrained joy
That looks out of her brown eyes,
Are not figments of my imagination.

Nor her wise smile
Cooperating with the photographer,
Nor cloven skies.

Sarah my daughter is basically
A simple, innocent child,
And only this lightning that gaped to the depths

Exposed something wondrous in her
That shines in the sunset
Of our daily illusion.

Translated by E. Kam-Ron from "The Strictly Kosher Superconscious"