I am a poet exiled to fields of colour,
seed words in the furrow of the brush
sprout rhymed lines upon soft canvases
fertilise them with pigments,
make pictures grow.
I am a painter exiled from fields of colour.
I assemble words fallen from heaven
like rebel angels looking for salvation;
I arrange urgent letters on restless sheets,
build spectacles there.
I am a woman exiled from districts of love
to a land of rain colours, to sign-filled spaces.
I am doomed to collect in a charity box
scraps of spirit from reality’s back rooms
to satisfy my soul.
Summer night over Jerusalem:
In the sky a gloomy plane,
snarling like a lizard in the air,
a mutant dinosaur.
Emergency vehicles tear
the dark night apart with their howling
on a road illumined
to the point of desperation.
The warehouses of suppression are
and scatter in a lake of memories.
Fear holds you
and stretches like the cosmos.
My body is sunk
in the fat flesh of night.
Decorating space, the stars
are sequins on an eastern veil.
It is hard to be comforted by their glow.
Their cold appearance will absorb my signals
after a hundred light years
and then it will be too late.
THE BENCH OF HOLMAN HUNT
(the video is here)
I am sitting on the bench of Holman Hunt
in front of the Convent of Elijah.
Lifting up my eyes unto the hills,
I draw Herodion
and the outskirts of Bethlehem.
Herod’s tomb is engraved
in the landscape.
Weeping Rachel, find me a place to live.
Miriam is in the barn,
holding a baby to her breast,
this time a Palestinian baby.
And the Magi are coming from the United Nations,
from the third world, Norway and America
and they adore
the olives and the history
and take a photograph, a souvenir
of a little Philistine, a boy
who has not yet learned how to throw stones.
LIGHT OF THE LILIES
The water lilies have been anointed with yellow.
Red dots are flowers.
The water: blue and violet brush strokes;
and different kinds of green.
Your painted lilies, Monet, are flowers of evil.
Between the spots of colour
the unknown tiptoes
up to me,
allows the imps of Bosch
to complain before my eyes,
to tickle my restraint,
and when they leave,
their double meaning giggles through the air
like the Cheshire Cat in times gone by.
I weave among
the touches of colour
a leaf of light
upon the water.
DEATH OF THE KING
The glamour of his medals
casts gloom on Arab princes
All the days of the king
lie in velvet, on parade.
Phantom riders on noble
white horses float over
phrases from the Koran:
we belong to Allah
and to Allah we return.
The sound of a volley
of shots. In the mouth of
the grave, ‘El Malik’, the gate
of Eden, comes the Order
of Kaffias to bend the knee.
A whim of fate has intermingled
world leaders, bare heads
and covered, heads of nations:
spots on the screen, running
to and fro, like sperm destined
to be wasted, semen of
giants, seeds of royalty,
an oriental harem
of the most powerful men,
screens veil women inside
their palaces, they whisper
in elemental voices:
oh, what a concentration
of resources. Shepherd girls,
come quickly to the well,
hurry now, kneel at the mouth
of the well, pump their semen.
And then they lick their lips.
Miriam Neiger-Fleischmann, Death Of The King, And Other Poems
Translated from the Hebrew by Anthony Rudolf and Miriam Neiger-Fleischmann.
Shoestring Press, 2017
Cover image: still frame from ‘Wandering’, a video by Lior Neiger (Script by Miriam Neiger-Fleischmann). This video accompanied her exhibitions in Budapest and in Komarno, Slovakia where she was born. The first part also shows Jerusalem where she lives, and Komarno. The full video can be watched here.
From the Introduction:
… Neiger-Fleischmann – born into a family of Holocaust survivors in a border town divided between Hungary and Slovakia, and raised in Israel – experiences the world [this way]: in and through the warp and weft of exile, which is perforce a kind of “translation.”
Even in these fine English versions – a collaboration between Neiger-Fleishmann and the British translator and poet Anthony Rudolf – the poems in Death of the King appear to transcend both their source and target language. … the poems feel drawn from the matrices of Neiger-Fleischmann’s own visual grammar: canvases richly patterned, often evoking umbral, palimpsestic cityscapes sleeping light, territories intensely bodily and deeply mysterious, places at once political and personal, thrillingly abstract and thrillingly physical. Whether overtly ekphrastic or not (the collection pays homage and refers to a myriad of painters and paintings), the poems in Death of the King possess a somatic materiality that is sown/sewn – that rends, mends, and bodies forth – from the page with a visceral psychological heft.
– Lisa Russ Spaar, Charlottesville, Virginia 2016
The works of art are by the author.
Article edited by Silvia Pio, who has translated some of the poems into Italian (see here)
Miriam Neiger-Fleischmann in Margutte: Trees of the mind