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Stinky smells remind me of you: Poems by Nano Shabtai

Nano Shabtai reading (photo: Ezra Levy)

In honor of International Woman’s Day. I chose to bring you poetry by an Israeli woman. Choosing was the hardest part. I remember an American poet, an extraordinary woman, who complained to me that poetry in the States was “a man’s business” and women were often expelled from the inner circles.

The revival of Hebrew poetry, on the other hand, relies heavily on female talents. The poet Rachel Bluwstein, who made her home in the Galilee early in the 20th century is one of its major pioneers. The brilliant Leah Goldberg was a dominant figure of the Tel Aviv scene of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. During the 1960s and ’70s, the tone of Hebrew poetry was practically transformed by the works of Dahlia Hertz, Yona Wallach and Dahlia Rabikovitch.

Today’s major voices are also women’s voices, from Agi Mishol to Efrat Mishori. I chose a member of an even younger generation: the poignant voice of Nano Shabtai. I first learned of her work close to five years ago, when her collection “The Iron Girl” was published to great acclaim. She had since published a volume of plays, and is an active and important player is Tel Aviv’s currently bustling literary scene.

.

I Smoke Cigarettes and Practice Yoga

Kika says it extracts a lot of the poison and that my aura is clean
Her real name:
Hila
(Kika is a nickname)
Together we did some trikonasana parshvakonasana.
Poem –
Shasana.

I said that the asana
is worth more than any verse
and that my bones no longer stick out
like they did when we were kids
so that only because I could not mend the broken pieces
I now have to write poems
and that the word “disaster”
is stuck like a bone in the throat.

Once upon a
November
in the corridor
under the saggitarius sign
with happiness
rising
cloud-and-fatherless
only the fig passing
from mom to her mom.

I was born the following day
and Kika – one day before.

She’s strong
I am flexible
Maybe I am flexible and she is flexible
and strong
Maybe she also thinks sometimes that I am strong or could be
if I practiced enough or practiced
as I aught to.

We did couple-excercises together
and then we both
Blush
and are charming.

(But when, when will I finally be,
mother?)

.

Stinky Smells

Stinky smells remind me of you
How can it be
that I love you so much
and stinky smells remind me of you

.

My Wedding in the 18th Century

I will not wear this dress
I cheated on him
Don’t be embarrassed
He forgave me
I told him it was a farewell ceremony from my demon.
Now I’ll say a few words in the memory of father
Father, after you died mother became colder and colder
and I became more and more transparent
Her poisoned words entered the body with the food
until I stopped eating
and fainted
and your brother George then stepped into my room
Not you, not you
Now they’re singing, they don’t want to hear.
“Let’s drink tea with lemon and with milk
Let’s sit and gossip
about her, about him.”
George sits me by the fireside on the white rug
George draws me
George chews cashew into my mouth
George makes me addicted to his mouth
George makes me addicted to words made of saliva
George enters my body
George burns you all from inside me.

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Illustrations: Eran Mendel