Helen Bar-Lev, IL



Free Verse

Cyclamens and Swords

Life should be sunflowers and poetry
symphonies and four oíclock tea
instead itís entangled
like necklaces in a drawer
when you reach in for cyclamens
you pull out swords

This is a country
which devours its inhabitants,
spits them out hollow like the shells of seeds,
defies them to survive
despite the peacelessness,
promises them cyclamens
but rewards them with swords

It is here we live with
symphonies and sunflowers,
poetry and four oíclock tea,
enmeshed in an absurd passion for this land
entangled as we are in its history,
like butterflies in a net
or sheep in a barbed wire fence

Where it is forbidden
to pick cyclamens
but necessary
to brandish swords



Autumn Reluctant

The only signs of autumn
are five p.m. sunsets,
cool nights
and some yellowing leaves
it is summer as usual

The calendar hasnít
changed its pages
since August
and there is no respite
from the heat

The rains have forgotten
that we are a thirsty nation
but the kittens,
who know water
only from their bowl,
the hose
and curious glances
at the faucet,
are content

And we humans,
complaining now
of the misadventures
of nature,
will shortly complain again
that thereís too much rain





Free Verse

Night in the North

Here in the North
Night settles gently
in a crystal sky
a gradual ballet
a slow cascade
a pastel procession
observed through sleepy eyes
of hyrax, fox and deer,
apple, cherry and the many forest trees

solstice soon
Night is less
she compensates for this
by her slow approach,
deliberate, dramatic,
the actress taking her place on stage
as light reverently steps aside
and the stars applaud her entrance,
sparkling with pleasure

on the horizon
the moon rises golden, elegant
released from invisibility,
it beams in satisfaction

and here we stand looking down
from a mountain's ledge,
as Night covers fields and orchards,
fishponds and flowers
with her velvet black blanket
and all disappears beneath it

as if on command
bats and owls swoop silent
jackals howl

stars and moon light our way home
here in the North
at the edge of the world
where time is eternal
and only the cycle of
daylight and darkness
reminds us
of youth's passing



The Harbour at Hout Bay

It is hot today in Hout Bay
where minstrels in yellow
play and dance to the ghosts
of flower children,
(grandparents now),
looking down from fishing boats
on the way to see seals and whales

It is hot today
at the harbour in Hout Bay
thirty-three degrees in the shade
of the canopies of the vendorsí stalls,
where attractive African statues
of stone and wood, bead trinkets
and potato-print table cloths
call out to the tourists
to be bought

Itís the same as it was
when he was here last
in the years of loss and discordance,
the years of separate buses
and injustice

Today it is difficult to choose
which souvenirs to purchase,
from the myriad of smiling black faces

While on the wharf,
touching a turquoise ocean,
posh restaurants compete
with fish and chip places,
beneath rocky verdant mountains
glowing radiant in the sun
on a very hot day
in Hout Bay


Read Helen Bar-Lev's Correspondent Report from Israel







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