Eran Tzelgov (born 1974, Be’er Scheva) is a poet, translator, editor, scholar and cultural activist.
In 2005 he co-founded the critically acclaimed poetry and criticism magazine Daka (2006-2012).
In 2012, following the social unrest in Israel, Tzelgov co-founded the independent publishing house Raav in an attempt to challenge the too homogenized nature of the Israeli literary canon.
He is a frequent speaker in academic and non-academic conferences on poetry, translation and the political-social realm.
He is also a Master Jedi and has various super-powers. One of his superpowers is counting sheep without falling asleep.
His third poetry collection Pro[te]za was published in summer 2019. Participants at the Meridian Czernowitz XIII, September 4th, 2022, Chernivtsi.
(Poems under the effect of Hebrew -i.e., not translations per sē)
These texts are not real translations – as the title suggests they are original works inspired or directed by hebrew poems.
The True Love of the Poet
Over one million words in the Oxford English dictionary
And not one to describe the way
The Sunlight trickles through the treetop’s leaves
Or the early awakening only to hear the sweet birds sing.
I close the dictionary
As I whisper in your ear:
“Gökotta”* and then “Komorebi.”**
You smile in your sleep as if you understood it
All my life.
* Gökotta – Swedish. To wake up early to hear the first birds.
** Komorebi (木漏れ日) – Japanese. The sunshine through the leaves.
The Human Experience
To Chris Abani
You promised a poem and you came
Just as I was tucking the kids in bed.
You show me a few words:
Fear, loneliness, passion, heartache
Of a man my age, same status
From their side of the border,
As far as the eye can see – from over there.
I try to unwrinkle the words, straighten them,
To peel off the personal and reach the universal,
Trying to uncover the human beyond the man,
Something that will speak to me, nonetheless.
‘This is not even a man,’ you say, ‘it’s a woman,
A thousand years ago,
From that continent, over the sea.’
Shocked I raise my eyes from the words
To see you trembling and crying.
No sirens, no explosions, only sheer silence.
They say it is all over.
‘Your nose. It is bleeding,
Again,’ you say, suggesting
I’d use the poem.
Long Legged Cry
Once upon a rhyme (1974)
Oh, I want to be there to be there oh I want
gushing from the hip like knee raps
like sweet veins of a strange gland to be
crushed city to go under
siege no other word could
disturb the men of war, the men of god
and our own best and oh well and very good
so let it show, let it blow, let the poem
gloat like a thousand stars, let them know
the rude awakening of otherness
without the sweetness of the bread,
fresh coffee’s dark odor, the see through color of the key
to memory’s own revolving door which will not let go
like spells circling a madcap’s bed
badly dying just to die like this to beg to differ
and to fall, I know, let’s go
to dream perchance to sleep now and nevermore to rise sweet-sorrow-eyes to
the promised gland, a stranger’s hand, oh inflaming land
yes, yes I know, I’m lost, we lose
this is the house of god their house of blues
over the rainbow and far they look
long days and hollow nights of white they howl
by the vineyard once their own and gone for long
while others won’t give, just raise a toast to live a life
oblivious without a glue too cold and yet the dead are simply laid
marooned below the crown and
down, and down and down the drips of blood soak the land
from empty eyes to full of shame who will
ever take the blame of
how we stood still cold as ice
wrapped in the comfort of godly lies
when we could rhyme milk’sweetaste with one own’s body and mother’s breast
Where do we go now? Twice you asked
And there I knew not to hear at once.
Les Choses*: A Zen Travel Log
We did not choose what, not to breath nor to live.
We did choose to get up and walk, we chose even though,
we chose yet to love, for our hair to stand still,
We chose to cut breath short, sweet sticky sweat lore,
To open skin-pores for citrus’ sweet glow, to burn, of desire,
Of sick allergies as once before, to the stench of dead fish
On smelly shores, at the tips of our fingers, of smooth skin,
In the sun – nevermore,
To iron one’s wrinkles, to cherish the scars – yes, even more!
To conquer new worlds, to push in, to let go, to exit w/out coming,
To pick pockets and so, not to skip over lines, but
To sing not one word, with no voice, not to cry - no remorse,
We chose names: to scream out, to step on, to vomit, get ready and go,
We chose the remote, we chose fear over love,
We chose gestures, first moves, constellations above,
We chose double-click-to-confirm,
We chose yes-we-are-we-are-here, we maintain, we the people, we affirm:
furniture, maps, curtains, the perfect smile for a picture,
a knock on the door,
We chose a room with a view, the shortest line, the tail and a queue,
We rode over waves, we mapped land while we longed for the sea,
We chose Yes! Yes! Sweet bourgeoisie,
narcissists bears of laziness stare,
such we are:
We chose here over there,
We chose nude, new positions, to stand, no poise, no tied hands,
We chose to turn off, to tune in, turn on and drop out, of the lies,
of memory's own fault, nearly as flies, neatly to die,
We chose to forget,
not to ask,
not to give, not to let, not to write, no regrets.
We did not choose to be,
We did not choose to not, yet we will, we'll decay, we’ll even die,
We will rot, to millions and billions of particles more,
worms, sweet scent of our death, bits, bolts and what not,
o become the smell of the earth, barking dogs, passing errors, phrases and words,
tears into rain, no more poems,
melting snow, new options to choose from, new ones to let go,
Now we wait ever more...
*Choses = French. “Things”.
On Life and Art
A day after the arson attack on the Jewish-Arab School
On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
In Rome far away,
God raises extends a finger to Adam and it all came to be
In one single word and a full color nudity:
They call it – The Creation of Man.
On the floor of a nursery
In Beer-Sheba, my home town,
My son raises his small hand to a fully-covered nanny in hijab,
As he names the colors of the rainbow in Arabic and Hebrew:
I call it – The Creation of Hope.
The Calming Sea
Can you remember that you have forgotten?
You did. You have forgotten because you
Are well, even better than that:
The sun is right, keeping you off the
Neon light, and the street is safe:
It is people and windows reflecting the smile
Upon hearing your name,
Police cars passing by never to leave salty scars on you.
And the sea? The sea is freedom –
Not tearing you apart from the ones you love. You have forgotten -
You have forgotten how the sea was torn apart for you when you escaped,
How the police were looking for your grandmother,
How windows can shatter like crystals at night,
How the street is a house when no other,
How to freeze upon hearing your name even on a sunny day,
How the earth trembles and shakes with your every step
Like the sea, the same sea, the dark calming sea –
Deep and calm like forgetting.
And now that you have remembered,
(Read at an Anti-Trump rally in English and anti-Regev rally in Israel)
“It is bitter,” she said.
And I swear
I could drink her all night
And ever after.
These sweet memories haunt me
Like dead dogs haunting a homeless angel –
Never letting go
Never stepping down
I tasted bitterness as sweet as
Like these dogs
I try to sneak
To infiltrate the language barrier
Armed with my empty hands
And my dried-out tongue
Only to get lost
As you mumble me to sleep:
“La rosa es una rosa es una rosa”
The barking wakes me up
– There’s my reason for being jealous of the dogs:
They sound the same, wherever you are -
Even the mate is bitter without you.
The Loose Ends
Life is great:
The skies are blue
As only few planes flyby
The mountains are green
Unscarred by tanks
Fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market
While the minefields are far north
I cut the tender meat
Forking a bloody piece
Smiling as I chew and
Sip the good wine you found at that small shop
I pass a hand on my clean-shaven cheek and say
“Ah, this war is great for my skin.”
We clean the table
We sort the garbage
The music is playing our playlist
No ads, no news, just the tunes we love
We might have sex
We might read political poems
This war is great for the skin,
I am shining on the outside
And even the doctor promised
There are few months left
No one can tell
It is not visible
Perhaps maybe only in the corner of the eye
And only if one insists
But perhaps it is only a part of my
In Chernivtsi Eran Tzelgov read his poems in Hebrew as part of MERIDIAN CZERNOWITZ XIII, they were translated into Ukrainian. I thank him for sending me some of his poems in English for the "Zeitzug". Milena Findeis