I am Yudit, granddaughter of Rabbi Yuda,
who sailed upon his longings in a ship from Istanbul
only to die in the shack where I was born.
With no separation from the world,
on floors spread over sand,
I rose up and fell with the earth’s breath;
I asked the twisted roots
turning water and light
into lemon-flesh and plum-sweetness.
I craved cats’ wails
and doves’ calls and I hungered
for the drumming of rain on shaky clay roofs.
I knew the desire of birds flying away.
I swelled with the victory of the wadi
blackening and swallowing all,
and I didn’t know where to
Yudit Shahar grew up on the border of Sh’chunat HaTikvah, or “the neighborhood of hope,” in Tel Aviv. She is the author of the poetry collections This Is Me Speaking (2009) and Every Street Has Its Own Lunatic (2013), and recently won the prestigious Prime Minister’s Prize in Hebrew Literature. Her first collection, This Is Me Speaking, won five separate literary prizes in Israel.
Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home in New York. She is the author of The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible (Spiegel & Grau / Random House, 2015), a finalist for The National Jewish Book Award and the Sami Rohr Prize. She is The Forward’s language columnist and an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, and was a Howard Foundation Fellow in 2016-17.