My Father and God by Yudit Shahar, translated by Aviya Kushner

My father and God
used to make us stand straight on Shabbat eve,
during prayers
and woe to the sister
who changed her posture, who didn’t straighten up right.
God and father used to spill an unholy bottle
that stood next to the silvery kiddush cup
engraved with a map of the State,
and a cluster of grapes.

In synagogue God and the other fathers
wanted us sitting in the back
waving a painted lace fan made in Spain
murmuring and choking from sweat and the vapors of eau de cologne
turning pages with perspiring fingers in dim light,
tying a handkerchief tight, sticking a cold metal hairpin into the skull,
and staring at the males and at God breaking their anger in a burst of salvation
facing the closed doors of the Ark.

I used to run away to my God,
who sews flowers like tiny buttons
that would suddenly burst in orange and maroon and incense
of the Garden of Eden,
in the bark of dried roses,
lying on heavy earth,
supervising tiny rolling yellow leaves,
barely revealed from the belly of the ground,
fragile facing a firmament that is rising up, cold
and protesting
I am here
I am here
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.