Batsheva Dori — “I swear” — translated from the Hebrew by Lisa Katz

In the original Hebrew, the poem appeared in a volume of the Israeli literary magazine Helicon dedicated to the question “What is a poem?”


I’ll speak to you openly,

that is, I’ll be a postcard.

That is, I’ll send myself to you

tattooed with words, covered in stamps

with drawings of tame animals,

blurring the traces

of everything I could have written. I couldn’t,

not openly, in any case,

and anyway what isn’t written

is the thing that’s really burning

and many words can’t quench,

not even a poem pretending 

to tell the truth

the whole truth

and anything

but the truth.

Batsheva Dori (b. Israel, 1970) studied German literature, history and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and at the Freie Universität in Berlin. She is a graduate of  The College of Literary Arts in Jerusalem, a post-secondary, non-degree granting institution founded by Poetry Place. She edits poetry, teaches creative writing and for the last eight years has been teaching Hebrew literature to English-speakers. Her debut book, Soul Search, won the 2015 Helicon Ramy Ditzanny Prize for emerging authors.

Lisa Katz (b. New York, in Jerusalem since 1983) is, most recently, translator of So Many Things Are Yours, a bilingual selection of the poetry of Admiel Kosman, (Zephyr Press, 2023) and The Absolute Reader, a chapbook of verse by Miri Ben Simhon (Toad Press 2020) A chapbook of her own work, Are You With Me, was published by Finishing Line and Shihzur/Reconstruction, poetry in Hebrew translation, by the Am Oved Press.