The God of Secretaries by Yudit Shahar, translated by Aviya Kushner

The god of secretaries likes them looking the part:
making a secretary’s face in front of the mirror*,
click-clacking at dawn to the station,
stuffing herself into a bus to a maximum-length day at minimum wage
vanishing into office space oh army of shadows of the Holy One Blessed Be He.

The god of secretaries likes them looking away,
to the center of his stomach: Nescafé two sugars
a little milk

The god of secretaries likes them dimmed,
a quiet unclear expression on their faces, muttering:
right now of course right now it better be here
right now in my hand, please.

Oh god of secretaries what do you
understand in secretaries, in supervisors,
in memoranda when she wants to burst
out in the strangest dance but the child at home oh her child
God of secretaries, you don’t understand anything about secretaries,
because she still climbs the stairs to class
in a skirt too short for her size
takes her hand and barely covers the underwear
that Mother did not wash.
God, what do you understand in underwear?
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.