By Nadav Linial
Translated by Joanna Chen
At the edge of the garden dew hovers on the iron fence
leaving traces of rust like remembrance
And in the house someone strips artichoke spikes
down to the sweet white heart like layers of forgetfulness.
In the orchard the cells of honeycomb spill over
the hollow body of the tree like tears
And at the edge of the field rain pierces the rock
How can an image capture a name
or speech describe the voice that
broke out when the grain of the soul was
separated from the chaff of the flesh?
I loved you like I loved you.
(Today’s poem originally appeared in the collection Tikrat Haadama [Earth Ceiling] (Keshev Publishing House, 2010) and in Haaretz, and appears here today with permission from the translator.)
Nadav Linial was born in Jerusalem in 1983 and lives in Tel Aviv, teaching in the literature department at Tel Aviv University. His first book, “Tikrat Haadama” (Earth Ceiling), in which this poem appears, was published in 2010 by Keshev Publishing House and was awarded two major prizes for young poets.
Joanna Chen is a British-born poet, journalist and translator. She has written extensively for Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Marie Claire and the BBC World Service. Her poetry and poetic translations were most recently published with Poet Lore, The Bakery, and The Moon Magazine, among others. The translator of today’s poem, Joanna Chen was last week’s featured poet here on the SPS.
Editor’s Note: How can we write about love? Have words ever failed so completely as they do in this? Can a simile adequately describe love? Can a picture painted with words even begin to portray that which is inscribed upon the heart? These are the questions percolating beneath the surface of today’s poem.
For me, as a reader, today’s piece elicits a new kind of love. A love of words themselves, whether or not those words are able to capture that which they seek to describe. How heartbreaking the lyric, how lovely the images. How breathtaking to think of love as physical things, that remembrance can be left like rust, stripped away like forgetfulness. What connection I feel to the powers that be when I imagine the grain of the soul separated from the chaff of the flesh.
In the end, the poet abandons metaphor, admits there are no words that will suffice for love. “I loved you like I loved you.” This, he posits, is the best that words can do. A sparse phrase that tells us nothing and everything at once. I know what it is to have “loved you like I loved you.” Don’t we all?
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Video: Israeli Center for Libraries (in Hebrew)