These poems were translated by Vivian Eden.
Tayyib studies literature at Tel Aviv University.
He has a knapsack with a grammar book and a composition
about Mahmoud Darwish.
The knapsack is transparent because this summer
with any other bag
in the X-ray eyes of all policemen he is marked
as hiding a bomb.
"Even this," his father says, "Inshallah,
will soon come out in the wash," and hangs on
the timeline clothes from which a stain
of shame has been rinsed. But
life has to go to the market and he goes with it
to buy olives in vernacular Arabic and write
poems about them in literary Arabic.
Meanwhile, Tayyib is entirely visible. The taut skin
on his arms does not hide the knots of muscle,
the flexible cartilage in the space between
the bones and the blood vessels in which
the swimmer of despair can crawl drunken
to the shore where the lifeguards have hung
a black flag.
My grandmother didn't let us leave rice in the plate.
Instead of telling us about hunger in India and the children
with swollen bellies, who would have opened mouths wide
for each grain
she with a screeching fork would drag all the leftovers
to the center of the plate and nearly in tears
tell us how the uneaten rice
would rise to the heavens to complain to God.
Now she's dead and I imagine the joy of the encounter
between her false teeth and the angels
with the flaming sword at the gates
of rice paradise.
They will spread, beneath her feet, a carpet of red rice
and the yellow rice sun will beat down
on the white bodies of the Garden's lovelies.
My grandmother will spread olive oil on their skin and slip
Them one by one into the cosmic pots of God's kitchen.
Grandma, I feel like telling her, rice is a seashell that
and like it you rose from the sea.
The water of my life.
In Reply To The Question:
When Did Your Peace Begin?
On the wall of the café by the immigrants' township
Ben Gurion's hair blowing in the wind
hung by the sweet dough-ball face of Oum Kulthoum
in the same kind of frame.
This was in 1955 or '6, and I thought if they hang
a man and a woman side by side
they must be a bride and groom.