Poems by Yakir Ben-Moshe

Pic by Steve Johnson



Translated from the Hebrew by Dan Alter


Oh Yakir

In the passed-out light of night
when body
melts into flesh
letters break out of us
& gaps are fired into the poem.

Carefully, on tiptoe
silence moves about between us
& ourselves.


I met Stavit*at the beginning of spring

Every few months I fall in love
like a boy by a display window
standing without a penny
hoping to play with the toys
before they chase me from the doorway.

*The female name Stavit means “Autumn-one”


Magic Flute

& just like that, on the motorbike
in the middle of the week
at cross streets of Ha’Nevi’im & Ibn Gabirol*,
Yahali sings Mozart. Pamina. Plain & exact.
If I had a thousand ears, I would open every one wide.
I kiss that divine mouth
& promise I will never leave.
All at once a chill. End of July, eight in the evening
& the sky spread with a belt of fire, half-yellow.

*Ha’Nevi’im, “the prophets,” & Ibn Gabirol (a great Hebrew poet from 11th C. Muslim Spain) are two streets in Tel Aviv.


By the first hymn

If you ask what I miss, I’ll barely be able to lift my head.
Yesterday Zelda sat in my lap & licked her paws. Later on
I carried her toward the living room sofa. I laid her down gently
& we listened to Bach’s Cantata 144. Already by the first hymn, her eyes
closed. She bit me gently. If you ask, I’ll answer I don’t miss
anything except the deep triangle that fissures between the cat, the music and Bach.
Only the cat & I are writing now.


But I never scratch

Moran asked what it’s like to write poems.
Like an itchy leg, I said.
You rub it a little on the edge of the table
& then forget about it. But Moran wanted more,
for instance how does a poet go around in slippers
in the winter, stuck in the windpipe’s elevator:
how will he get hold of a firefighter’s ladder
that he has no legs?


About the Author

Yakir Ben-Moshe, an Israeli poet of Iraqi descent, won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature in 2012. He has published four books of poetry and one of children’s literature. He lives with his wife and children in Tel Aviv, where he is the Literary Editor of the Bialik House, as well as a teacher of creative writing. 

About the Translator

Dan Alter has published poems widely in journals including Field, Fourteen Hills, Pank, and Zyzzyva. His collection My Little Book of Exiles, published in 2022 by Eyewear Press, won the poetry prize for the 2022 Anne and Robert Cowan Writer’s Awards. He lives in Berkeley with his wife and daughter where he makes his living as an IBEW electrician. www.danalter.net