The Street: Excerpts From Shlonsky’s “In Tel Aviv”

Self’s first Shabbat. Self didn’t know that no buses ran after 4 or 5 p.m. A Filipina told her, while self stood waiting in vain at the stop for Bus No. 10 on Arlozoroff.

Ying was asleep when self left the hospital. Less voluble today, but her fever’s gone: her temperature was 36.5. But lymphoblasts — or whatever you call those cells doctors count to measure the body’s immune response — were low, “only 500” said the nurse. So, self had to wear a mask all day.

Now, back at Ruppin Street. This narrow thoroughfare is like a stage: all manner of people come and go. Self likes sitting on the balcony, where she can enjoy the breeze while listening to Astrud Gilberto on her brother’s ipod. Motorcycles spurt up and down the street, doors slam, car engines sputter and turn over. And always, there are voices.

Nephew’s back from a trip to Haifa with self’s brother. All excitement: he wants to share his views of Haifa, the bomb shelters and the beautiful palace with the pink trees. Then, he shows me his newest invention: nutella with yoghurt, something he dubs a “nutgurt.” Self has to admit, it looks dee-lish.

Tomorrow self wants to go to Old Jaffa. Nephew told her it was only a 25-minute cab ride. But how much is a 25-minute cab ride? 100 shekel? Self has to husband her finances sooo carefully, especially as hubby’s tales from his office grow increasingly bleak and the economic forecasts in The Jerusalem Post spout doom.

Ah, but let’s deal with that when self returns, in another week. In the meantime, this is an excerpt from a series of poems by Shlonsky — a member of what Barbara Mann calls the first generation of Hebrew modernists in Palestine — from the series called “In Tel Aviv”:

Street lamps before evening falls
Ah– who lit you, yellowed eyes?
For what did you bring, empty auto, untimely,
a strange gust to the wine house?

Hackerbrau pictures on the walls,
overturned glasses on the bar.
And in a neglected nook a clock drowses,
and a Jew asleep at the counter.

I, a Jew, came for no reason,
I, a Jew, returning home,
an empty car shifts another moment,
and silence returns to what it was.

And a snoring shofar roars,
A scratch in the skin of silence.
And only streetlights still throw
Yellow rings to the earth.

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