Hanging Laundry / Last Fingers

Hanging Laundry

The eighties: a little boy
hangs laundry on a fourth floor
balcony in Jerusalem. He clips the clothes
on tight, diligent in checking that nothing dangles to the ground—
vests, white shirts for Shabbat, socks,
the little boy sees underwear and is embarrassed.
Today, his mother is no longer here,
the underwear is gone,
and his own son now giggles when he hears this word.


Last Fingers

Slowly you are loosening your grip,
leaving your last fingertips
like final moments of wakefulness
and the last glance.
Already, you won’t get to hold your grandchildren
on your lap and goodnight to Mommy, there are
no more mornings.


תולה כביסה

שנות השמונים ילד חיידר קטן
תולה כביסה בקומה רביעית בירושלים
מקפיד שלא יפל דבר ארצה
גופיות חלצות לבנות גרבים
ילד קטן רואה תחתונים ומתביש
היום אמא שלו איננה
התחתונים אינם
הילד שלו כבר מצחקק מהמלה הזאת

אצבעות אחרונות

לאט לאט את מרפה
עוזבת אצבעות אחרונות
כמו רגעים אחרונים של ערות
והמבט האחרון
וכבר לא תראי נכדים שוחקים ברחבותיך
ולילה טוב לאמאל’ה
אין עוד בקר

Translator’s Note: 

During this translation process, we shared drafts with several native Hebrew and English writers for review and feedback. Every draft led to a slight modification of the work. The translations’ potential, perhaps like all revision, has felt limitless—continually opening new angles with which to consider the writing. In these two poems, Nir refers to the Prophet Zechariah, to a Jewish mystical perception of death, and casually notes the presence of religious ritual in everyday life. He does all of this in great brevity, crafting expansive and imaginative room within the empty spaces of his language.

Ross Weissman_ResizedRoss Weissman’s translations of Elhanan Nir’s poetry are forthcoming in Blue Lyra Review and Ezra. He works as a Teaching Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and studies the linguistic abilities of African gray parrots at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He is also a teacher at Kevah and a consultant for OneTable. Ross was born and raised in Wynnewood, PA.




Elhanan Nir_ResizedElhanan Nir has published three books of poetry: Begging for Intimacy (2008), The Ordinary Fire (2011) and He Who is under the Rubble (2014). He has been awarded a number of international and Israeli literary honors including: the Wertheim Prize (2008), the Ramat Gan Poetry Prize (2010), the Prime Minister’s Prize for creative work (2011), Isaac Leib and Rachel Goldberg Prize from the Jewish National Fund (2014) and the Posen Prize (2014). He is a Rabbi and teacher at Yeshivat Yitzhak Siach and Machanaim, and editor at M’kor Rishon. Elhanan lives in Jerusalem with his wife and four children.