Two poems by Raquel Chalfi in translation

by tsipi keller

On the Shore, Tel Aviv, Winter 1974 

A crocodile cloud swallowed a cloud-cloud.

All is clogged

and where did the war go?

The pier is painted yellow and red

with the inscription: Tel Aviv.

The drums of the depths are indifferent.

In the sky shadowy figures

slowly go berserk.   An infinite wrestling arena

in slow-motion takes.

A crane rises above the luxury hotel

Hilton. And where did the war go.

A crocodile cloud swallowed a cloud-cloud. Where

did the war go. Up    in the depths

soft clouds make love to planes.

The air fills the lungs

with spiky salt and laughter.

The sun, a fading photograph.

Shorebirds grayly peck the sand.

The sea — its muscles groan.

A lone woman, a synthetic kerchief

on her head     what is she

in face of a thunderstorm.

The diving board, too, is painted orange.


An old woman, her lips attempt: 

                                                   He was an angel

                                                   He was an angel



From the Songs of Crazy Dolores


I am the child

above whose bed

Mexican gods laugh


Seasons go by, a sun reigns

and pyramids do not turn upside down


There are many antiquities in the land of Mejico

and I am the smallest among them



I love Beli-Belik-Boom

(once I called him Le-Le-Le)

and I'll always love Le-Le-Le.

But Belik does not understand

what love is.


Belik is a strange man.

He wrote me a poem of love

yet refused to kiss my bare soul

under the huppa. It was a huppa

                                      of a parachute 

and he jumped with it out of there


leaving me to freefall.


Of course I arrived before him.


I managed somehow

to break my bones.

And I have a few memories left.


When I was broken

and a memory only

Belik would kiss me on my cheek (Le-Le-Le)

every evening.

Later he swapped me

for a cat.

When he photographed me

he would photograph me in double


Somehow I managed to appear in the picture.




I am made of glass

and my father is a glazier

I tell you I'm as

transparent as a yogurt jar

without the yogurt

try to look through me    just try

and you'll see that you can see everything

lean your head on me    children

and your noses will be squashed flat

and your mouths will be pulled

like a down-in-the-mouth blowfish

take a look inside me I'm transparent


I am made of glass

because my daddy is a glazier

and my mother dons a tulle dress 

take a look children take a look

it will do you good

only be a little cautious please

yesterday someone looked through me too hard

and saw as far as the Bali islands

and he rode a blue whale    in the Bali islands

and then my glass broke

into a zillion shards

and I was pricked and pricked and pricked

and I was all glass glass

in a zillion red puddles 


Dolores jumps rope

Dolores plays hopscotch


She looks into a kaleidoscope

tube      builds

broken tunnels in a dream

Dolores lives her life backward

swings on a rusty groaning gate

looks for puppies to adopt

dead chicks to revive

diamonds buried in trashcans

in order to help refugees

hiding in a tunnel under

Keren Hakayemet Boulevard

on the other side of the world


Dolores jumps rope

always jumps rope

to the other side of the world



I am Dolores-not-Dolores

I am in the dream of some god


It seems to me that my life is a life

but really it is only 

a particle in the dream

of a sleeping god

who dreams me with love




I have to pinch myself hard

because the hour when images switch in his brain

is near                     


Yes Dolores  no Dolores  yes Dolores  no

Dolores  birds  Dolores sea   Dolores

a loose shoelace    Dolores a broken blue glass    a milky

way bathing a world

a white horse lost in the plain

tunnels inside time

time going    backward

a snake shedding its skin    a mobile of broken galaxies

suspended on fine transparent fiber


I have to pinch myself hard

because the hour when images switch in his brain is near

I must watch myself so I don't sink

in a dream

when he dumps me from his brain

like a crumb dropping

from indolent fingers