Amir Or







The Right View


And if I would have portrayed for you

this soft bluish light

the tremulous reflection of the poplar in the water

when a convoy of ducks is crossing the pond

and beyond the circular shore line

the bushes and the bay and the green mountain

melting into the cloud-sky in the rain –


wouldn’t you search my eyes

with a prying searchlight

shoot a duck or two

down between the lines

and pray for the monster            to emerge from the sea

and gape open upon your flesh, a sky-high mouth

to redeem you

from this divine dullness?


But there’s no need. Here, I’m sketching it for you –

the beams and the nails, the convulsions, the pain

wave after wave in his butterfly’s wings –

your glowing faces         , the landscape

and finally –  his wonderful cry

the pleasure-strike hitting  into your flesh

the quivering thrill –


Just one more minute. Patience. I’m almost






Appu, the first wise man, the half-human, was squatting, sticking out his lips, in front of the ears of barley which had grown from seeds fallen from his palm.  For a moment he picked his nose thoughtfully; then stuck his finger in the wet soil, placed a seed in the hole and invented agriculture.  That’s how, say the ancient texts, Appu lay with the earth.  In one syllogism, Appu saved man from the darkness of the eternal present and gave him past and future; with one syllogism he taught people to desire what’s absent.  This is how Appu entered the cave of death and discovered in it – culture.  Therefore the proverb says,  All of our science put together is no more than a nit on Appu’s skull.


Hashi, the sixth wise man, stole barleycorn, stole the virginity of the earth priestess and stole fire from the heart of the flint mountain.  He ground the flints together; he kneaded the priestess; he baked the earth.  This is how Hashi invented bread.  In one hour, say the ancient texts, Hashi stole poverty from the rich and foolishness from the wise.  Therefore the proverb says, Is Hashi here? – Mind your pockets!  All of our wealth put together is less than Hashi’s poverty.


Goma the Blind, the eleventh wise man, was the first to discover language.  He slapped his belly, which made a dull sound, but in vain. Bread! yelled Goma until people learnt the secret of sign and signified.  That’s how, say the ancient texts, Goma pointed without a finger and saw without eyes.  In one word Goma saved man from time and place and made the will grow wings.  Therefore the proverb says, All of our texts put together are as the eyes of Goma.


Nano, the one-hundred-and-eighth wise man, looked around and saw nothing.  He listened and heard nothing.  He touched and felt nothing.  With Nano, say the ancient texts, redemption came to the world.





Leave the road here, wanderer,

Sit down among mulberries and vines,

Between water and shade, by this white stone,

Here I lie, boy and Emperor.


My face cold marble, my hands, my feet,

Clothed with ivy and fallen leaves,

I, too, failed to get far,

I, too, once walked the earth.


Leave the road here, wanderer,

Crush these wild berries in my face.



More –      


So I don’t even look at you but prefer the window.

And the eye, dappled black and gray, is zooming in


to discover the broken outlines of a growth     

whose heart is one and invisible.


Like an elephant’s dry skin, grooved with islands, ancient,

the olive tree gathers its folds


into a concavity of old shadow-sunken curves, returns

to stretch in ridges roughened by the sun’s touches.  There


above a hump of peel a baby leans toward a breast –

a rusty nail.


Beyond this I don’t look, don’t think.  How can I

think about leaves turning silver outside in the twilight,


about the sky above them, above my gaze?

How can I think about infinity and the void,   now, when you are about


to die?  And as you are about to die, how can I not think

about you?  How?  Think perhaps about loved ones


who haven’t yet been, maybe even about those who are alive?

Think that even in this       there’s still a thought about you,


and even believe it?  Can I be that strong

only because of what you’ve done to me now?  Because you’re dead?


Tomorrow I’ll write you a few words, an epitaph or at least a note –

something poetic, for example, “Here lies a dancer”.


And if this isn’t enough to bury you, I’ll elaborate for sure:

“Water me”, I’ll write on the marble. “Water me,


I am thirsty.  Water me and not with water.  Water me,

and not with clear logic.  Water me, and not with a name.


Water me and not with wine.  Water me and nothing else,

water me.  Beauty won’t do, love won’t do, God won’t do –


even this life won’t do, nor any life.  Water me,

I am thirsty”.





Here is my testimony:

about fifty, father to a six-year-old (you don’t see that),

making words into poetry, loved, hated (don’t see that), actually

a kind of wild creature, here:

soul cuts, rebellion, lips

too sensitive, all eyes

(as you see) and actually

what a mirror betrays is no deeper than what it doesn’t,

what a mirror mirrors – is a two-dimensional Being-card,

framing the appearance of the Wanted.  One portrait

glancing into a moment from the crowd of the soul;

and the soul?

What can I show you about it

which you don’t already know?  Here’s

the wheat-stalk which grew out of nothingness,


the knife that cut it from the One.



The Temptation


This was the temptation:

to rub the I against the you,

our thought against its images.

To feel.

We were there before, you remember,

without mother or father, without navel,

marked only by the first cut.

Free of weight, measurement, destruction

we wandered inside each other, dreamt worlds,


But the stakes were too low,

the risk – only a game.

Desire was action,

instantly complete.

And that’s the way (remember?) we got here too:

by a single desire,

by a glance.


And now we’re here, in the viscous air,

rubbing this in, with effort –

every single sensation, every meeting.

Our suns rise and set,

our worlds get old,

but here:

suddenly we find

a new wrinkle in our soul,

and this – is for real.  It’s real.  Finally

we can lose, destroy,

finally we are alive.

For a moment

we can even die.





The togetherness we are, which we remember even if we’ve forgotten it –
seed in the wind, cell to cell, one blood cycle,
a mouth on a breast, air roots, a cord of fog stretching from the navel –

The togetherness we are in that first knowing in a sudden encounter on the street,
in a gaze above and the heat of thigh below, limitless naked skin
within an unknown land, within the promised land, within that solace –

The togetherness we are at the bus stop, in neon-stricken offices,
carried or carrying stretchers,
around the dummy in the circle-game, around the open grave, around the dinner table –

The togetherness we are, wordless, without skin, not pausing
in the rhythm of breath that becomes one in love or fear,
through the window opposite, through a yellowing photograph, through a goodbye letter –

The togetherness we are that has no unbruised spot at all, that has no consolation,
that is nothing but longing, mother’s smell and father’s, a hand stretched
and stretched, a hand put to the mouth, and hush –

The togetherness we are, wide open yet who dares look at it,
we circle round it like butterflies round a sun,
round the heat and light of a steady sacrificial fire –

The togetherness we are that every place is full of, whose limbs we are:
don’t let’s unveil its face, for if we do – we’ll perish;
let us touch and yet not touch, see and not see, bow down before, fall silent.





When the dead are planning their next birth

cemeteries smell like spring.


They’re coming closer than dreams

roaming away from their worlds

to die into the world.


You grasp them suddenly, your body winces

when they move on past you as if you were a ghost.


The dome of the view – a blue sky, a few light clouds

is a thin curtain,  powerless to shield you.


Sounds of bells and sea-shells come close to your ears.

Every breath you take  is a presence.


In spring everything reveals itself in flesh again.

Glittering mirrors are hanging in the wind,

eyes blooming everywhere.





Two cats on the crock of cream:

one laps, one looks.

No meow is needed.

Just cats and desire.

Desire said: cat.


Two cats in the crock of cream.

By the meow you can tell cat from cream.

By silence you can tell cat from cat.

The cream said: pleasure; death; cat,



                     Translated by Macdara Woods and Theo Dorgan





Emptiness at last

Not a feather is left on

The wings of the world


                     Translated by the author












Amir Or, born in Tel Aviv in 1956, is the author of ten volumes of poetry in Hebrew. His latest books are The Museum of Time (2007) Heart Beast (2010) and Prophecy of the Madman (2012). His poems, translated into more than forty languages, have appeared in anthologies, poetry journals, as well as in thirteen books in Europe and America. Among them are Poem and Day (both published by Dedalus, U.K., 2004, 2006,); Plates from the Museum of Time (ArtAark, 2009; Dutch, Azul Press 2012); Miracle/ Milagro (Spanish-English, Urpi Editores, U.S., 2011; Spanish, Colecion Sur, Havana 2013) and  Pohara  (Loot, Serbian, Arhipelag, 2012).

Or is the recipient of Israeli and international poetry awards, including the Pleiades tribute (Struga 2000) for having made “a significant contribution to modern world poetry”, the Fulbright Award for Writers, the Bernstein Prize, the Levi Eshkol Prime Minister’s Poetry Prize, and the Oeneumi literary prize of the Tetovo Poetry Festival (2010). He was also awarded several poetry fellowships, among them fellowships from Iowa University; the Centre of Jewish-Hebrew Studies at the University of Oxford; the Literarische Colloquium, Berlin; the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Ireland; and the Hawthornden Castle, Scotland.

He translated into Hebrew eight prose and poetry books, including The Gospel of Thomas; Stories from the Mahabharata; and Limb Loosening Desire, an anthology of erotic Greek poetry. For his translations from ancient Greek he was awarded the Culture Minister Prize.

Or has studied Philosophy and Comparative Religion at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he later lectured on Ancient Greek Religion. He has taught poetry and creative writing at Helicon Poetry School, as well as at universities in Israel, Europe, the U.S., and Japan. He has published numerous essays on poetry, classic studies, and comparative religion.

In 1990 Or co-founded Helicon Poetry Society and later on served as Helicon’s Chief Editor and Artistic Director. He initiated and developed its various projects, including Helicon’s poetry journal and its series of poetry books; the Sha’ar » International Poetry Festival; and the Helicon Hebrew-Arabic Poetry School.

Or serves as editor of the Catuv poetry books series. as national editor of the international poetry magazines Atlas and Blesok, and as a national coordinator for the U.N. sponsored UPC venture, “Poets for Peace.” He is a founding member of the EACWP (European Association of Creative Writing Programs) of the international Circle of Poets and of the WPM (World Poetry Movement).






I Look Through The Monkeys’ Eyes                             Eqed Publishers, Tel Aviv 1987

Faces                                                                                            Am Oved Publishers, Tel Aviv 1991

Ransoming The Dead                                                                        Bitan Publishers, Tel Aviv 1994

So!                                                              Hakkibutz Hameuchad Publishing House, Tel Aviv 1995

Poem                                                          Hakkibutz Hameuchad Publishing House, Tel Aviv 1996

Day                                                            Hakkibutz Hameuchad / Tag publishers, Tel Aviv 1999

The Song of Tahira                                                                         Hargol Publishers, Tel Aviv 2001

The Museum of Time                                                               Hakkibutz Hameuchad, Tel Aviv 2007

Heart Beast                                                                       Keshev publishers, Tel Aviv 2010

The Madman’s Prophecy                                                 Keshev publishers, Tel Aviv 2012




El-Sha’ar Fata T’ashar El-Mujrimin       Arabic,                     Faradis publishers, Paris 1995

Miracle / נס                                            English / Hebrew,                                Poetry Ireland, Dublin 1998

ДABEИ CE, ДИШAM ЖИBABОДA (Drowning, He Breathes Living Water)        Macedonian,

The Pleiades Series of the SPE International Poetry Festival, 2000

Language Says                        English,       Poetry Miscellaneous, Chattanooga USA, 2001

Poem                                                       English,                                                Dedalus Press, Dublin 2004

Să Te Vorbim Pe Tine / בוא נדבר אותך     Romanian / Hebrew,       Vinea Press, Bucharest 2006

Wiersz (Poem)                                                Polish,                        Portret Publishers, Olsztyn 2006

Day                                                                   English,                                        Dedalus Press, Dublin 2006

Plates from The Museum of Time         English              AarkArt publishers, London-N.Y 2009

Miracle / Milagro; The Hours/ Las Horas      Spanish / English,      Urpi Editores, N.Y. 2011

Pohara   (Loot)                               Serbian,    Archipelag publishing house, Belgrade 2012

Het museum van der tijd  (The Museum of Time)    Dutch,                                  Azul Press, Maastricht 2012

Milagro   (Miracle)                               Spanish                                            Sur Editores, Havana 2013




The Gospel of Thomas (from Greek)                         Carmel Publishers, Jerusalem 1992

Limb Loosening Desire – Anthology of Erotic Greek Poetry

The Classical Books Project and Bitan Publishers, Tel Aviv 1994

Stories from the Mahabharata           Am Oved publishers and Art La’am, Tel Aviv 1998

Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto (with Akiko Takahashi), Keter publishers, Jerusalem 1998

To A Woman by Shuntaro Tanikawa (with Akiko Takahashi)

Modan publishers, Tel Aviv 1999

The Distance Between Us  by Fiona Sampson             Keshev Publishers, Tel Aviv 2008

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