The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2022

All Issues
MARCH 2022 Issue


Six of Swords

It’s hard to swallow what do you do with the water or vomit it out
& repeat: my body is a wonderful self-healing machine!
And yet the dreams of water: my shoes fall into the canal
or the river between my home and the hospital thick with a toxic metal alloy.
If you get on the barge it will take you to the lighthouse.
The rain came down hard on the sun-umbrellas,
the man with an accordion didn’t play for us.
If I concentrate I can remember the feelings of confusion
losing my shoes like outside a temple.
I’ve forgotten the elaborate formulas for a Buddhist miscarriage
something to do with burning the name, throwing sticks for fortunes,
and the koi in the river were ravenous.
A woman tells me she can’t follow these turns,
her chicken defrosting in the sink
mess of cats and cigarette smoke your
poems should get dirty W. told me,
sent me questing, sent me with my Auge-shawl
waking up before dawn
go be a supplicant.
Her face is turned away from us.
We don’t know if she is cold or grieving.
Shrouded and mournful cast adrift at sea.
Blue trees in the blue dawn distance.
I’m always ready to stab this boat with swords for example the woman with the sink
telling me I don’t know how to swim.
Oh the gods have been bad to you the gods have been very bad.
You sat on the friendship bench and had nothing to say for yourself
and thus were cut off from friendship.
Each sword holding back primordial floods,
the six worlds created before this one.
The doctors recommended a café downstairs, but go no further
The doctor-as-cyclamen how would she flourish here with her swirling silver hair?
How would she meet you underwater?
But now I am on dry land.
Four figures lift me in the air even if I can’t move my arms.
The chairs here are fragile constructions
have a flimsiness to them.
Why do you lean so hard
you’re pushy
he said to me,
that boy with the curly red hair,
saw him years later on Ben Yehuda St., Sat. afternoon,
with less teeth talking about the sanctity of Shabbes
all stinking of booze.


Because they are pointed and exact like nipples or tears or drops of blood on snow

Ashenputtel made of clay or she’s made of felt open her up there’s a mouse inside

something soft instead of all this rage.

She hid in a tree asked the bird, asked the fox.

What did you ask? To be believed.

She emptied the tea kettle the bottom of it black in the water.

I thought it would be limestone.

The dress was the color of coral peach.

Didn’t you want a white dress?

Where is the bride? An old woman asked.

The circle of trees said tell me your secrets but they are not mine, she said.

Here is a dust-pan I can sweep you off the floor

if you come back in pieces.

The sheets were white like laundry day at the river

wet to cool her fever.

Here is some heavy cross-hatched paper spit out

the blueberries in the shower.

In the tea pot was a fish. It was a beautiful German name.

The key was buried in the bread only she knew when she saw

heavy brown bread twist your ankle on this trick.

At the sanatorium someone had been digging tunnels, high towers

swayed, Adam and Eve

pressed between his thumb and finger.

   Under every deep/ a lower deep opens… Hafez quoted by Norma Cole

It can be passed on in the DNA: you order less at restaurants, there are shortages, or you
order more to compensate, suddenly finding yourself alone at a table, surrounded by plates.
You follow psalmic routes through the city or google maps doesn’t line up right: the shadow
of the valley. My enemies surrounded me. Bus routes & you had a feeling this train route
goes nowhere good, there was a bad feeling in the air. Down into the stomach, belly flip
flop. Missing your own life, missing your graduation, late to your wedding. Overslept your
death. There is a procession being filmed on a phone. Someone is holding it. It comes out
choppy: people shouting, a pig or a breast, ecstasy or burning. Stay seated it will start again.
The screening. The prayer: atonement and sin, then atonement. If you stay seated it will start
running again. Underneath the plunge pool there is another plunge pool. He says I got to go,
meaning take care of the inheritance or move his bowels. She spoke English before the war
that was the language they had in common, she in a knotted tie, plus uniform, plus trench
coat, plus the different names in different languages. You don’t see me. You rode the
darkness like a giant horse into the frame or collapsed in dramatic storms of Eastern
European purple. Your father offered a me a fish head on a plate. I don’t know how to eat
the eye but I will eat the eye if necessary, enter the massage parlor if necessary, pay cash tell
the story, brass tacks, float your boat. In the water it is possible to drag your body more
easily, is that what I’ve been practicing? Must kick my feet too arms in tandem like a
windmill. The gift is the possibility of motion, after all. Atonement and sin, then atonement.
If you stay seated it will start running again.

Collage #1 [Celadon & Ox-blood]

You trip on little gold squares the color of pince-nez glasses the color of gold teeth

a light tickle in the lake from Father River what bubbles up black ash in the teakettle

sweat melted our faces down like we were made of candlewax

all the Bio markets as if they still have the noble savage somewhere and they eat what he gives them

the king of swords in the police station buzzed me

at the nudist beach must expose my breasts or they will throw me out

the dogs were slick, no, not slick, what do you say about dogs with well-fed amazing coats
are glowing well fed coats good fur you know all thorough-breds

Hunting lodge: the elder Cranach the younger Cranach:
Judith painted-in instead of Yael or possibly vice versa (sword over hammer)

special holes made in her gloves for you to see her rings

She says what are you hunting. I say, they are hunting Jews or deer. We are getting out before nightfall.

Take it off like strip tease, first the glove M. told me once, meaning don’t blurt it out

built me a up like a clay pot, so many clay pieces, vases, closed bowls etc. the idea of keeping
things inside, letting them out slowly, knowing the difference between inside and outside.

open all the windows pay dirt all the cherries on the slot machines lining up a sudden flood of coins.

the best high is coming out of general anesthesia, relieved to be alive, after all the planning,
all the leave taking, and the nurse gives you a plastic cup filled with sugary tea.

she wore bells on her pants to scare off the bears

like reading the forest language sometimes rocks or ferns

I’m all too good anyway loosen the noose fly the coop here you are get outta here.

If you only baked me a cookie again it would soothe this place of longing if you gave me a ring with a jewel

everything in this world is acquired by bad faith even a child my child may be acquired in
bad faith though it should be whole and good and pure, so pure that even vegans can eat the

the rags of a country song

The splendid ox-blood and peach bloom reds of the Ch’ing dynasty

A day-dream of a gay man who has gotten interested in something else besides my musings
about the color Celadon must be slightly effeminate, waves enthusiastically to someone in
the distance just to get out of here. Green mixed with grey mixed with white. Funny, you
don’t know him? He says he knows you. Picnic blanket’s just a little bit of last year’s moss
turn it over to the other side. That’s your mother on the phone, you silently mouth above
the conversation. I know your momma, says Dorothy, from the Golden Girls.

Looking up ox-blood in the dictionary all you get is ox blood.

First day of period: Ox blood. Then goat blood, chicken blood, then again last day, darker
stains of ox blood.

Something sacrificed? Something sprinkled across a white background, marble or white clay.

Clay can be light. Blood can purify.

I enter the small building. It’s just a building, you respond to the photo on WhatsApp. But I
didn’t tell you about the trolls, sipping tea in the front room. Ah, the trolls. They are having
ox-blood cookies. The one with the pink beard says something about the Fräulein. That’s
me. He rolls up the poster in an old newspaper with a rubber band. They’ve swept
something up behind the heater. Some of the bones of the ox. The building smells of
ceramics or old wood or old bones. It’s the father of the river again tickling at my feet.
Perfectly rounded vases with open mouths and backlit arranged in groups of three. Dusting
of blood on snow. Oksenblut. Very fine pieces. Something floating on the water. A tiny white
cup with scalloped edges— Searose. Other ways of wanting.

All Vows

You declare all your vows annulled forever and ever: the vows your body made to itself, vows in the
form of tissue. Promises in the form of mitochondria necklaces. The building rattles. Do you want a
new translation job? Once, years ago, you lay on the floor thinking how it all fit together. You were
finally solving the riddle of your grandparents’ sorrow. You were undoing the knots you were born
with. Each time a fetus’ heart stops beating the world is destroyed. You were going to name the first
one Anat, for the Ugaritic goddess, who killed the Sea Monster. War drives you crazy all that wanton
waste of genetic material. And deportations and refugees, think how much their mother suffered. In
the Bronze Age in this area they had much less children than we imagine, two to three max. You’re
finally ready to hear the lecture on birth imagery in the Psalms, that lecture you refused to hear many
years ago. You weren’t ready to hold life and death in your hands. You thrust hormones into the pink
bicornal folds of you, you’ve been touching the ground of it. Your book about failure is failing. The
book of failure. The book of hope. The book of life. The book of envy. This one came out in the
hospital, warm in your hand. You were not in pain any longer, you had been given a shot. The other
two flushed down the toilet. The book of storms. The book of bad faith. The book of unhappy ends.
The book of suns. The book of descending darknesses. The book of rivers.


Yosefa Raz

Yosefa Raz is a poet, translator, and scholar based in Tel-Aviv. Her work has recently appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Boston Review, Entropy, and Guernica, and has been translated into Hebrew and Czech. She is currently completing a book about the poetics of prophecy.


The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2022

All Issues