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Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Poems by Brenda Porster

Jul 3, 2021 | Poetry | 0 comments

Poems from “Abraham’s Daughter”, written in Italian and translated by the author

Eve Speaks

I’m still convinced, my love,
that it’s all a question of power –
that friend of yours, God,
steals into our garden
to spy on us whenever he pleases
without the least bit of discretion.
He announces absurd prohibitions,
and then he gets swelled up
when he sees how you,
good lad that you are, obey
always.

To tell the truth
I’ve never really believed in this pact
between ‘men’ – clearly
with me he wouldn’t have even tried.
Can you explain, then, why
of all the fruits in the garden
it’s knowledge that’s forbidden us,
to know how to distinguish the good
from the bad, to be able to choose
what is right?

By now you’ll have understood
the serpent wasn’t involved at all.
It was I who wanted
to end it definitively. Enough
with the closed garden, the perfumed air,
the preordained pleasures, the sex
innocent, insipid, spied on.
I couldn’t even catch my breath.

Come, let’s leave this place –
there, outside, is the world: divided, mortal,
and free.

__
A Name for Paradise

She climbs out and looks around
and sees a new world, bright
and bathed in color, a garden
full of beasts and trees,
a delight to look on.

A puff of white wool comes near,
greets her with a feeble attempt to roar.
What is your name? asks Eve.
Tiger, the creature answers, embarrassed.

In the tall grass an animal stretches
Its long, undulating muscles,
tries to graze the grass with sharp fangs.
What is your name? Eve asks.
Lamb, it responds, disgruntled.

Above her head feathered bodies
are flying around a honeyless hive.
What are your names? asks Eve.
Bees, they chirp, bewildered.

She finds a creature standing upright,
intent on carving signs on a tree trunk
And you, what is your name? she asks.
Adam, he replies. I am he
who gives names to the whole of creation.

Later that day, when Adam is sleeping
on the sweet turf of the garden,
quietly, careful not to wake him,
Eve puts her lips to his ear
and whispers.

__

Counting

I

After long, exhausting negotiations
God and Abraham reached an agreement:
fifty, no forty, no thirty, oh all right –
ten!
ten just men would suffice:
the first minyan.

Not finding them,
God proceeded as to plan:
rains of fire and sulphur,
Sodom and Gomarrah razed to the ground.

(but did they ever ask themselves, the rabbis,
how many bodies of women, just and unjust,
were under the rubble
and children who couldn’t pronounce
long words like
“rectitude”)?

II

The rabbi’s dark, thoughtful eyes
slowly passed over the people
gathered in the living room
after my father’s funeral —
my mother, my aunts, my cousins.
As he counted, I felt myself transparent,
discarded.

“They don’t have to be Jewish,”
he said, “as long as they’re men”.
Then, sighing, disappointed,
“It means we’ll have to hold the service
tomorrow morning in shul. Here
there are not ten just men.”

__

Note: minyan – Hebrew word for the minimum number of males (10) required to constitute a representative “community of Israel” for liturgical purposes.

Brenda Porster was born in Philadelphia and completed her studies in the U.S. before moving to Florence, Italy, where she has lived and worked for most of her life. Her poems, written both in English and Italian, appear in numerous literary magazines, poetry anthologies and online literary sites in Italy and abroad, and have been translated into several languages.
For some years now she has been the Italian-English translator for Voyages, the Journal of New York University in Florence, and for the Florentine annual poetry festival. She has co-edited and translated three anthologies of contemporary women’s poetry in English and Italian.

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