Articulation: A Postcard to Walt Whitman
Translated from the Hebrew by Joanna Chen
I write you during a lull in the rain, from one of the souvenir stores close to the forest.
And I have no address. How will you write back? And where shall I send this? To the roots? The tree tops?
Below, there is mold and above is a transparent line even birds do not traverse.
I left Seattle, left the noise of rushing water, the geometric angles of road intersections, left the metal towers in the south of the city, the identical yards of identical houses in the north, left Elliott Bay on a ferry that became a single drop sliding to and fro between empty tin cans joined by an invisible thread, and I followed you, yearning to learn from words how words are sent, how they are pulled out of the envelope of their name: the trees announce the news of ashes to the atmosphere and the sky answers back with rain. The valleys are heavy, weighed down by news flashes; lightening is a bulletin. And I, even this much am unable to tell you.
You see, nothing is measured here in people: raspberries do not ripen overnight,
the sand on the beach that flickers gray and white does not change in a second, the sequoia trees still recall their birth, still recall the pebble of the seed tossed into their heart, and every year they add another ripple. How shall I write you of mossy curtains hanging from boughs, of alder leaves or branches of yew without knowing the first name of the color green.
Many things, things that evade me, are written inside these tree trunks, and one day they will turn, like you, to pages.
And before I go, before I cease waiting for the absence of you that appears every time the door opens, one attempt to describe, one thing, out of everything: on the strip of beach the driftwood lay dry, polished by the air, like the bones of a new animal waiting to be born. It was there that a skull of a deer and its two horns were revealed. And a gust of wind came to them, and it blew and it sang.
Take this letter, this page, wherever you are. We will hold either side of the page like parents holding the two hands of a child and we will walk, each according to his own path, along the path that we take together.
Nadav Linial’s prize-winning book, Earth Ceiling, was published in 2010. He teaches literature at Tel Aviv University. Linial is presently at work on his new book of poetry.
Joanna Chen is a British-born journalist and poet. Her work has been published in Newsweek, The Daily Beast, the BBC and Marie Claire, among others. This year, Joanna’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, The Bakery, Recours au Poemes and The Blue Lyra Review. Currently, Joanna is working on literary translations of Agi Mishol’s Working Order, and Kinneret Rosenbloom’s best-selling novel, Orvieto non Classico. Read more at www.joannachen.com.