My dream is dead

Tuvit Shlomi

Translated from the Dutch by the author


My dream is dead

There he went, he slipped into the pitcher

He had been mistaken

In the desert’s lap

A bus’s carcass rocked softly

A steel spine from the times of Genesis

Or a tin-can glancing with empty eye sockets

It looked like he would cast the headlamps down

But he let it go

Who would still even care

Deer walked the wadi

The food was on the table

He mashed it, smoothed it

Just wait, he thought, just wait

Folded a deceased head of state into four

Solemnly slipped him into his back pocket

Did he even have pockets?

He had a pitcher, a red earthware pitcher

Empty yet with colored hunting scenes

That he had, he did not know how

He found something was missing

There he went, he slipped into the pitcher

He had been mistaken

He slurped himself up as though through a straw

And echoed, a coin in an empty tin-can

Until he was finished

He had never had such thirst


Mijn droom is dood           

Mijn droom is dood

Daar schoof hij naar binnen in de kruik

Hij had zich ooit vergist

In de schoot van de woestijn

Wiegde zacht het karkas van een bus

Een stalen ruggengraat uit de tijd van Genesis

Of een blik met lege oogkassen

Het leek alsof hij de koplampen neer zou slaan

Maar hij liet het erbij zitten

Wie kon het nog wat schelen

Er liepen herten door de wadi

Het eten stond op tafel

Hij streek het glad

Wacht maar, dacht hij, wacht maar

Vouwde een overleden staatshoofd in vieren

Stopte hem plechtig in zijn achterzak

Had hij überhaupt zakken?

Hij had een kruik, een aardewerken rode kruik

Leeg maar met gekleurde jachttaferelen

Dat wel, hij wist niet hoe dat kwam

Er ontbrak wat aan vond hij

Daar schoof hij naar binnen in de kruik

Hij had zich ooit vergist

Hij slurpte van zichzelf als door een rietje

En weerklonk, een munt in een leeg blik

Totdat hij op was

Hij had nog nooit zo’n dorst gehad


Tuvit Shlomi (1980), founded in Israel, born and raised in The Netherlands, has just made aliyah to Jerusalem.  She has won the prestigious Dutch Moroccan and Islamic cultural center El Hizrja poetry prize. She loves to perform her poetry, has been working in Israel advocacy and journalism and holds an MSc in Earth System Science.  Her poem “My dream is dead” won the prestigious El Hizjra Prize in Holland, when it was submitted under an Arabic pseudonym. For more details about this unusual story, read on here:

Poet and Translator’s Note: Why have I been defying the Dutch rain for so long yet never, not once, has a Labrador landed on my head—not even a tortoise cat? Because in Holland, it’s never raining cats and dogs. It’s raining alright; but in Holland, it’s raining tobacco-pipe shanks. Many concepts and connotations are language-specific or culturally defined and I don’t believe in true translations: translations will always be excellent approximations at best. Approximations are hard enough—owing to a simple Greek Old Testament mistranslation, Jews were believed to have horns. The myth persists even today. The dream in my poem is masculine in Dutch, but shouldn’t ‘he’ be neuter in English? Just substitute and read: ‘it’ might be accurate, but sounds affected. Another nuisance is the bus’s carcass: is he dead? Alive?  The Dutch simultaneously reads ‘a glance, the eye-sockets empty’ AND ‘a tin-can with empty eye sockets’.  In the next Dutch sentence, it looked like the dream would strike down the carcass’s headlamps, AND  It looked like the carcass would blink in shame.  I chose ‘to cast down’ as it refers both to eyes and to suppression. Which one’s right? The carcass will be lying there in the desert till eternity. If we watch and wait long enough, he might wink at us.




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