PRIVATE Writers

Tal Nitzán | In the time of cholera

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – 2015 Yusef Hawkin’s face is gone and now this child’s face has also been totally erased from the world. I believe her name was Janelle Lynn McCleese, born in 1987 and died in 1990. How did she die? I have imagined that she was hit by a car. The mural lived much longer than she did. Perhaps brevity really is part of the beauty and function of these murals—that their eventual loss further reflects the neighborhood’s demographic changes, the passage of time, the brevity of life. I won’t ever forget Janelle’s face and her lovingly fixed hair. She lives inside all of us who passed by and took notice of her as we walked down Lewis Ave.,-- us, the lucky living, wondrously and briefly animated by life.
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Facing one another
we turn our backs to the world’s calamities.
Behind our closed eyes and curtains
both heat and war
erupted at once.
The heat will calm down first,
the faint breeze
won’t bring back
the boys who have been shot,
won’t cool down
the wrath of the living.
Even if it tarry,
the fire will come,
many waters won’t quench etc.*
Our arms as well
can only reach our own bodies:
We are a small crowd
incited to bite,
to cling to each other
to barricade ourselves in bed
while in the ozone above us
a mocking smile
cracks wide open.

* Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it (Song of Solomon, 8:7)

(From PRIVATE 47 – ISREAEL, p. 59; Translation from Hebrew by the author and Vivian Eden

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