Tel Aviv Diary - Karen Alkalay-Gut

May 1-5, 2012

May 1, 2012

אזינו: פאניק אנסמבל חוזרים עם אלבום שני

Check this site out and listen to the single. It's in English. This is part of a poem of mine about loving and not loving. The single came out today. "Imaginary Insects" is a hint of the second disk by "Panic Ensemble" that will be available at the end of the month called "A Different Story." Listen to it, like it, love it, and vote for it. It's creepy."

Yair Lapid picked Ronny Sommek as his running mate! What could be better Imaginary Insects

This single came out yesterday

You can listen to it if you press the link on the link above

The text to the song is:

imaginary insects

On days they had arranged to meet
he would sometimes wake from a dream
that he had been spread with honey
and now could not escape the flies.
Those nights they had agreed to meet
She would immerse herself in cream
She would win him with her softness
And he'd be locked within her thighs
For hours after he would catch himself
flicking them away
imaginary insects.

Why she was so hungry for his presence
was a riddle "lady' he wants to shout
'It's over can't you let it rest
It's over can't you let it rest"
For hours after he would catch himself
flicking them away
imaginary insects

This text originally was published as part of "Ways to Love" which is reprinted below:

Ways to Love: Monologues


“There are many ways to love,”
says the professor with a birthmark
over half his face.
When he paces one way
he is almost handsome,
when he faces left
the red scar is exposed
and a monster leads the class.

“After the war I worked in a closed ward
for veterans: there was a little man –
shell-shocked, nervous, gay – who fell hard
for a big catatonic, and needed a way
to get his attention. One day he began
sitting next to him at meals and dripping
milk onto his thigh. It was a nice try,
but the catatonic didn’t get the symbolism.”

I look around me in the lecture.
I am the only one not laughing.
The professor paces back and forth.


There were days when she lay in bed
imagining a serious disease – something
that would make him feel guilt,
run to her bedside. Then
he would realize how much ...

But at that point even she
could not keep up the fantasy:
he was not a standard man,
would never follow
a standard script. “Oh,
sweet lover, that is why
I am in your thrall,
because you would not be swayed
even by my more drastic ploys.”


On days they had arranged to meet
he would sometimes wake from a dream
that he had been spread with honey
and now could not escape the flies.
For hours after he would catch himself
flicking away imaginary insects.

But he owed it to her, he’d say, the opportunity
to tell him what was in her heart.
After all she had contrived
everything for him, the luxurious flat,
the wondrous job he had always longed for,
the chance for fulfillment.
And all she appeared to demand in return
now that he seemed indifferent to caresses,
was his conversation.

Why she was so hungry for his presence
was a riddle – Lady – he wanted to shout
– it’s over. Can’t you let it rest?


One night I say, I will find out from where
this unrest ascends. I will let it go
as far out as it wants to pace, see the space
between accepted and haunted bonds.

My heart is caught like an escaped convict.
I am led, head down, back to propriety.


“Are you sure,”
she whispers into the evening
“There is no chance for me?”

And I – in the kitchen,
white with flour and domesticity –
stop to contemplate her affinity
before I shake my head


How many ways
are there, you ask,
the tortoise who tries always
to move forward even when heavy rocks
block your path. Every one of the women
you loved might have brought you joy
had you known to turn from the rocks.
Sometimes only the pressure
of your head against them
drove them to pace
like animals in cages
back and forth.


Having one eye,
you look at me always
at an angle,
turn me this way and that,
examine it all.

We are in our patterned conjugal bed
shrieking in cacophonous unanimity.
It is both a death and quickening,
and then you roll away,
call out the name
of my god.

May 3, 2012

Ronny Sommek is running with Yair Lapid! We're going to have education for a change!

May 4, 2012

At first I thought it had been a terrible disaster. I skipped the Maghrar festival for this reading in Jerusalem in the Confederation House and there was no audience. Even though my uncertainty about accommodations up north and my inability to get the weekend together, the Maghrar conference promised to be great as always. But talking about Amichai had always been my soft spot - even though it meant going to Jerusalem - so I went. And there was a paltry audience. Not enough to even enter the big hall that had been reserved for the morning. The five poets scheduled to talk couldn't catch their breath at that moment. We were about to leave and then Hagit Grossman and I suddenly insisted that we had come to praise Amichai and we would do it, no matter how small the audience. So we sat in the small room, and began to talk, and gradually forgot where we were, forgot everything else but the magnificent poetry. And that was beautiful - a really intense tribute.

May 5, 2012

What would I have said about Amichai had there been an audience? I would have begun with my first encounter with his poetry. It was almost six years after my second marriage and my sister-in-law told me about a poem that reminded her of me. It was "Late Wedding," and she had seen it in the papers somewhere. Shortly after, the book, "Sha'at Chessid," came out and she bought it for me. We were in the U.S. at the time and my Hebrew was evaporating, so I invited my friend,Rachel Talmi, over to help me to understand the poem.>She was very helpful but the only way it could make sense to me as a poem was if I translated it. And so I did.


I sit in the waiting room with other grooms
younger than me by many years. If I lived in olden times
I’d be a prophet. But now I wait quietly
to register my name with my love in the big book
of marriage and respond to questions I can still
answer. I have filled up my life with words,
have gathered in my body enough information to support
the secret services of several countries.

With heavy steps I bear light thoughts:
As in my youth when I bore fate—heavy thoughts on light feet
--almost dancing from so much future.

The pressures of my life bring the date of birth closer
to the date of death, as in history books,
where the pressures of history affixed these two
numbers together next to the name of a dead king,
and only a dash separates them.

I hold onto this dash with all my might.
Like a lifeline, I live by it
with a vow—not to be alone—on my lips,
the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride
the voice of rejoicing children outside Jerusalem
and the towns of Judea.

And I kept going. Gabriel Moked asked me for more translations and published them all together in 10 pages of the Tel Aviv Review, that came out in 1988. And I was hooked. I read poetry with him at the Nassau County Museum, and then the next year was invited to read with him in the Library of Congress. When I returned to Israel we had an evening together at the American Embassy. A few years later I wrote about it.


To Yehuda Amichai

We were walking by the Labor Party Office
on Hayarkon Street one night.
The lights were on, and there was a great noise
and you said, “They are choosing
the ministers for the new government.
I should go in and tell them
they need me as Minister of Poetry.”
But instead we went to a reading
down the street at the American Embassy

There was a large crowd there,
and drinks and little sandwiches,
a short speech by a professor
and someone else important
hinting broadly about a shortlist
for the big prize.

Then the evening was over
without a single political word.

But you remain, for me,
from that night on
the Minister of Poetry.

We resolved to meet again when we was in New York for the year, and promised to finalize a book together. But then he disappeared, and it took me a long time to discover he had cancelled his year at Baruch College but only when I returned to Israel did I learn he was dying. And then this Dirge emerged on he day he died, September 22, 2000.


It looks something like a vague train station,
but very smooth and in a dream.
And they have met here for the first time –
my dear aunt Chasha who died this morning,
and my Minister of Poetry, Yehuda Amichai,
who too has now been freed. They are on their way
to the most special part of heaven,
the site reserved for colossal souls
that incorporate everyone into their lives
and love and love and never deny
the ardor of others.

But their conversation is quite plain, a little mundane.
Perhaps they are talking about the times they never met
at Sloan-Kettering, and how they were born in the same year,
in the same world that vanished into their memories
and how felicitous to make each other’s acquaintance
now, as they are about to broaden the range of their embrace.

To Karen Alkalay-Gut Readings

To Karen Alkalay-Gut Diary

To Karen Alkalay-Gut home

write me