“Yesterday, the Day Before” – Poetry in Unexpected Places

The ambiance:

Imagine a full house, two rooms in the intimate Jerusalem coffee house, Tmol Shilshom (meaning Yesterday, the Day Before in Hebrew), hidden in a nook at the end of a narrow alley. 

 It’s night fall, chill, a light mist of rain, only 15 poets reading their poetry, the rest lovers of poetry or poets. Tables packed so dense and people sitting on the floor between them, there was barely enough room to slip between them.Mike at Tmol Shilshom Jerusalem poetry reading 20121226

 Ira advised the poets to “eat the microphone”. Turned out to be good advice because it allowed one to speak low and soft, but still be heard in the farthest reaches. Shakshuka (Middle Eastern version of huevos rancheros) and beer, poetry, and thou, ‘twould be enou’ for me.

Thanks to Bar Ilan University and Ira Director for sponsoring a genesis and ingathering of English language poets a hundred cubits from God’s bellybutton.

Without further ado, these are the poems I read…


Raanana, September 29, 2011

Ostensibly it was about the child

Or was it the old man

Something he said at the time

I wish I could remember

Not that it makes any difference now.

How many years has it been?

Something about specific ambiguities

Or was it static ambiguities?

Like the San Francisco fog

Moving in off the bay toward the city

And standing there thick and corpulent

For hours until the sun gets

High enough in the sky to burn it off.

What did he mean by that?

He had a knack for saying things like that.

I think he said them not for the meaning

But for the sounds of the words.

He once said words were not something

Hollow you could look through to see

The true meaning of a thing.

He said one word could never

Mean another word

Just like a snowflake could never

Mean another snowflake.

A Poem Unwritten

Raanana, March 9, 2012

No one has ever written a poem about a poem unwritten

Of the many virtues of such a poem

The perfect meter of noambic nometer

The clarity and minimalism leave

Even haiku silent with envy.

The language of silence is universal

Requiring no translation.

It will be unread by billions!

It’s amazing that no one has thought of it,

No one and I.


Dreams of Rocks

Raanana, April 9, 2012

Do rocks dream dreams of streams and lakes,

Dreams of children running around them

In ancient squeals of Hide and Seek,

Dreams of lovers meeting secretly,

Pressed against in secret love,

Dreams of double sunsets and billowing clouds?

Do rocks dream dreams of human history,

Of human hopes,

Or do rocks only dream

Dreams of dust and sand,

Of desiccated ghosts

And time’s empty measure?

Walking to the Moon

Raanana, September 1, 2012

Sometimes you have to walk a poem

To see the shadows of it go in front of you

And then behind you,

A funny kind of locomotion

Walking crablike, orthogonally.

It’s been so long since I’ve written,

You must have thought I’d forgotten,

If you thought about me at all.

No, I hadn’t. Couldn’t. Ever.

These were the dimensions of your loveliness,

The smell of sunlight on a field of wheat in your hair,

The cool touch of my rough hand on your soft thigh,

The vibrations of your voice as your meaning dances across it,

But the publicity of your smile

For all around you to see,

Not just for me,

Meant the sunlight soft vibrations of you

Might as well be like walking to the moon.

Don’t Go Zen (a sonnet)

Raanana, September 18, 2012

Don’t go all Zen on me he said.

It’s my life and death

If I choose to take a breath

Or not, my choice she responded.

There’s time enough for that.

There’re too many attachments in my life,

It’s much too cluttered, I need a knife

To slice away the glut

Of things, of people, and me.

There’s time enough for all that,

But not just yet. The sunset,

Your eyes through which flow the sea,

It’s you that makes the sea lovely,

Without you it’s only a sea.

Audio versions of my poems:

Tmol Shilshom

Poets reading their poetry at Tmol Shilshom

  • Leah Gottesman
  • Ruth Fogelman
  • Mike Stone – Stanza
  • Channah Magori
  • Adi Albala
  • joanna chen
  • Mark Joseph
  • Wendy Blumfield – Voices
  • Karen Alkalay-Gut – TAU & IAWE
  • Ross Weissman
  • Jillian Jones – helped with promotion
  • Miriam Green
  • Merav Fima
  • Lonnie Monka
  • Ira Director

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


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