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My Arabic is mute

By Almog Behar
Translated by Dimi Reider

My Arabic is mute
strangled at the throat
Cursing itself
Without uttering a word
Sleeps in the airless shelters of my soul
Hiding from relatives
Behind the Hebrew blinds
And my Hebrew is raging
Running between rooms and neighbours’ balconies
Making its voice heard in public
Prophesying the coming of God
and of bullodzers
And then it holes up in the living room
Thinking itself so open in the language of its skin
So hidden between the pages of its flesh
A moment naked, a moment later dressed
It curls up into the armchair
And begs itself for forgiveness

My Arabic is petrified
It quietly pretends to be Hebrew
And whispers to friends
Whenever somebody knocks at her gate
“Ahlan Ahlan, welcome”
And whenever a policeman passes it in the street
It produces an ID card
And points out the protective clause
“Ana min al-yahud, ana min al-yahud” –
“I am a Jew, I am a Jew”.

Yes, my Hebrew is deaf.
Sometimes very deaf.