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Bright Lord and Bad Guys

Award-winning poetry translator shares two of her own poems

Bright Lord (there are muscles everywhere)

  • I am tapping the pulse of the faucet water
  • and winding a string of light from the rain gutter
  • I’m pressing the window glass which presumes
  • tension between inner and outer
  • my bright-toothed lord, it hurts
  • the fatigue of clicking future tense
  • into the present past, the stiffened tongue
  • on my watch face, my daughter cries
  • when she sees the kitchen
  • clock she cannot tell
  • that kind of time. And compared
  • to a water drop
  • the screech of the street cats
  • and bus breaks—your touch
  • is predictable, my lord, and
  • compared to the painted
  • highway, most irregular,
  • and compared to the pears,
  • bitter, and compared to the baby carriages
  • rolling across the baggage compartment
  • of the bus, their mothers praying from little
  • instruction books, hands held
  • in the rubber loops above them,
  • full of inadvisable faith.

Bad Guys

  • Did God make the bad guys, too? My daughter asks me.
  • We have just read about Pharoah and hardening hearts,
  • we’ve just read about Hamman.
  • I am trying to figure out what the pre-
  • 1967 borders of this country are, and where
  • the key to the bomb shelter is. I tell her
  • “Everyone is born neither good nor bad.
  • They decide what they will become.”
  • She looks at me unconvinced. I am trying
  • to show her the difference between sharing
  • your toys with your friends, though you don’t
  • want to, and letting anyone touch your private
  • body when you don’t want them to.
  • “Will you be a good guy or a bad guy
  • when you grow up?” I ask. “I’m not
  • a guy,” she says.
Marcela Sulak

Marcela Sulak’s third poetry collection and first memoir are forthcoming with Black Lawrence Press, where she’s published Decency and Immigrant. She’s co-edited Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres. A 2019 NEA Translation Fellow, her fourth translation, Twenty Girls to Envy Me. Selected Poems of Orit Gidali was nominated for a 2017 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. She hosts the podcast “Israel in Translation,” edits The Ilanot Review, and is an Associate Professor at Bar-Ilan University.

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Bright Lord (there are muscles everywhere)

  • I am tapping the pulse of the faucet water
  • and winding a string of light from the rain gutter
  • I’m pressing the window glass which presumes
  • tension between inner and outer
  • my bright-toothed lord, it hurts
  • the fatigue of clicking future tense
  • into the present past, the stiffened tongue
  • on my watch face, my daughter cries
  • when she sees the kitchen
  • clock she cannot tell
  • that kind of time. And compared
  • to a water drop
  • the screech of the street cats
  • and bus breaks—your touch
  • is predictable, my lord, and
  • compared to the painted
  • highway, most irregular,
  • and compared to the pears,
  • bitter, and compared to the baby carriages
  • rolling across the baggage compartment
  • of the bus, their mothers praying from little
  • instruction books, hands held
  • in the rubber loops above them,
  • full of inadvisable faith.

Bad Guys

  • Did God make the bad guys, too? My daughter asks me.
  • We have just read about Pharoah and hardening hearts,
  • we’ve just read about Hamman.
  • I am trying to figure out what the pre-
  • 1967 borders of this country are, and where
  • the key to the bomb shelter is. I tell her
  • “Everyone is born neither good nor bad.
  • They decide what they will become.”
  • She looks at me unconvinced. I am trying
  • to show her the difference between sharing
  • your toys with your friends, though you don’t
  • want to, and letting anyone touch your private
  • body when you don’t want them to.
  • “Will you be a good guy or a bad guy
  • when you grow up?” I ask. “I’m not
  • a guy,” she says.
Marcela Sulak

Marcela Sulak’s third poetry collection and first memoir are forthcoming with Black Lawrence Press, where she’s published Decency and Immigrant. She’s co-edited Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres. A 2019 NEA Translation Fellow, her fourth translation, Twenty Girls to Envy Me. Selected Poems of Orit Gidali was nominated for a 2017 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. She hosts the podcast “Israel in Translation,” edits The Ilanot Review, and is an Associate Professor at Bar-Ilan University.

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