Carmen Firan


everything passes, you told me,
as when on a high-speed train you look out the window
and the trees rush behind you
with the mist of each word on a winter morning

everything passes, you said,
with the thick soup dribbling from grandma’s chin
to the edge of a hospital bed
with a pressed violet in an encyclopedia
whose pages no one will ever turn

everything passes,
the waters grows calm
the blare of sounds will blur—
the shadow sets upon the body


the difference between solemnity and a rigid pair of shoulders
is the same as between pretended silence and speechlessness
the parallel lines race each other leaving no trace on the skin
they flow between heaven and earth
linking big infinity with small infinity

the difference between loneliness and solitude
is the same as between imposed exile and running in circles
far enough from home
with your fate recast halfway through your journey
in the midst of others’ silence
you could die and no one would hear

foreign real estate

I have a house for sale in a quiet neighborhood
only a couple of steps from hell
—location is everything—
the dead body always exits feet first
and is tempted to run downhill
while the soul gets yanked free through a window
by a well-intentioned grandmother
who sacrificed her day
to show off the banquet high in the heavens

I have a house for sale with new roof and triple-glazed windows
it comes down to predicting the future
the dead will want perfect isolation
high ceilings to keep cool in the summer
and to give the impression of open space
the sky a stone’s throw away
the city the third stop on the express line
the best yeshiva just around the corner

for quite a while now
I’ve tried to sell the house—roof, walls and me—
the timing’s bad, my neighbors suggest
suspicious of my grapevine
which throws black grapes over their fence
mimicking my childhood transplanted into a foreign body
people are no longer in a rush to buy
the planet keeps getting warmer
everything’s growing, enlarging, swelling
we’ll pop like a balloon
spread throughout the universe
and create other utopias

fine, but in the here and now
I have an old brick house for sale
motionless on the threshold I’m waiting for
buyers from other planets—
please hurry, it’s not even my house

the shirt of water

I inhabit a word
I moved in with my weapons, possessions and sins
ignoring my parents’ advice:
don’t build a house with a staircase to heaven
don’t lie to yourself
when loneliness forsakes you for a brief fling
don’t yearn for anyone else’s illusions
and never never fall in love
with your own word, the sinful soul

this space is narrow
we can feel each other’s breath—
air-vowels, earth-consonants
I pay my bills when due
and turn off the lights after every syllable
I’d consider myself a lucky tenant
except that night after night my dreams grow louder
and force me to face the unspoken
which can no longer be shut away in my extravagant shelter

then my own word occupies me like a ghost
he slips his treacherous tongue inside my unwritten pages
though enslaved, he wants me to obey only him
as my master—
the lead tips of whips crack at the world’s end

I live in a word as in a shirt of water
at its seams I feign freedom
chewed-up metaphors glued to my eyelids
my master tastes his own weakness
on the tip of his tongue


I’ll grow old
you won’t hear me
snow will cover my traces
one morning I’ll wake up beside you
and open the curtain
convinced that through the window
I can see the Himalayas from above
a cynical miracle achieved without the least effort;
lion cubs will spring forth ravenous
tear out my heart bolting it down

you don’t believe in the devouring word
until sound and soul join each other
you’ll hear only the crunch of the poem
in their young jaws