ring of fire

when i was a junior in high school, i was granted a Board of Education scholarship to attend the Bennington July Program at Bennington College in Vermont. it was the best summer experience i ever had, hands down. i took a drama class, spending hours practicing shakespearean monologues (i still can remember my inability to fully imitate my teacher, leroy logan, and his booming voice as he went on…the barge she sat in BURNT on the water… the poop was BEATEN gold…etc), a flute class, a piano class, a music theory class. i still think fondly of a trip to tanglewood, where i dozed on a picnic blanket, listening to ozawa conduct the boston philharmonic in a delicious stravinsky program. i composed the music to a play, and i played osa johnson in another play. i played for hours in the piano rooms. i ran through green fields that made me want to sing like julie andrews.

and, i immersed myself in my writing. i wrote poetry. i wrote an evil short story i wish i could find — i think still it was one of the best things i ever wrote. i wrote everything and anything.

in short, it was a 30-day creative explosion in my head.

one day, my creative writing teacher gave me a poem, my favorite ever since. i kept the ditto’d work with me always, traveling to different schools, different homes, different states. and then one day, i noticed the shreds i possessed were gone.

until now. thanks to the internet, i actually finally found the poem. i never knew it had been written by a hebrew feminist poet, dahlia ravikovitch.

i think i’ll share it in its translated glory.

for Yitzhak Livni

You know, she said, they made you
a dress of fire.
Remember how Jason’s wife burned in her dress?
It was Medea, she said, Medea did that to her.
You’ve got to be careful, she said,
they made you a dress glowing like an ember,
burning like coals.

Are you going to wear it, she said, don’t wear it.
It’s not the wind whistling, it’s the poison
You’re not even a princess, what could you do to Medea?
Can’t you tell one sound from another, she said,
it’s not the wind whistling.

Remember, I told her, that time when I was six?
They shampooed my hair and I rushed out into the street.
That shampooing
trailed its scent after me like a cloud.
Then I got sick from the wind and the rain.
I didn’t yet know how to read Greek tragedies,
but the scent of the perfume spread
and I was very sick.
Now I can see it was an unnatural perfume.

What will become of you, she said,
they made you a burning dress.
They made me a burning dress, I said.  I know.
So why are you just standing around, she said,
you’ve got to be careful.
You know what a burning dress is, don’t you?

I know, I said, but not about
being careful.
One whiff of that perfume and I’m all confused.
I said to her,  No one has to agree with me,
I don’t trust Greek tragedies.

But the dress, she said, the dress is on fire.
What are you saying, I shouted,
what are you saying?
I’m not wearing a dress at all,
what’s burning is me.

4 Responses to “ring of fire”

  1. It’s interesting, this Hebrew poem sounds better to me in the english than in the Hebrew! That is a rarity.

  2. that is a pretty cool poem. the end is so perfectly powerful, but not overdone. that’s beautiful.

  3. Yeah for the Internet!! Yeah for finding your favorite poem!!

    YEAH YOU!!

  4. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Thank dog for teh internets.

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