Friday, 12 March 2021

Consecrating the Alphabet - Leonor Scliar Cabral

ALEF
Horns rise up with force, igneous, aglow,
to burst apart the mysteries of time,
while a scribe revives prophecies divine 
on pure papyrus, salvaged long ago.

You’ll carry through the sands your great design
so that the holy voice will always be
alive, beyond the wild sundered sea,
as you your realm with sword and flame define.

Each word’s initial sound will henceforth be
inscribed by you, a letter like a seal.
The part calls forth the whole and so the script

turns into sentences and tales which now depict
how G-d called out, encouraging your zeal
to fix your ties for all eternity.

BEIT
And through the entrance of the house you come
unto the fire always pulsing heat
and radiating out maternal warmth
to all four sheltering walls of that retreat.

The turning of the arms, the slow advance
in search of other ways for those straight lines,
until they come curved back, with breasts as guides,
the refuge now of other written signs

first printed out by scribes who wrote on clay
and then on scrolls, papyrus and on parchment.
Celestial vault, close nestled on your breast,

with intimate companionship’s caress,
immortalizing sheltered utterance,
vowels join at last their consonants to stay.

GUÍMEL
You go through doorways and you cross frontiers
astride a camel’s back. Dissatisfied,
harassed, you burst forth in a new-made guise,
and cross the Mare Nostrum without fears,

friend, host to letters of another kind.
Prudent, with rounded pouch well fortified,
your vital reservoir now purified,
you sprinkle for all time the spreading vines.

Waning moon, semicircle of a cowl,
a scattering of values forced to bow
to gestures of predominating vowels,

at times ahead and then at times behind,
an altering, converting shape and sign,
resuscitating straight tangential lines.

DALET
To welcome in with majesty the straight
phallus to its restless triangle or square,
that key to mystery, that promised lair,
the delta opens wide its inner gate.  

Hospitable breast, you, the loving breast
that warms the son returned to native soil,
and leads him back to the most secret nest,
that chalice of intoxicating oil.

Sweet clasp of honey sweetens the sharp stroke,
transformed in Etruria to curve concave,
in horseshoe nest the straight line is embraced. 

But then the delta reappears, evoked
from Sinai to Egypt, in prophetic staves
immortalized by Sappho and Alcaeus.

Leonor Scliar Cabral (born 1929) Brazil
Translated by Alexis Levitin

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