Dualities, a Love Story

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The hour when the shadows sharpen.
The hour when the shadows sharpen. Credit: Vivian Eden
Vivian Eden
Vivian Eden
Vivian Eden
Vivian Eden

Shadow cabinet

Miriam Neiger-Fleischmann

The time for the renewal of love
is the hour when shadows sharpen.
From the shade, silhouettes are rising,
their work done in desperate darkness.
They evaporate vanity, radiate flesh,
have the power to prevent destruction
and turn the ocean between us
into a salt marsh.But when light comes,
their gaze is agonized and they draw back,
leave the memory of you
like a skipping game
with the poisonous snakes of the past,
that still run wild
and protect the vial of oblivion.

From Homer Beshetah Hefker (“Material in NoMan’s Land,” Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2007). Co-translated from Hebrew by Anthony Rudolf and the poet.

The title, "Dualities, a Love Story" refers to an alternative or underground government and at the same time to Genesis 1:16: "And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night," explains the poet, Miriam Neiger-Fleischmann

Miriam Neiger-Fleischmann. Credit: Courtesy

"The visual and emotional aspects of the love story are experienced in the totality of light and the absence of love mainly in the twilight zone," she says. "In a government where shadows rule, the archetype of ‘the shadow’ reveals the disturbing presence of the male and the female in our consciousness, and in the material world between a woman and a man. The poem clings to the wish materialized in the images of shadows acting independently of the vision and its creator.

“The daylight ostensibly brings back the dominance of consciousness but also brings the symbol of healing with its double meaning, in the image of the snakes embodying the potential for healing and the potential for harm at one and the same time,” as in the image of the two snakes entwined around a winged staff often used as a symbol of the medical profession. This duality also applies to the contents of the vial, a drug -- “both remedy and poison in a single word. And the residues of a love that is no more will ultimately remain in a realm in which there is no government.”

The “ocean between us” becoming a “salt marsh” captures the sensual quality of nocturnal intimacy in “desperate darkness” between two people who are not truly connected. The activity of the shadows is called “work” in line 4, while “like a skipping game with the poisonous snakes of the past” and “run wild” embody conjuring of the memories as play. Thus the activity of the shadow is again dual, both pleasurable and dangerous.

Poet, painter and scholar Miriam Neiger-Fleischman was born in Slovakia in 1948 to Hungarian-speaking Holocaust survivors who brought her  to Israel as an infant. She lives in Jerusalem, studied art at te Bezalel Academy and holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew literature from Hebrew University. She has published three volumes of poetry in Hebrew and one in Hungarian. For many years she and Anthony Rudolf, a poet, memoirist, translator and literary critic who lives in London, have been co-translating her work into English.


*Musing: If Israel had a shadow cabinet, what or who would be the male and female elements in it?

*Bonus: Frank Sinatra sings “Night and Day