I shut the window, then the closet and the door,
the blinds where a moth
slipped through, I shut the doghouse,
the mouse hole.
The old train station
where a mist is rising,
the mound of a mole,
a bird’s nest,
the hollow of a tree
I shut the inkwell,
the poem spilling out of it.
I shut the dictionary and the word
‘Hope’ in my empty stomach.
I shut the mother-of-pearl,
the eyes, the tears, a small valise
of memories. I shut
the harlots’ stalls.
I shut Josef K. in the castle halls,
Freud in the asylum, Van Gogh’s
sunflowers, the wound in the scab,
the water in the well, in the maw of
death, volcanoes deep in the earth,
my teeth in a broken jaw.
I shut my childhood in a little
urn of ashes. I shut a furrow in the soil
with marble and stone. I shut Plato in the cave,
I shut Europe, I shut God
between the covers of an empty book.
I shut my passions in a mouldy
cellar, my love in the irons of despair.
Shut up, shut up, I shout between sealed lips,
but it all stays open.
Notes on this poem
Shlomo Laufer is a prolific Hebrew poet and novelist, editor and translator. Born in war-torn Lvov in 1940, Laufer arrived in Israel with his family after a childhood of wandering.
In ‘Shutting Down’ Laufer sings out the bewilderment of his early years with agonised hilarity. Both in prose and poetry, his irrepressible voice belies memories of displacement with a startling self-assurance gained perhaps through imagined encounters and fluid interchanges of identity with figures like Kafka, Chekhov, and Bruno Shultz. Laufer’s style is insouciant and endearingly unsentimental, yet it resonates with undertones and overtones of violent longing.