Jill occasionally feels the muse on her shoulder and writes something completely different. The odd poem (no rude comments, please!) or short story… and she is currently working on a long-term project of retelling favourite folk-tales from different lands. Needless to say, anything that appears on this page is copyright.
A Bird’s Eye View
— Jill Rogoff ©2009
The breeze is a God-send today. It’s late spring now, but already – by midday – I begin to feel like a rotisserie chicken in this Middle Eastern heat. So I’m grateful that, for once, there’s a gentle little zephyr to cool my wings.
I have a favourite spot, here in the rose garden. It’s the best place, up on a slight rise about the government buildings, the offices and museums. The paths lead quietly around and up, and down, and I often hear people who are temporarily lost in the flower-lined labyrinth that some clever fellow designed thirty years ago.
My favourite spot, as I said, is up here among the Queen Elizabeths and the hybrid tea-roses. I’ve learned over the years, exploring the garden in the quiet hours of the morning, before the strollers and picnickers arrive, that flowers can be as beautiful as us birds. I was raised to believe that our kind is the most spectacular: I’m not too bad-looking myself, but you should have seen my father. He had magnificent markings – around his eyes, especially – and as for his tail-feathers! They plumed out in a subtle profusion of length, colour and flexibility. They were his great pride, of course; it only stands to reason. I haven’t matched him yet, but maybe that will come with time and maturity.
Anyway, I digress. The roses here are my delight. Some of them have no scent at all, which – to my way of thinking – is something of a travesty. I mean, how many times have I heard some human strolling around from bed to bed, muttering to themselves, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”? It must be one of the axioms by which they live, or maybe it’s part of a prayer. Wherever it comes from, however, it’s clear that roses are all supposed to have a distinctive perfume; so it’s remained rather a disappointment to me that some of the species here have none that I can discern.
Some of them, though… ah! Nothing overpowering, mind you, but just a delicate hint on the breeze, here and there. I love to flutter past, unsuspected, or to settle for a while on a branch above one of my favourite girls (yeah, I know it’s a touch eccentric, but somehow I think of all the roses as ‘girls’; indulge me) and just breathe in the scent as it wafts up to me. The flowers don’t even know I’m there.
Of course, there’s food to find, of a morning, once I’ve abluted near the modest artificial pond. To tell you the truth, I don’t actually dip more than my tail feathers in that water. It always looks cloudy and brown, and I suspect it’s none too healthy for human or avarian use. Even the peskiest of human children doesn’t put so much as a toe in there. Well, actually, access for humans would be a little tricky, as the body of murky water is mainly surrounded by pock-marked rocks (limestone, naturally: after all, this is Jerusalem, the city whose native stone turns to gold at sunset. I never tire of the sight. I often make a modest pilgrimage past the pond at such an hour. It gives me a sense of peace and yet it lifts my spirit at the same time. I can’t quite explain it, but if you’ve ever seen it, you’ll understand what I mean.)
Sometimes, the humans get a bit too much for me. They troop in by tour group or by family, with their picnic lunches (or suppers, occasionally), their rugs, cushions and folding chairs. Some of them even bring loud radios with them – Heaven knows why, because there’s beautiful enough music to be heard if they would just quieten down. You have, firstly, the wind soughing through the leaves: my best place is particularly musical, with its luscious poplars. There are insects enough to go around, and to top it all off, my kind – the sweet-singing birds – sing each morning, noon and early evening, fit to bring tears to the eyes of a human who has learned – and thought – to simply listen.
Ball games and tag, hide-and-seek, and other games are all very well. Occasionally, I enjoy the sight of a colourful kite being flown from the topmost slope of the garden. I appreciate the silence of the kites. Of all that invade our home here, they are the closest in appearance to the birds, but they have no song.
I like it best when a few people – or maybe only two – settle down somewhere in the shade, eat and drink quietly, tidying up after themselves (after all, this is my home, not theirs, and I appreciate their consideration), and then hunker down to one of those quiet occupations that they seem to enjoy with boards and strangely-marked squares, cubes or circles – all sorts of shapes. Then peace reigns, and we can share my home for a quiet afternoon.
La gota de sangre
— Jill Rogoff ©16.8.2002
[published in Akí yerushalayim, No. 70, Nov. 2002, p. 51]
Puede una gota de sangre yamar,
Através las mares, de tierra en tierra?
Aun ke nunka fue oyida por jenerasiones,
Asta ke un día una kriatura
Se ambeza su murmureo
I, maraviyandose, empesa a eskuchar
Puede una gota de sangre estar en lutio
Por todo lo ke fue pedrido:
Las almas, los nombres,
Toda la saviduria de sus vidas?
Asta el día ke una ija
Se ambeza su refren
I, avagar avagar, empesa finalmente
Puede una gota de sangre kantar,
De todas las novias i las madres,
Los días de fiesta i los de dolor?
Asta el día ke una mujer
Se ambeza su melodía
I alegremente empesa a kontar
The drop of blood
Can a drop of blood call?
Across the seas, from land to land,
Though unheard for generations,
Until the day when a child
Catches its whisper
And, wondering, begins to listen
Can a drop of blood mourn?
For all that has been lost,
The souls, the names,
All knowledge of their lives.
Until the day when a girl
Catches its refrain
And, slowly, begins to understand
Can a drop of blood sing?
Of all the brides and mothers,
Holy days and days of sorrow,
Until the day when a woman
Catches its melody
And, joyfully, begins to tell
Book of Kells
— Jill Rogoff ©15.10.2019
light at dawn
ink in well
knife and awl
life the bare
feet to stool
quill to write
Medieval woodcut (15th century)