I love falafel, love listening to the sizzling sound of it frying in oil. When I was a little girl, my mother and I would take bus number 40 or 42 to Jaffa just to eat falafel, then we would walk back home via Jerusalem Boulevard. Today I sit on a rock in the South of France, the flies and mites roving round my face as I try to understand the meanings of the words. On the corner of Wolfson and Herzl streets, there was a synagogue on the third floor. I thought it was a place that atones all sins, where they would celebrate bar mitzvahs and we would eat arbes, cooked chickpeas with lots of salt and pepper. My father used to laugh and say, “Don’t eat too much, arbes will give you gas!”
When I was all grown up, I went looking for angels in Gaza. I met the dervishes. I do not forget the sound of their reed flutes and their stories of love for Rumi. We drank tea and ate fruit. The dervish looked like a god and had the eyes of Apollo, the kind that can see far into the distance. When we went out, he took me with him to a falafel stand. In Gaza, I experienced a dervish angel with eyes so blue that all of the world’s goodness melted into his eyeball, falafel street stands, and the big blue sky. I know he noticed me. Today I freeze with shame whenever bad words are linked to this place.
Later, I began my personal journey through stormy blue spaces in search of smooth stones, moss, fishermen voices, ships, the solemn crunch of sizzling chickpeas, and the search for meaning. This wandering in the philosophical and mythological expanses led me to the dialectic method that requires a partnership of at least two who wonder from within about an ethical derivative, in order to find an answer to this existence, while seeking responsibility for the other within this circle in which we live.
Not in vain did Plato choose to call his great epic Symposium. During the banquet held at the symposium, Socrates gives his speech on the love of goodness and the love of wisdom and Eros and the path to virtue. We were all raised on mythical consciousnesses associated with the Tree of Knowledge, with good and with evil. God forbids man from eating from the fruit of the tree, all the transcendental norms manifest in the yield of the fruit and its flavor. Man did not do as God commanded and ate from the apple. This is the beginning of an ethical struggle, and the eating that ensues removes some type of partition between God and the urge for existential freedom in the world of Adam and Eve. Choosing to eat from the apple causes them to later surrender to the boundaries of the substantial world.
Cain and Abel. Both brought offerings to God, their offerings being food. One brings meat, the other fruit and vegetables. God wants the produce of one and refuses the other. Does God recognize the lack of authenticity in Cain’s offering? Does Abel’s offering hint at a genuine existence originating in an authentic existence? Does food serve as an ethical modification and as an expression of some true existence of the individual? Cain kills Abel, it is the first murder perpetrated as an expression of a personal insult originating from a food offering.
The dervish in Gaza served me fruit, the skies were clear. There was a tenderness in his hands. He spoke of God and my body breathed. I deciphered myself in the hand extended to me with half of an apple, which he had cut earlier with a small kitchen knife. The place transformed into a Socratic banquet, we ate an apple from the same plate and talked. After that the water in the glass was so cold, the space of the room was transparent and we were all exposed to the same air and the same food. Outside, at the falafel stand, in this same flavor of one fate, I understood why God had refused Cain’s offering. These myths tell of all the meanings of the matters of food.
The dervish with the blue eyes exposed us, and just like a work of art, the food exposes us to statements of ethics, psychology, and identity that shape us within a long tradition of gatherers, growers, bakers and cooks, poets and scientists, together embroidering the human race into the same inner experience, where language can only define what the palate and the soul accentuate. Our role is to gather food and create equality as well as a connection linking mankind with phenomenology and a possible ethics, because eating is a primordial act, a mythical act. Food is the language, tongue, palate, and Logos that humans need, and each individual is the creative architect who transforms it into an act of the senses and of aesthetics.
Mythologies, they are an existential cargo through which we are supposed to experience the limits of our understanding and our senses and the openness towards the other and the different. The voice of conscience rolled itself out before me at that falafel stand and in the dervish sheikh’s blue eyes immersed with mystery. The eating was authentic, an infinite event of an ecstatic nature that produced a dialectical encounter filled with faith, for which ethics is the commitment to the other. A dialectic of humaneness and meaning found in one apple and in one falafel stand in the middle of a busy street. The inauthentic person seeks only futile chatter, about food too. The preoccupation with belonging instead of dialectic meaning reflects man’s decay through the use of language and tongue. Whose is the hummus? This is a linguistic engrossment that attacks us with feelings of alienation. The hummus and falafel, the apple, are to me the voice of conscience that points at the individual person, through the authenticity of the simple act of eating.
The dialectics and the search are not about who owns hummus but rather about you and I. It is a direct appeal to the other, with an affinity that eliminates all separateness, because both you and I have already eaten from the forbidden fruit and are now in dialogue where each of us grants the other this ethical claim for the right to exist, to equality, and to love. The phenomenology and meaning, the dialogue and the love, look at us through the textures of food, which are intended to bring hearts closer together, in this dimension, of the future.
Between passion and philosophy, as a journey outside of time and space, A Veil of an Angel is a book of pilgrimage destined for the depths of the spirit and the heart. Anna-Marie Ravitzki shreds the cloak of illusion with her valiant and bellowing poems. Beyond the shadows and the sounds, an inner landscape is revealed before the eyes of the poet and her readers, which she describes with the language of existential revelation and urgency, a unique language in which every word is at once both arrow and target, tree of knowledge and fruit of knowledge, madness and soundness of heart. In the poetic world of Anna-Marie Ravitzki, blood is indeed the soul, vital, wild, benevolent.
[The following is a brief translation of Marc Wetzel's original review in French, with Anna-Marie Ravitzki's poems in French]
« Il y a des gens qui sont comme un métro
Un train des profondeurs de la terre
Parce que leur oxygène est le dioxyde de carbone.
Mon amour est un macaron
De chez Pierre Hermé
Et la ganache s’échappe dans tous les sens.
Il y a des gens qui ne savent pas conserver
Leur amour .
Parce qu’aimer c’est
Fertiliser sans cesse autour du tronc.
Je vous le dis
Répandez beaucoup d’engrais
Pour qu’il pénètre dans le corps
Qu’il flotte sur la conscience
Afin qu’elle devienne une vierge assoiffée pour l’éternité
Car il est interdit de mettre le réveil
Pendant l’acte d’amour » (p. 54)
I think this rosary of poems, exhilarating and complex, answers an unexpected yet very valid question: Is true sensuality religious?
Is there even a possibility for a religion that is entirely corporal, touching and longing at the same time?
Is it desired? Logical? No doubt, this will be a religion that is devoid of external churches, without independent rituals, and no public congregation.
Are the vows of lovers spiritually charged? If we consider the availability of sensuality, can it be likened to a closeness with god and to the surrender to the will of god? Can all the passion and desire for the flesh of another truly be a prayer (a begging for a redemption, or a swift change in reality?) Can elated blessing be uttered without a chuckle, can there be no victim at all, can there be a place where, with a wondrous whirl of inclination, we renounce our renunciation?
« Ton nom est gravé dans sa voile
Qui m’a connue
Et toi qui m’as chuchoté
Tu m’as conduite
A l’ivresse du cœur
Cru presque mourir.
Tu es planté au plus profond de ma chair
Je suis une plaie qui n’a pas cicatrisé
Et tu es le capitaine
Dont le désir
A failli me conduire à ma perte.
Rien ne pourra m’effrayer
Ton nom est gravé sur les lèvres
Des voyageurs lointains,
Je me languis d’une patrie » (p. 23)
And as for this very question (Can true sensuality be religious?), the answer is surprising and superb: Yes, definitely yes (and we can imagine the lesson that immediately follows: never hesitate again to involve god in the thrill of the bed, and you are hereby allowed to announce yourself a devote pilgrim while your lips unleash a long series of groans and moans). And here is the first reason for this: the beloved's intimate hygiene (the hygiene of the body and the soul) is the opposite of neglect (and neglect is the opposite of religion!), her being desired tomorrow too is even less certain than the certainty in the existence of a Creator (from that moment a sense of premonition purgers any feeling of loneliness, without winning over or understanding its flavored taste of death!), that it offered its secret formula of enchantment to the aware commandment of another (aware and thus potentially violent, something that should never be transgressed); and this phrases it all just as it is: Any women that relinquishes her body so, should penetrate the realm of super-natural faith.
« Je te dis
Tu as placé en moi un feu archaïque
Pris à la flamme de Prométhée
Tu as allumé le feu rampant
Dans les galeries du temps
Les vapeurs de l’alcool m’ont enveloppée
Afin que j’enferme dans mon alliance
L’épée du serment.
Combien tu aimais pleurer
Quand je te menais au seuil
De la volupté espérée
J’ai effacé certaines de tes vaches sacrées
Car toi aussi, là-bas
Mon très beau
Tu as été abandonné par moi
Mais l’odeur de ta semence
Fait germer sur ma peau
Jour après jour
Des étincelles de grâce
Et de ce qui ne ressemble à rien
Et les voies du plaisir
Et de la sagesse
Et la voie du sentiment enivrant
Et le temps de notre désir
Ne laissent pas
Mon sang refroidir » (p. 59)
But saying religion is saying tradition, and also saying that worshiping god has fundamental precedence, and that you must take the matter or rituality as it is (and the framework upon which all the body parts have been founded) or leave! And the frame of the loved one here (free in her passiveness, passionate in her insistence) does not change for a minute: It is Mary Magdalene (Magdalene, her name preceding her wherever she goes, siding with her in all her wandering, and filling her with inspiration in every moment of hesitation – so filled to the brim with inspiration that the poet does not hesitate in the face of any or all of destructions!) who was a whore (the only profession, except for lawyers and pimps, where you carry the other's sins with you – the vey opposite of a decently straight confessional priest who transports his sins together with the sins of the other) Mary Magdalene who perfumed her untouchable master, who went down to embalm the body she mourned, that spread her sails straight towards Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and came, like our poet here (from Israel and Périgord), to live-out in Gaul her very own passing.
« J’ai erré avec toi dans l’eau
Et voulu éteindre la lumière
Je cherchais le silence
Des dernières heures de la nuit.
Tu es mon centre
Et tu concentres en toi
La profusion de mes identités.
Tu me laves
De tes larmes
Et me couvres de vêtements
Tu m’as embaumée.
Je suis une âme
Embaumée en toi.
Je ne veux qu’être allongée sur le pont
Lever les yeux
Vers le néant
Et te rencontrer
Le monde des sentiments… » (p. 35)
Hence, to live in France, the most protected country in the world, a place that is in itself the quintessential representation of the globe's wealth of color and hue, like the lava of her beloved that curbs within himself the entire span of god's ideals; France from Sarlat to Perpignan, is a sumptuous boudoir of ancient life, as well as the geomorphological script of the Creator, or the Occitan architype of the act of genesis.
« Une de mes jambes
Est restée chez lui
Une jambe protectrice
Qui me parle en rêve
A l’endroit où
Je suis en contact avec lui
Et il saisit
Et découvre des trésors
Qui étaient perdus
Que j’ai trouvés
Avec une flèche de mémoire
Il m’offre des cadeaux
Touche mes seins à distance
Dans mon âme a poussé
Une âme gauloise
Affamée … » (p. 33)
The self-portrait of the love-smitten and beloved poet is surprising: she is a "flying elephant" (a phrase that repeats itself at least three times on pages 46, 56, and 61) that has absolutely "no room for bullshit" (p. 107), asking "what got me addicted to your hands that wandered in my body like no man's land", or Eve "in that supreme moment between life and death" (p.29); where "my nervous system is intimate with itself and with every revelation that is exposed." (p. 81) – which seems to be doing nothing but that which she lives to do, and shows only what she thinks. This self-teasing likening the loved-one to a "flying elephant" (can it be imagined without giggling at the her attempt at flying? Or her trial landing on the narrow runway of "ignorance", "rage" and "dullness"? ) points at something incredible, which is: Love, an ageless momentum ("I am eternal with you" (p.115) she says mesmerizingly) is certain that evil shall never befall her, and is in actuality the only profound thing devoid of humor.
« Pour toi la seule
Qui aies enfoui ta vie
Dans les plis de mon âme
Et trempé mon sang
Dans les codes secrets de mon corps
Toi, la parfumée,
Toi, la désirée
Je serre ma vie autour de tes hanches
Je chante pour toi avec un chœur de passereaux
Qui flottent au-dessus de tes seins blancs
Et le navire …
Tu es le chant
Les courbes de mon corps
Disparaîtraient comme néant et vide
Car tu es mon savoir
Et tu es mon rêve
Et jamais tu ne déroberas mes souffrances
Malgré ton désir ardent » (p. 70)
Anna-Marie is a lady "pasionaria", she is one of the furies, she is pure feeling. She is a poet that sings her feelings until her true nature is revealed. In a woman in love, this risk taking and this admitting is a sure sign of profound emotional behavior, translated into taking active part in the "raisons de vivre" that can incorporate and include us within it, or otherwise distance us. This is how the sense of sublimity and softness creates a parallelism with the surroundings of man, for whom we softened up to take hold of the formula of the flesh; the sense of frailty is rooted in the duty to find the "raisons de vivre" for which we account to nothing. The sense of elatedness is the feeling that we are being included in something that is, without a doubt, bigger than our self, which is a looming disproportion, yet it still makes us its partner. If feeling is mankind's alone, it is because mankind is an animal that knows it is born (meaning our consciousness comes second to our history, that man knows before he knows), and knows that we are destined to die (that the impending void is imminent, that the universe shall unravel us, that there will be no room for our existence in the world, that it will work it workings on us before we are done working). Love is like a child that forfeits himself to the word so that the world shall continue looking after him, and also like an old man that has been living so long, the world will never leave it. Love (as Anna-Marie wonderfully puts it) "pushes us into the deep of the forest through a side door thousands of years old", and she is right in declaring this.
« Prends soin de mon cœur
Je te le demande
Puis tu me racontes
Que la femme est née pour faire l’amour
Et cela inonde mon cœur d’une fièvre sauvage
Qui cherche à ne pas s’inonder
Et je te demande à nouveau
De prendre soin de mon cœur
Car je m’enchevêtre dans les sentiments (…)
Parce que seule celle qui est née pour faire l’amour
Peut saigner autant » (p. 73)
« Kokoro » is the Japanese word for the world of the heart (or perhaps the heart of the world). Yet, a person seeking to tend to their heart, should first acknowledge their reasons for loving. And what is the source of these reasons if not the source of all hearts (a source long lost, yet solidified)? And what are their reasons if not to fight for others? The heart can only feel familiar and be recognized when we reveal to it our reasons for which we fight for it. But we must continue being, continue living (and enlivening) from this revelation, within a humane fate built from materials that are ever so fragile, opaque and dispersed: One exploded, and the best that could be done since by the most burning heart of hearts, is to know that "his body is two" (p.88). Two is enough, offers the poet so eloquently, to enjoy – with the most yearning absolution of all absolutions - the One.
« Je dois voler
Je vous le dis
Je dois voler.
J’ai lu toutes les théories physiques
J’ai libéré mes seins sur le navire
En pleine mer
Mon désir n’a pas cessé un seul instant
Et je continue de vous le dire
Je dois voler.
J’erre sans arrêt
Je compromets ma réputation
Pour vous parler d’étoiles de mer
Et de fusées
Et de celui qui me visite chaque nuit
Et me dit :
À la force de gravitation,
Tu dois voler. »
Mon feu brûle
Je suis le tonnerre
Je suis un éclair
Je saisis les tempêtes
Et non les cornes de l’autel
Ma lave ne se calmera pas
Avant que je m’envole » (p. 72)
[The following is a brief translation of Bernard Perroy's original review in French, with Anna-Marie Ravitzki's poems in French]
« Je veux avoir un voile d'ange » (p.9) [I want to have an angel's veil] writes Anna-Marie Ravitzki in the very first pages of her poetry book, which includes 33 poems and four wonderful illustrations by Avi S. Ravitzki, her husband, a sculptor, artist, and truffle farmer in the Périgord Noir area of the South of France, where they both live.
After reading the book, you are left with an intense impression: we are completely captivated by the lively spirit of the writer, the wealth of her thoughts, her passions, the richness and uniqueness of her words, drawn with imagery and courageously soldered using ingenious linguistic condensations that we would otherwise call "surrealistic" were the term not overused, worn out, and distanced from the writer's Hebrew heritage.
This is Anna-Marie Ravitzki's first collection of poems in French, translated from Hebrew by Emmanuel Moses – a poet and author in his own right. Emmanuel Moses states that a second book by Anna-Marie Ravitzki – the first really, by order of writing – is soon to be launched by Obsidiane publishing house. The periodical Secousse has recently published several of her poems.
A path of passion
From start to end, the book reads like a path of passion:
« Parfois je me noie dans le désir
De cette chose inatteignable
(…) Il est interdit de perdre les désirs
De perdre délibérément la vie » (p.15)
The scarlet thread of passion passes through all of life's dimensions: the passion of the body, passion of the heart, passion of thoughts, passion of relationships, passion to be with your own self, within your own story, your own identity, your childhood, your roots and your own lack of roots… Anna-Marie Ravitzki wants to go towards what she feels is bigger than the whole world. That "world beyond" is constantly occupying her thoughts, it is a world well beyond knowledge, understanding, or feeling…
« Je désire tout ce qui m'échappe » (p.8)
(…) voyageuse que je suis
Fille des plaines prodigue
Risible par mes tourments vertigineux » (p.11)
« Les graines qui m'ont fécondée
M'inspirent des idées d'éternité » (p.10)
And these wonderful lines perfectly encapsulate her writing, and all the themes within it:
« La vie est un miracle
Un univers de guérison
Une paire de socquettes blanches sur des pieds gelés
La vie est un tas de vertiges qui tournoient
Entre la tête et la région lombaire
Entre le cou et la trachée-artère.
Je m'y consume
Assoiffée de désir dans ce quotidien » (p.19)
Body and soul
The intellectual, metaphysical, spiritual investigation… and all that which creates the materialistic and corporal fabric of everyday life, intermingles with passion, resonates and penetrates, but not without humor! Anna-Marie Ravitzki's texts spread across the entire page or much of it. They call for eternity, for that desire of things transparent, for comprehending their meaning, in the void and also in « alleluias qui pénètrent dans chaque goutte de mystère » (p28) [Hallelujah hymns that penetrate every drop of mystery]… Despite this, they are dependent on the concreteness of life, experienced through the five senses; life and its expressions, lack, and pleasures… and the words represent the reality incarnated in our human condition:
« Nous sommes nous aussi des mammifères allaités au sein » (p.20)
« Et ma tête (...)
A compris le goût du sel collée à la plante de mes pieds » (p.13)
« J'ai de l'encre sur mes lèvres
Qui coule de ma bouche
J'écris avec ma salive » (p.14)
We are exposed to this intimate relationship between body and language, precisely because Anna-Marie Ravitzki is the primordial daughter of the Book, daughter of the Holy Scriptures, daughter of the Torah, all rendered worthless without words to serve us in our most essential daily dealings:
« J'implore le don d'une copie du manuscrit ancien
Qui se dicterait sur mon corps » (p.14)
« Je veux me vieillir à en mourir dans la langue de la Torah » (p.29)
« ...perles des profondeurs
Accumulant toute mon histoire en une seule vague
Qui submerge mon corps de grandes tentations
Et inscrit sur ma peau les Saintes Ecritures. » (p.31)
In perpetual motion
For Anna-Marie Ravitzki (who taught philosophy for a long time), the bubbling images correspond to thoughts that boil up, from which she would like, at times, to disconnect.
« Je ne suis que les signes sur le corps
Je suis des réflexions infinies sur la nature de l'homme » (p.25)
« Mon intellect enflamme les mots » (p.24)
« Mes pensées se dirigent d'elles-mêmes
Vers une dimension qui me crache à la figure
(…) Ma curiosité est grande » (p.33)
The poet tells us of the stirring « l'effervescence qui pétille dans mon âme comme du champagne » (p.39) [that bubbles in my soul like champaign], which she would like to sometimes prevent so that « trouver sa respiration dans des pensées simples » (p.39) [breath yourself in simple thoughts]. But the source of this internal movement is apparently rooted in history itself, in the personal and collective life-story, Anna-Marie Ravitzki was born in Tel Aviv « fille d'immigrés » (p.30) [daughter of immigrants], « à la recherche de l'amour » (p.40) [in search of love] within « ces sentiers blessés » (p38) [these wounded trails]. The fundamental movement is walking, on a path: path of the body, path of the soul.
Oftentimes, the writer defines herself as a foreigner, a bohemian, a minority of minorities, afflicted with a sense of exile, an internal and external exile… and much like God's promise to Abraham « Go forth (to yourself) » (Gn 12, 1) a promise we also find in the Song of Songs (Canticles 2:10), Anna-Marie confesses to us that: « Je vais mon chemin face à moi-même » (p.38) [I make my way facing myself], between memory and the future, but also in the present, which entirely contains entirety within itself:
« Je cherche tout ce qui s'est perdu sur le balcon de l'enfance » (p.22)
« Le présent est l'arme de mon existence disimulée depuis mon enfance » (p.23)
« Je fraie un chemin vers un lieu inondé de battements de coeur » (p.40)
« J'élague les bruits chaque matin
Je les dépose sur les brumes
Et je sais qu'aujourd'hui je vis. » (p.44)
Thirst of a lover
References to the Bible in her songs, as we have just seen, are plentiful. Emmanuel Moses, the translator of her poems, emphasizes that Anna-Marie Ravitzki "studied Jewish philosophy in depth". He adds: "The Bible, just like the New Testament to which she also feels a close affinity, especially to figures like Mary Magdalene – as is clearly apparently in her book published by Obsidiane – traverses and nurtures her work." She employs biblical frameworks and expressions taken form Jewish tradition, religious incantations, Kabala, the Yiddish language… with which she literally plays around!
Through all this, Anna-Marie Ravitzki confesses her need for love, her ardor, all her passions, and she feels this closeness with the figure of Mary Magdalene, both with who she was before meeting Christ and certainly after, bearing happiness and purifying tears… only true love purifies, a love we all seek but each one experiences according to their own way and ability. She expresses wonderfully how « les touchers (d'amour) que la chair vivante a connus sont la clé de mon devenir » (p.36) [those touches (of love) all on the live flesh are the key to my life's being]. « Je suis étrangère, par ma fougue aussi » (p.37) [I am a stranger, in a strange storm]. She says she wants to « connaître tous les trottoirs de la ville » (p.41) [get acquainted with all the sidewalks of this city] (and we are reminded of the lover from the Song of Song, desperately longing to find her lover on all the streets of his town). She says she is « une enfant des rues » [a child of the street], and then also « l'amante vulgaire de cette ville » (p.41) [the cheap lover of this city], a child of all our contradictions, all our prostitutions, all our sicknesses of love...
The pinnacle moment, beautiful and profound, ever so sincere and pertinently essential, is the moment of meeting, where « le refuge du coeur » (p.41) [the refuge of the heart], « cette musique intérieure / m'appelle par mon prénom » (p.44) [this internal music / calling me by my first name], the mentioning of Christ's resurrection, in the garden by the empty grave, where he calls Mary Magdalene by her first name, while she imagines him to be the gardener. And then she calls out to him "Master!", recognizing Christ, in her joy of being known, of being acknowledged and truly loved by this God that is all love…
Having traveled through all the circles of Dante's Inferno, in the footsteps of the language of Virgil and formerly of Homer, here I am now burning in the poems of Anna-Marie Ravitzki, masterfully presented by Emmanuel Moses.
Penetrated deeply by this new Song of Songs, I infuse myself with its sensuality, its physical and spiritual burning, that of a Mary Magdalene who "flies, flying elephant" to places, a sky, a "sun of freedom".
The lover, this "Unique", this divine "crowned with thorns" is the Beauty that bathes the poems.
The poet has fulfilled a "love contract", a love tale like the Lais of Marie de France, which remains and does not leave the readers peaceful, but draws you into the lava of her style, "the red ink" of the sun.
Drunk from loving, she soaks her readers in her alcohol so strongly, one can only want to re-read Kokoro, in this face to face with the Other, a sinner who makes herself the double of the poet.