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ISBN: 978-1-62557-837-2
Categories Poetry

City of Skypapers

Publication Date: May 2021


When I sit and when I stand,

when I wake and when I fall asleep
I am thinking of it, it is a slight
pressure on the stomach the length of a
finger, it is the sudden ambiguous
movement, as if from a field of zinnias
a kingfisher shot out of view before
the eye could register it, it might not
have been a kingfisher, I might have
just imagined it, it could happen
at any moment, I might have
already missed it, it might not
even exist except in thinking
about it, which I never do,
except when I sit and when I stand,
when I wake and before I fall
asleep, when I go out along the road,
when the chain comes off my bike
and I yank it from the gears
and lift the rear tire, and guide
it back on, when I wipe my hands
of grease, when I run along the river,
when I get home with my dirt-streaked
legs, while I am grinding coffee, while
I am waiting for it to boil, while I am
selecting clothes pins for the socks
and snap them to the line, which will
break sooner, rather than later, and I
say this, too, will happen sooner
rather than later, the laundry line
has been repaired with plastic twine,
with ribbons from boxes of chocolate,
when I set the table, when I remove
the plates, when the water is running
from the tap, while waiting for it to
grow hot. Otherwise, I am perfectly
still inside my breath, which I send out
into the world, which always comes back to me.


The title of Marcela Sulak’s fifth collection of poems, City of Skypapers, feels apt for its deliciously long lines hang suspended between the holy and the home, between the rituals that “elevate the loaf” and those of Shabbat that “place roses in their vase, candles in their stick.” This American Israeli poet, teaching and raising a daughter in the Middle East, acknowledges both the “wreckage of the Byzantine villages” as well as the peril of living in a place where “the antennae at the  military base quiver” and where “no one knows what time our daily missile will appear.” At the same time, this poet embraces Tel Aviv’s quotidian humor writing an ode to the city’s garbage collectors whose “clarity” she craves and praising “the season for shedding shoes…every last one of them black.” The brilliant cadence of Sulak’s poems, “keeping pace with the current” of the Yarkon River along which the poet runs, not only enact, but also celebrate what it means to be alive “in a place where the flowers are old enough to have stories.” These poems should be read, perhaps even sung.

–Sarah Wetzel

About the Author

Marcela Sulak

Marcela Sulak has published three titles with Black Lawrence Press–two poetry collections, Decency (2015) and Immigrant (2010), as well as her lyric memoir, Mouth Full of Seeds (2020). Her third poetry collection City of Skypapers is forthcoming. She’s co-edited with Jacqueline Kolosov the 2015 Rose Metal Press title Family Resemblance. An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres. Sulak, who translates from the Hebrew, Czech, and French, is a 2019 NEA Translation Fellow, and her fourth book-length translation of poetry: Twenty Girls to Envy Me: Selected Poems of Orit Gidali, was nominated for the 2017 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation (University of Texas Press). Her essays have appeared in The Boston Review, The Iowa Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Asymptote, and Gulf Coast online, among others. She coordinates the poetry track of the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University, where she is an associate professor in American Literature. She also edits The Ilanot Review and hosts the TLV.1 Radio podcast, Israel in Translation.

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