Helen Bar-Lev was born in New York City in 1942.  She has lived in Israel for 36 years.  Since 1976 Helen has devoted herself to art: painting, teaching and writing poetry.  From 1989 - 2001 she was a member of the Safad Artists’ Colony where she had her own gallery.  To date Bar-Lev has had 80 exhibitions, including 30 one-person shows.  Her poems and paintings have appeared in numerous online journals and print anthologies.  ‘Cyclamens and Swords’ with poems of Israel by Helen and Johnmichael Simon and Helen’s paintings has been published by Ibbetson Press, Boston, Mass, and Helen and Johnmichael also host a website, www.cyclamensandswords.com. Helen is Editor-in-Chief of the Voices Israel annual Anthology.



The world appears pale and backwards
and indeed a bit obsolete,
on the opposite side
of the shower curtain

I search for you my country,
little mapspeck
amongst plastic folds
perhaps three other nations
have the distinction
of being smaller than you,
but that is all

I compare your pinkness
with the enormous expanses
of greens and browns,
yellows and oranges

And am amazed at the fuss
the world makes over you
as though Madam Justice
put you on one scale
and the rest of the world on the other,
to balance things out

Everyone wants you,
little lovely country,
and I who love you
with the passion of unreason,
with the naturalness of one who lives in and for you,
am able to understand this

But they,
they cannot know

(c) 6.2005 Helen Bar-Lev


We were peace-parched
ordered the peace special
on the menu
in the Arab café
in the Old City

We tasted peace
proclaimed it sweet
like baklava
and Turkish coffee
in an Arab café
in the Old City

Cherished the stillness
peace brought with it
toasted it
cup clinking cup
in all the coffee shops
in the Old City

Ignored the signs
in the coffee grinds
in the cups
of Turkish coffee
in the Arab café
in the Old City

But peace is uncomfortable
in the Middle East
it chokes in our throats,
dissolves in our thoughts,
like lumps of sugar
attempting to sweeten
the bitter coffee
in the Arab café
in the Old City
of Jerusalem

© 10.2006 Helen Bar-Lev
also published on www.thehypertexts.com and in The Deronda Review



For James Deahl

Lord of peace
And Lord of all wars
I, simple artist
Born with no concept
Of politics,
No heart for these horrors,
Bow humble before you

Are you aware
That my daughter,
Normally fearless
But a pacifist since the womb,
Leftist to the core,
Wanders homeless from the bombs
Demolishing her town
Even this moment
As I attempt
To distract your attention
From the news on the television

Lord of war
And Lord of peace
just a suggestion to you
In your warless heaven,
Perhaps the time is auspicious
To copy the chromosomes
Of those of us humans
Opposed to violence,
To impose a holy law
Which would eliminate
The war chromosome
From all babies born
From now on

A daring experiment
An innovative concept
Perhaps a solution
To a continuous war
That has lasted
Since Adam
And refuses to finish

Anything really, Lord,
That would cause war to cease,
Permanently and forever
We’d be so appreciative
My daughter could return home
Blood rivers would stop their flow
Forests would grow from war-ashes
And we could all sleep again

© 8.2006 Helen Bar-Lev



Every Remembrance Day for the Fallen
I try to ignore the mourning
forget the statistics
continue to live,
as though sixty years
of this State’s existence
have passed peacefully
and stressless

I substitute local radio stations
and their sad soldier stories
with foreign ones who don’t know
and could not care
and listen to pleasant music,
immerse myself in creative forgetfulness

only, when my defenses relax
in defiance of my instructions,
do the faces of the fallen
parade in my mind,
the wails of mourners shriek in my ears,
the wars, the fear, the sleeplessness,
the funerals, the graves

and my fortress of protection crumbles
like the walls of Jericho,
the temples of Jerusalem,
like the mothers, the fathers,
the widows, the children

© 5.2008 Helen Bar-Lev