Helen Bar-Lev

Helen Bar-Lev was born in New York City in 1942. She has lived in Israel for 35 years. She holds a degree in Anthropology from California State University, Northridge, 1972. Since 1976 Helen has devoted herself to art: painting, teaching and writing poetry. From 1989 until 2001 she was a member of the Safad Artists’ Colony in the Upper Galilee where she had her own gallery. In January 2007 she and her partner Johnmichael Simon moved to Metulla, the northernmost town in Israel.

To date Bar-Lev has participated in 80 exhibitions, including 30 one-person shows. Her poems and paintings have appeared in many online journals such as The Other Voices International Project, The Coffee Press Journal, Boheme Magazine, The Poetry Bridge, River Bones Press, The HyperTexts, Palabras-Press, etc., and also print anthologies, including Meeting of the Minds Journal, Voices Israel Anthologies, Manifold Magazine of New Poetry, Lucidity Poetry Journal, Across The Long Bridge, An Anthology of Award-Winning Poetry, Sailing in the Mist of Time, An Anthology of Award-Winning Poetry, Harvest International, and Poesy.

A book entitled Cyclamens and Swords with poems of Israel by Helen and Johnmichael Simon has been published by Ibbetson Press of Boston, Mass. and is available via Lulu and also may be ordered from the authors (hbarlev@netvision.net.il). Her watercolour paintings and sketches are featured throughout the book.

Helen is a member of Voices Israel English Poetry Society and The Israel Artists’ and Sculptors’ Association. She is the global correspondent in Israel for the Poetry Bridge and Editor-in-Chief of the Voices Israel annual anthology.

Schubert in the Morning

Schubert’s Rosamunde
leaves the radio
and dances over
into my ears
still sleepy in bed
I allow the music to seep
into my being
where it rests
dreamily with me
Then it leaves
returns to the radio
but I know it was so
because it’s left
its footprints
on my pillow
© 1.2005 Helen Bar-Lev

For Corot

You, Corot, my hero,
of course you know
I bought a book of your drawings
thirty years ago
and slept with it under my pillow
for a year or more
slowly absorbing your soul
into my own
You, Corot, sometimes so somber
often I wonder
how you capture
that leafy silver
in your gossamer trees
How do you control the brush
to form the contours
of the rocks and pines
of forest and countryside?
Your compositions are mine
I am with you as you sit at your easel
in the fields, painting shepherds
and their flocks of sheep
capturing peace
I breathe your air and see with your eyes
the ease with which your brush
strokes rapidly
as you stroll through nature
ever the observer
I walk down your shadowy paths
in the near night of the twilight
of your canvases
and hear birds sing lullabies
from your ethereal trees
I know your need
to be alone in the forest
and feel your oneness
with the cosmos
Your portraits haunt me
your landscapes enchant me
Am I, are you, part of the same soul?
Are you now me? Was I once you?

© 2004 Helen Bar-Lev

The Golden Moth

You were a moth magnificent
wings a regal golden yellow
black-flecked to accentuate your uniqueness
one night you flurried fearless
into the lights of this home
Fluttered from the clutches
of one curious cat to another
they juggled you and teased you
but you refused to play into their paws
rescued, you were banished
to the kindness of the outside darkness
The next night you were back
into the claws of the cats
again escaped by the grace
of some sort of moth miracle
You were so beautiful
we cheered your tenacity
Then you were gone
we were relieved your pinpoint brain
realized this property
was off-moth territory
But we found you foolish moth
wings still intact
singed dead in an instant
of moth madness
burned by a lightbulb irresistible
Almost like a soldier
returned home after battle
killed crossing the road
on some mundane errand

© 11.2005 Helen Bar-Lev

In the Old City of Jerusalem

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

War Again

Warplanes fly
through the clock
through our sleep
seep into the boom
of bombs
in shelters
in our nightmares

Babies are born
in bomb shelters
crops die dry
in untended fields

Streets are empty
sunny ghost towns
in a mild
Mediterranean summer

Abandoned animals die
forest animals die
forests die
humans die

War wins

© 8.2006 Helen Bar-Lev

To Pretend Peace

Once we pretended
there was peace

We pulled the peace
over our eyes
so as not to see
how porous it was

Then a whirlwind of war
blew in from the south
from the north
blew out our peace
our crops
our forests
our optimism

We fled from cities
ate bloodied eggs
slept in strange beds
and prayed to a god

turned deaf

© 8.2006 Helen Bar-Lev


A fragment now
a word yesterday
a phrase tonight
between sirens and warplanes
and falling rockets
between forests turned to ash
and abandoned cities

Poetry cannot push through
among all the rubble
of our thoughts
our homes

© 8.2006 Helen Bar-Lev


Were parts of me to go
where I know I belong
where would the rest of me be
here on this earth?

Would the one half of my essence
left on my birthplace of earth
pine for its wanderer parts
like woman for man?

And would these parts await
the return of the others
or would they just continue
to live as usual, if a bit hollow?

Would that part of me there
on a warless world yearn
for the remainder of me left here
listening to the dismal news,
treading on eggs
amongst other humans?

Would it ever want to return,
be united with this other me,
would it feel a need
to be whole again?

I’m not certain, but probably
that part of me there,
where all of me belongs,
on that warless world

Would be more whole
than the two parts of me
living together
on this stressful earth

© 11.2006 Helen Bar-Lev