A Boat of Letters
arrives, and I lie down in its white wet,
ink prints on my cheek, feet, and dress.
Last night, I dreamt my husband
held me like a forceful wind
as I strained forward to hear
a group of girls sing, unclear,
soft, in our doorway.
I pushed towards them. They seemed far away.
He was strong, and I struggled against him.
Boat of letters, filled to the brim,
take us to your wild inky swamp
where leaves hang down like muted lamps,
where we can write and read; and with each broken seal,
let there be an answer, a surprise, something delightful!
First published in Poetry Review.
When the Light Begins to Close
When the light begins to close, just before it closes,
I am looking out the window or walking beside buildings,
a wave of uncertainty—suffocating, numinous—rushes my throat,
Suddenly I am my name:
standing in the garden, the fruit eaten, seeds burning the dust.
Loneliness, slanted cold enters the air around my neck.
Eve looks at the wet eyes of the animals, once soft and brown. The rotation
of the earth moves through her, me.
Holiness, a slanted cold
sifts the spaces between my fingers.
At end of day, light contracts: I stare into trees and lamps, the gray
sidewalk, shadows walking into shadows. What is it
about the transition between sun and dark, hope and gloaming,
that constricts, elates?
First published in PN Review.
There is no word for it in Hebrew,
and it’s never used in the Bible except
when someone says, “Go towards peace.”
I say, “See you later” or
“We’ll talk soon” or “Email me.”
Israelis say, “l’hitraot,” meaning “see you later,”
or they say “shalom,” which more often means “hello” and “peace.”
If they have to say it, they use a string of three languages
—Hebrew, Arabic, English—
as if to not claim any of them: “Oz, yalla, bye.”
Joseph’s goodbye to his father was a coat drenched with red life.
How does one tell Jacob—who had mourned
for twenty years with ash in his throat—
that his son is still alive?
Jacob’s granddaughter sings the too sweet news to him slant,
playing the harp, its strings denting her strong fingers,
her voice, almost silent in its depth,
undoing the violent goodbye: your son’s still breathing body...
First published in Zeek.