Riptides crash and clutch
onto an exhausted shore–
— a lover apprehends his muse
Riptides crash and clutch
onto an exhausted shore–
— a lover apprehends his muse
As I stared into the patterned moonlight on my carpet, I remembered
and the choice I made to walk away.
If miracles are in fact improbable chances
Like the sunrise I watch from the driver’s seat
I am reminded of the impending day
I’ve been aching to leave,
and I now realize:
This is such difficult sacrifice.
There are no guarantees anymore
And I pack these ill-fitting fears away
in the stubborn crevice of a Patagonia duffel bag.
Everything is a miracle.
I’ve loved you
until the moment you were
taken from my rib
My sides are still sore from the ripping and the mending;
I’ve remembered you
standing on the color-absent sleeping shore:
exhaling that intoxicating purple haze
escaping the ruins of wars, wars, wars
that the schlepper generation we are called
still wearily participates;
I’ve felt you
sitting shiva times seventy
from the pale arms of winter’s sunlight
to the kindled retreat of
hot milk and cocoa beans,
you in your flower dress, Tillamook green
woolly arms contently rest on frayed schwarz leather
why, why, why
did I look away to the busy Sunday streets
mulling another absence too early, panicking, [hostilely]
–helplessly captive in my lonely mind’s eye
kilos from your embracing dainty hands
forgetting to savor the moment
and my lukewarm café?
It has always been
the restless hope
finding the marauder
at odd hours
during the dark’s
a desperate need
grasps us two
under the Negev night
receding caution, our
entwined eyes elope;
beyond the gates
and the tower
from where I stand;
holding a strange girl
as my heart beats like
the discomforting report of a Sten
making senselessness of sense,
advancing with passionate hands–
that is how I betrayed you.
but loud is the labor of shared
sacrifice; the psalm
to survival in this strange
and embattled Land;
the hope, the red hymn,
a phonograph to our youth
in whose infant fields we stand;
the howls of night
and the colorful screams
of Semitic words
as they usher the tearing
of the fertile tapestry,
‘y’allah, kadima, aish’!
‘feel the might of our tribe;
pursue Ishmael ’til he dies’
again, don’t relent,
back into the land of Ur
from whose ancient heart
we’ve been heard–
by the declaration that shocked
the world near and far
and those brutal May evenings
with the sounds of armored cars,
whose names like Latrun, al-Quds,
and Mount of Olives
troubled this heart;
on the steep hill
from where my commander fell,
the stampede of boys busting ass
back to the Merkaz
this handless arm
has lost its cunning!
but you and my relatives
I haven’t forgot’;
under the white grace
of the hospital bed
with rows of cots
and dying Yids,
I felt my conscious
regain its strength,
man in the green,
send me back again.
and the sunburnt officer
cold stillness in his eyes
takes my bandaged arm,
stares as I try not to cry
‘you’re staying here, boy’
in an old Hungarian tongue;
it was days later
the song on the radio sung
that which you wanted
me to listen to,
and I remember back
how I did not desire your desire
or thought maybe you were too afraid; but it was I.
I remember how your coffee eyes
used to keep me awake.
I was never able to sleep,
while thinking a boy’s thoughts
and fearing a pauper’s fears
and that sad answer
leaves me restless again
as I understand you
hearing the words that you
so often thought of
I was quick to neglect
and how we came to the end;
it was one sunrise
in petah tikvah
I heard for the first time
an old man pray
the song of first rains
to come down again;
was this the religious longing
your fragile lips once spoke of?
was this the faith
that I had so recklessly set fire to?
I never knew G-d
nor what He could do
with every harvest and
new summer moon
hanging in the purple night
with that lingering citrus smell
that reminds me of you.
now a different hope,
a man’s hope,
festers deep down
walking the streets of holiness.
standing on the hill,
where the shells fell straight
we heard the chief order
us into the Lion’s Gate,
and I could feel the weight of your
distant joy, like heavy water
walking the charred streets
dodging bullets and occasional
explosive fodder; the wall was craggy
to the touch, and I couldn’t restrain
my tears that caused
these cheeks to rust,
I had become iron, so inhuman; incapable of love, and emotionally decayed,
and at the foot of the holy presence
the first prayer in two-thousand years
of my own negligence,
now the restless hope
liberated like the heart
of the Jewish people,
sets my faith anew
as I wait for you
whether by charcoal eyes
or Mediterranean blue
I build, and wait on this temple
for the day I can be true,
lest I lose my left hand
and its vacant finger
ready for a hope fulfilled
in spite of a past omitted–
I think the dying man
Does not want us to question our dreams
Such as when we protest about life
And cannot remember what life means,
The weight of goodness it brings;
He wants us to be examples
To break the chains and give pursuit to our peace
Whispering gently as the levant’s revenant cyclamens grow
Heart furiously ablaze, eyes welled up like a spring,
One last thought
When I first met you,
Your arms stuttering
Across the cabin
With a dreadful fear
That was once anger,
Your eyes blue with youth
Your finger was entwined by a wearying gold
And your chest wrapped in a scarf, but your soul was nakedly standing
Before us all nakedly waiting.
It’s tough to savor the flight from Mitzrayim.
This Sten is your Staff,
Hold it close to to your heart, m’zun
Its pillars of fire
Will deliver you to the land
–Give your children a name;
Our cousins in Palestin’eh call,
So when you face Ost
Pray that they’ll have abundance of grain
For you’n me.
Those navy, glossy eyes
You afraid, m’zun?
Your shtetl you shouldn’t worry about
Only look forward, into the flame;
Never mind the smoke and ash.
What was she like, m’son?
Eyes of charcoal, a tikhel of dirty hair,
Miriam’s hand swinging between her breasts?
You’ll find her again in Eretzyisroel,
Trust me, m’son
Put this Staff to good use, though
You’ve probably never used a gun.
Look at me.
You’ve come this far,
You believe in reason?
Make dying your treason;
Success is your fate.
Though’w’re hunted like rats
Let Adonai be your lance,
Stand by it, pray quiet
And don’t you ever look back
They say the Reds are giv’n them hell,
Plagues of green are a’coming through France,
The Mandate holds our land,
And the fascist murderers panic.
Hope runs through your veins;
One day you’ll change your name,
And in streets of peace your daughters will dance,
Consider this fight a bris,
You’ll draw blood, sweat;
And these tears,
Hold onto this Staff,
Spite our Angel of Death.
Feeling the Ypres wind whisper through my back,
Lingo of dead men long silenced, cracked;
The meaning of life descends as the surface to its shoal,
Clad in sweat and cloth, the husk of a killer over soul;
So close I could touch him, would they grimace or shy?
Would I be painted an outsider; or am I too afraid to try?
soothe the trees;
Embers prematurely spent and love a gulf away,
Given the chance to sleep I wouldn’t dare want to stay.
Long doses of peace return in throbbing, warm waves;
The relief is heavier, but shoes like body are weathered, decayed.
Prayers into curses fester at the tip of our tongue;
They all want you in my arms, not this loaded gun.
The copper whistle lies; a glimpse of false might,
Following the dark river’s cellophane light:
Breathing soon becomes bleeding as the monsters labor on,
Weariness begets peace; your memory I savor, waver… savor;
Come to me–
The poppy shivers in the field, your shoulders arrest my mind,
Your wandering coffee eyes I struggle to remember overtime;
Move me, seek;
Stalls and humility frustrated me– tore the weak seams,
Mulling over another headache, and parched gray dreams;
I’ve never forgot;
Brothers remember and feel these things, I neglect,
Holding another sweetheart in their last dying breaths,
The bickering stall!
The shores erupt in dirt, her white collar begins to fade,
German and Old Contemptibles meet in their home; make it or break!
A green smoke thaws, tattered corpses in line,
Once boys, now husbands: gifts to widows in time;
‘My Children’ He weeps;
I cannot comprehend the betrayal given,
When I stopped another man’s heart,
like mine– passchen driven,
Beneath Turquoise skies, Her rivers flow wide
Fire cheated flame to which Kingdoms hath formed
Where flut’ring stripes fly in echoing pride
A Sacred land spare glory, hope
Throughout Her hist’ry, she hath been exchanged,
Back to Her tender care we have returned
To the great dismay of nations in hatred,
We stand and defend with all of our earn.
Her blessings reach far, as a mother’s Arms;
I want to go and restore though we’re far,
Rush to protect Her before she is harm’d
Give my life to fight beneath David’s star.
A Saint who hath birth’d Kings and is our God’s own,
I will incur full might, I am call’d to Home.
(Photograph of Paratroopers Brigade exercise in May 2010, courtesy of IDF Spokesperson)
While reading through some old poetry I wrote growing up, this piece stuck out to me. I wrote it as a senior in high school, inspired by the German invasion of the Netherlands, a particular, beautiful Dutch city by the name of Arnhem, and its subsequent liberation by Allied forces in September 1944. It won me first place in my high school’s first annual poetry competition.
Colorized 1930 photograph of one of Holland’s windmills, destroyed during liberation in September 1944.
I have always been allured by this region of Europe, with its peaceful grasslands and famous windmills; an innocent lowland which saw the detestable evils of senseless destruction, the disruption of a loving people, and the snare of deportation and genocide. Because of this attractive, silent scene and its history of unearthing and healing, I feel a deep conviction to visit Arnhem and take this all in; just as I felt the need to pull these words from my heart and out of my mind, and give a voice to the people who lived in Nazi Germany’s terrible shadow.
They awake from the night
filled with a dying Ambience, stirred
by the falcon who took flight
dropping bombs beneath
swastikas sheathed in steel
and conquering the night in fiery flare.
The night terror hath gone
Morning flame enlightens the sky, the city
Rolling on ruins,
gentle, like honey.
There is something beautiful about destruction.
The seclusions of the dark
expose like carrion
The shops stand and sway
softly like the warblers nesting,
singing, far away
from this curious and sleeping hell.
There is no green
the streets have gone
flooded by the walls and beds and dressers
of families kill’d, departed, and regimented
into Holland’s war
Fire the strings of a harp
Falling rain and father’s tears
bathe the sunlit ruin
in warm water
It does not stop falling.
Ashes slowly descend,
Like humble shreds of paper snow,
Fluttering to and fro in the tender breeze,
Covering piles of jagged concrete and unrooted trees,
And into streams running black like bubbling lead.
dissonance of collapsing rubble,
Bass’ly snares of artillery guns and machine weapons
clamouring far away,
and pounding our breasts so dreadfully near.
The splendor which gives light to our penance,
reaches high above the threshold of white thunder,
gleams upon every sullen surface in our ruined city,
shines in alabaster grace about the streets now flooded again.
A dying terrier caught in the treads of a panzer tank whimpers to the sound,
the sorrowful sweet harmony of singing voices.
Brothers, fathers, sisters, and mothers
Saints and Sinners raise hands in redeeming falling waters
arms and fingers and tattered flags
rising from the rubbles of hatred,
one final time, shout
The drums of liberation clap within and around
cracked and bleeding walls,
as French horns hum mournfully amidst the golden-bright storm.
Shadows pass the bricks and planks and ripped-out roads of Arnhem,
Blooming roses and crimson poppies shiver and
flinch from the late summer’s restless reign.
The sobbing does not stop,
the singing retorts in uncanny tones,
Thunder rumbles above the hissing skies,
the splashes sooth, and so strongly the godsend demands.