Friday, December 20, 2013

The Funeral (published in The Masters Review Magazine)




Friday, November 15, 2013

John’s Mystery Train

John’s Mystery Train, I write in my journal.  (I could see his name displayed on the clipboard in his lap.)  I sit quietly in the corner of the roofless safari-vehicle, the open landscape stretching to the horizon (mostly sand dunes, the smell of the sea but a hint of salt in the air), writing in my journal (a simple school notebook).  Finally the vehicle empties of others.  He notices me.

John’s Mystery Train,
I scribble again in my journal, using my secret language.  He glances over my shoulder, puzzled.
Is this Hebrew? he asks.
I raise my notebook to him.  Have you ever seen it before? I say.
He stares at my doodles.

I know John plays the guitar,
His shoulder-length hair is ink dark, and he closely resembles a singer whose voice I find alluringly seductive. (I was having difficulty talking to John; he was tongue-numbing handsome.)

As the landscape dissolves, I wrack my brain for a good ending to this tale.  Alas, none is found in the chambers of my mind.
Another misty day, I think as I crack open my eyes.
8AM, announce the digits on the clock’s face.

Friday, October 25, 2013

My Side of Things


It seems so long ago that we were together.
It feels almost unreal.
Yet sometimes it feels very real. 
Curious how perspective changes time and space.

It took a while for the anger inside me to burst forth.

No, I wasn’t angry about the breakup;
it wasn’t the most graceful of breakups
(you avoiding me, us breaking up on the phone),
but you wanted out, and that isn't something I can hold against you. 

Yes, I was in great pain,
but that was my choice.

My anger came from a different place:
remembering how you treated me while we were together,
how your initial intense interest
turned into a confusing mixture of affection and distance,
which gradually formed into
Coldness.
Indifference.
Evasion.

I felt more like a witness than a participant
with you.
Mostly listening,
less and less being listened to.
I slowly disappeared though I was physically there.

And when it finally burst forth, my anger
was venomous. I was consumed for days.
Until I understood:
it was mainly myself I was mad at;
it was me who failed to protect herself,
me who I needed to forgive.

Because I knew;
I knew from the start
all that I knew at the end.
But I chose:
Silence.
Blindness.

And this is my side of things:
long before we met, and for quite a while,
I was hiding in the safety of illusion.
I told myself I was
somehow
fulfilling my dreams, though I did nothing for them,
and I knew I was doing
nothing,
yet I chose
denial.

And then you came along,
to provide relief from self-dislike, to offer
a much-needed distraction
that made my illusion manageable.

Only it was a bubble destined to burst from the moment of its inception.

And sooner or later I had to face my
Fears.
And embrace my
Dreams.
Myself.

And so I did.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Re/collections



Some collect stamps; others gather souvenirs from around the world.  Numerous dusty shelves are crammed with treasured items. 

Someone strolls in an exotic market, in a foreign land, his hand reaches for a beautiful thing while his other hand hurries to grab the wallet; I must have this!  The stall owner wraps the purchase with extra care.  He wants to reassure the buyer it is indeed worth the hefty sum.

Old, new, borrowed,
Bought, inherited, or found.

All these precious things!


I leave all beautiful things behind, and save their impressions alone.
Ha, you might say, but these will die with you. 
I reply: By telling you about all the beautiful things I ever saw, my recollections live on, for they too hold beauty.  Though time might alter them, they would not shudder like crystal glass, grow mold, or burn in a fire. 

And if forgotten, then so be it. 


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tête-à-tête


Darkness gradually conquers the landscape outside.  Soon, nearby details are barely discernible, sinking into an ocean of ink.  From time to time the lights of a passing village blink in the distance.

The low hum of the metal leviathan, within its dim cavity we are carried, nearly lulls me to sleep.  The lit dashboard at the front offers some reassurance. 

Across the narrow isle, a heavyset man beside a middle-aged woman.  White strands weave through her auburn hair.  Seated by the window, her face is turned toward him.  Eyes open wide.  Pale lips.  Her voice is low and slightly hoarse, and her speech is slow.  The words nearly get entangled in one another.  She weighs each one carefully as if not to trip. 

About her father she is talking.  In a village on the northern planes, where the land is vast and the intervening houses are few, he lives alone in an old house atop a hill.  During the long winters a thick layer of ice covers the ground, and smoke eddies out of his chimney into the grey skies.  

“He had built the house himself some fifty years back,” she carries on, the words now ease out of her mouth in a smoother flow. “And he says he shall remain there, come what may.”

From the corner of my eye I see her companion nodding.  The conversation lowers to a whisper, and I turn to look outside again.  Save for our dashboard and headlights, we are as if floating in an empty space made of solid blackness. 

Shouldn’t have we crossed through the big city by now?  Was our destination altered?  I haven’t seen any side-road signs in a while.  My eyes slowly shut by themselves, I doze off, and when I open them again, we are still immersed in darkness.   

Or is it the white of the icy northern-land that I see far on the horizon?


Friday, September 13, 2013

Elisabeth


If I thought your death would be the end, it has but
marked the beginning; my insistent dreams keep
bringing you back. The old you, not
the latter you, who was broken and feral
like a crazed alley cat.

The old you, when you were swimming
in an ocean of hope, away
from a shadowy past, away
from those who knifed you.
When you moved through miles of scar
tissue, and I admired
your every stroke.

This evening, in a downtown bar, I spoke
to a woman who had your slightly
down-pointing corners of the mouth, thin
long hair, pale complexion. Even the ethereal
frameless spectacles. Looking well
and lively—light raying
from her gleaming eyes—she chortled
with the laugh you had before
despair stole it away.

I never died, I wished
her to speak; my cheeks are rosy, my
spirit high, and I’m now going to order
another glass of chardonnay!

Elisabeth, I miss you so.

Am I to mourn you for the rest
of my days, carry sacks of longing
in my chest, keep looking up at the vacant
windows each time I walk down your street?

No, we would surely meet
again, and we would run through a sun-drenched
meadow, flowers woven in our hair. 
Not the survivors of harsh circumstances, 
but lighthearted creatures of spring days.
As we’d emerge from the earth, leaping
forth joyfully, the ground shall tremble
in six directions, and we would rise high and dance!  



Friday, August 30, 2013

A memory


I have a single memory from my grandparents’ previous house.  An afternoon siesta.  My parents are napping, and I, sandwiched between them, listening to the quiet coming from within and without the house.  My parents’ breaths, the glide of the few cars in the street below. 
 
The sounds that come from outside the house sound different according to the season; thick and echoing in the summer, and somewhat sharper at wintertime.  This early memory is seasonless.  Perhaps back then everything was bright and light, like a good feeling at springtime.  At the spring of my life then, I was lying on my back, gazing at the heavy upright shutter-panels of my grandparents’ porch.  Stripes of blue sky peeked between the panels; splashes of clouds whitened the blue here and there.  And the safely of that calmness; safety that came from everything and everyone around me.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Failure


Sitting in the dark, contemplating my next move,
Looking back to the past,
Quickly glancing at the future,
Where am I standing now, right this minute, what did I want to be when
I was a girl, what will you be when you grow up, oh the world is
Your oyster back then, mummy and daddy are just grand
Back then
No doubts, no fears, dream on, what will you be when you grow up
The years, the years stream onward, a mighty unstoppable river
But of course I still have a future ahead of me
I can make it all happen, I will, yes I will, and the years
Move forward always forward and
Away
Away
The 80s long gone, and what happened to the 90s, where have the 90s
Gone
Gone
Turning the page on the century that born me
The years
Away
Away
What will you be when you grow up
Anything
Anywhere
The world is your oyster
But
But
Time never stops
Seconds, minutes, hours, days—gushing
The years
Away

In the dark I can see better; my face disguised, the truth,
The doubts, the fears stare me in the eye. 
I have nowhere to hide, nothing to hide for, nobody to hide with. 
The blessed darkness, the moonless night.
And I ask, I have to ask,
Just this once,
What if I am a failure?


Friday, August 2, 2013

Why I write


Since childhood, writing has been one of my main channels of expression.  Creating my own kingdoms, and populating them with characters of my choice fills me with immense joy and satisfaction.  Moreover, writing is my anchor.  Putting reflections into words is vital to my thought process; it gives form and weight to abstract notions, and helps me gain a better understanding of myself and the world at large.
       Before I began writing, I was an avid reader, which I doubtless owe to my mother.  When I was young, she would cross town twice weekly, in any weather, to borrow books at the pubic library for my sister and me.  Back then my parents had little money to spend on such luxuries, and my mother’s dedication has enriched my world far beyond where my imagination, or life in the insipid suburb of Tel Aviv where we lived, could have carried me.  Thus I became a bookworm.  By the time I was a teenager, I had already consumed the library’s children and young adult books, and began devouring adult titles.  Many of them, like Gone with the Wind, took me years to fully digest, as I lacked context and the appropriate maturity to comprehend the narrative’s implications.  In high school I treasured the summer vacation recommendation-list, from which we were asked to choose one or two books.  By the end of the summer, I had read all the books I could find in the library, covering between ten and fifteen volumes. 
       Though as a child it was clear to me that I would become a writer when I grow up, it took me half my life to fully realize this vision.  The reasons for this might be many, but one of them, no doubt, is the language itself.  My knowledge of the English language has been reasonably proficient from an early age, yet it took many years to gain the confidence and skill to be able to write with fluency.
       Born and raised in Israel, Hebrew is my native language.  As an obsessive reader, I had mastered the Hebrew language.  And just as childhood experiences leave deep impressions in us, Hebrew had resonated in me with layers of meanings.  Certain words, or a combination of them, would conjure up visceral feelings, such as longing and loneliness that were associated with the ambience typical of Jerusalem’s quiet streets on the Sabbath.
       After immigrating to the U.S. in 1991, when I was in my mid 20s, I continued using Hebrew in my creative writing.  I was working on a short story collection when a friend asked me which language I was using.  Hebrew of course, I replied.  With my friend’s question hovering in my mind, I could not resist the urge to try and compose in English.  And so I decided to throw away the crutches and experience English from within.  It was a struggle.  Like other immigrants, I too often translated from English into my native language to fully comprehend what I heard or read.   Moreover, the English vocabulary is much larger than the Hebrew one, and its grammar and spelling are more complex.  I have leapt from a lake into a vast ocean. 
       As a child, I looked forward to my grandmother’s visits from London.  I loved her suitcase that held a delicate bouquet of perfume, and promises of gifts and sweets we did not have in Israel back then.  With her German-accented English Granny made me admire the language.  It, as she, represented worldliness, opportunities, and a vague sense of freedom. 
      Growing up in Israel, I never quite felt I belonged there.  I imagined a place where people are unstressed and kind to one another, and the landscape is green and lush.  As a preteen, my bedroom wall was covered with picturesque photographs, cut out from a Scottish calendar.  Gazing at the open pastures, many hours were spent daydreaming about these landscapes.  Beyond the obvious attraction for someone who grew up in an arid country, these images represented a different reality: Peaceful, harmonious, and generous.  Though I never traveled outside its borders before I emigrated from Israel, I somehow knew I belonged elsewhere. 
      This sense of unease was amplified when I turned into a young adult.  It was doubtless the result of growing up in a war zone.  In particular the four years of living in violence-ridden Jerusalem, prior to arriving in Boston.  The first Intifada (the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation) plagued the entire country, and it hit the Israeli capital the hardest.  In 1987, a year after I moved to Jerusalem to attend college, the city’s sleepy streets were radically transformed.  People were knifed in public spaces almost daily.  The bus I took to school, crossing Arab neighborhoods on the east side of town, was often stoned.  Once, a rock hit the window right beside me.  I was deeply thankful that I had been too lazy to open it earlier, as I usually did.  Through my years in Jerusalem I have developed a habit of looking over my shoulder whenever walking in the street; a nervous tendency I have never been able to overcome, even though I had left my homeland more than twenty years back.
       My grandmother’s visits were my most direct connection with the kingdom of “abroad” I had been cultivating in my fantasies.  It took effort and time, but this vision has since become my reality.  And it doesn’t fall short from my childhood imaginations.  Brought to the Boston area by serendipity, I soon felt quite comfortable here.  Of course, no place is trouble free, yet I find life here to be much more manageable.  Unaffected by traumatic wars, nor burdened by the weighty past of the Holocaust, New Englanders seem to be relatively calm, kind, and most important, tolerant of the “other.”  Inspired by the liberal spirit—and the diversity of its international and multicultural populace—my new locale feels like home. 
       Though my work often draws on my Jewish-Israeli background, I find it easier to write in the U.S., as I wrote in my piece, Air:  “[here] my wings gained strength, by and by, until they grew large enough to break the bars.  And I tiptoed into new air.  Crisp air.  Open air.  I began breathing; small swigs at first, deeper gulps at last.  In this new land.  In this new air.”
       Over the years, being immersed in English, my relationship with Hebrew has transformed.  In fact, a few years back I read some poems I wrote when I was sixteen, which left me impressed by the high quality of the writing.  I even needed to translate a few words into English.  The resonance I so enjoyed in the past slowly faded; nowadays, when I read Hebrew, my emotions are rarely stirred by the words.  At some point I realized that, though I am no longer intimate with Hebrew, I might never acquire a similar relationship with English.  In a recent poem I wrote: 

                       I love to write.
                       I am a writer.
                       I am a writer without a language.

       It was working on my first novel, From the Desert, that enabled me to complete the immigration route into my new lingual homeland.  Weaving the story for more than three years, thread by thread, has granted me a sense of ownership over the English language.  I might never be able to emulate the relationship I once had with Hebrew, yet English and I are certainly growing closer.  With this, my work and focus have gained impetus, and my mind is inundated with ideas.
       I often work simultaneity on a few pieces; flash fiction, poems, short stories, and a novella that is slowly brewing.  While much of the themes center on new ideas, some of my work relates to past experiences, such as my service in the Israeli Air Force.  
       With the distance from my native country, and using a second language, I am now better able to exorcise my devils and examine that which keeps gnawing at me.  When put in words, war and violence seem less traumatic, and help me better appreciate my homeland and my upbringing, and all the raw feelings and throbbing memories that come with it.  I find that writing liberates apparitions and enhances the act of living.
      One can never know what the paths untaken might have offered, but I am quite certain that had I remained living in Israel and writing in Hebrew, my work would have taken a very different shape.  And I love the wide horizons my immigration of both home and language made possible!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Words


I walk into the street armed with words I wrote last night.

They are my bronze armor when dark befalls on frigid winter days.
When thoughts of an unredeemable past resurface,
Their company disarms anger, soothes the hurt,
Laces details into the larger tapestry.  

Alas, they
Often rebel.
Solemnly refuse to
Offer any consolation,
They                        just                     sit there                            and sit
Their commanding presence nearly a declaration of war
Each letter              s                t               a               r                e                 s
At me insubordinately,
Void of resonance,
Indifferent to my pleas.

Unburden me!  I demand.  Set me free!
Absolve my faults,                                       
Redeem it all!

Silence in response.
Letters curve in                  
Meaningless twirls;
The magic wand devoid of magic.

Shieldless, I cower at my doorsteps like a swordless worrier.
Met by shrewd winds, and
Strangers milling in the streets in the millions.
I turn to flee.  Back indoors! feet are commanded.
Wait, a thin voice arises from the lamppost a step away. 
I near it; the black metal is cold to the touch, quiet to the ear.
Yet I wait. 

The sun moves away; shortly, dark will fall.  I tighten my woolly hat.
And wait.  Incapacitated.  Night takes over. 
All alone in a bitter streetcorner. 

Then some slight movement underfoot.
Or am I imagining?

Slowly they start rising from the pavement,
Dropping from the awnings,
Leaping out of my coat sleeves.
Forming into
Lines.
Playfully
Coil and whirl; my eyes twitch, birthing more letters,
Flowing down my cheeks.  My neck, wet with words.
I bleed, I vomit; sentences stream out in
Spasms of sweat, my head implodes
With tidal surges.
The street is inundated
With waves of tales.

Pedestrians flee, cars loudly screech, the ground shakes,
A roof nearby caves in, rats run out of their burrows.

Sufficed, I shake my stiff limbs and saunter down the street
With poise.

Armor at hand.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Fourth!


 
A lazy Fourth, hot
as hell outside. (But I like this weather.)
Happy Independence Day, I say
to the dog; she raises
her heavy head and looks
at me puzzled. She is,
afterall, an American bitch.

All and sundry are now barbequing
in their backyards,
and the Boston Pops, no
doubt, are playing on the sizzling
esplanade by the everstreaming
Charles. Everyone is waiting
for dark to fall and the fireworks
to rocket into the sky, spewing
Mickey Mouse out
of a three-dimensional
cube wrapped in dancing ribbons.

Afterall, what is more American
than Mickey Mouse.

The dog and I doze off
to the light breeze fashioned
by the tired fan;
she on the rug,
I on the couch.

Independently. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Unbelonging

My body is the extension of my thoughts,
My roots are planted
Nowhere.
The freedom of unbelonging is my luggage.

I move against the stream of time, push against the flow of crowds 
In public spaces,
Heaving uphill while being pulled 
Nothingward. 
The fire is leaping in the fireplace; glasses are refilled with
Mulled wine,
Everyone in the room is red-cheeked, words fly in the air from
Mouths to ears.
The children on the floor
Play as all children do.
Today I am here, tomorrow I am gone;
Planes, buses, trains, cabs—vehicling me with efficiency of some degree or another.
Today I am here, yet my mind is already transported
Elseward.
I want to stay here, I want with all my might; it
Is the damn legs that won’t cease pacing, the cities
That keep changing.

The luggage of unbelonging is my freedom
And
Shackles.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Touch

Fleeting moments,
Fluttering wings,
Transparent.
Rays of light resting at the edge.

I touch.





Friday, June 7, 2013

Oh, sister

Your absence has been gaping a hole in me
For some time now,
And the ocean that separates us is not the reason for the abyss
Between us.
Oh, my green-eyed sister,
Deep shadows streak your pallid face.
Withdrawn, you curl up in one corner, never look
Up
Beyond the wall of silence.
My fingers stretch out,
Yet you are not there.  You are not there.


Oh brother,
When we are old.  Very old.  Will you know me?
Shall we stroll the hills of Jerusalem together, step within the walls,
Enter the narrow alleys,
Scrumptious humus dripping from pita hunks
At Abu Shukri’s on Al Wad Road?
Our sentences get entangled, so eager we are to speak and listen all at once.
Our laughs still resonate in me.

You have grown so, you have grown so.
Oh brother,
Will I know you when I am old?

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Ocean

Though I cannot see it through the dark, I can hear the ocean from here; the surf crashing against the rocks, the current sweeping the water back and forth: 
Swoosh Swish Swash
Breakers throwing themselves onto boulders, pushing into crevices:
Plop—Plip—Polyp Plup—Ploop—Polyp Polyp—Plop—Plop
No two waves sound alike.

The guest bedroom is overlooking the bay from the villa’s second floor.

The rich are not happier, I can tell you that.  They simply conduct their feuds and brood over their problems in specious, tastefully furnished houses.  Fine wine stacked in the racks.  Porches hover over the ocean.  Expensive cars in the driveways. 

Blue blooded New Englanders.  Well educated.  Well traveled.  Well manners.  (Their vacation homes were bought while my grandparents escaped flaming Europe.)  I cleverly interject a comment into their conversation here and there.  To get their polite attention for one, perhaps two minutes.  Unfamiliar with their terminology, following the chat around the dinner table feels like cracking open a beer bottle with my teeth.

I do not ski
I am not well connected
I am not even from here

In the morning I will wake to the summery sun pouring through the windows, and step downstairs to the morning room for some coffee.  But tonight I shall lounge on the wide guest bed with my laptop for company and listen to the ocean, as the surf crashes against the rocks: 
Plep—Plop—Polyp  Ploop—Plip—Plup Plop—Plip—Ploop

I peer into the inky night, and the ceaseless waves wash away my worries.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Road

Nice car.
I like that light blue.

Who’s driving it?
Long dark hair … She looks somewhat familiar.
Do I know her?

Gee, she’s going fast,
Zipping through the streets with
Open windows.
Pursed lips.
Eyes squinted.
Brow frowned. 

I wonder where she’s headed.
Meeting someone?
Do I know him?

The landscape is opening up with each mile.
Trees canopying above,
Sunrays filter through the
Tender springtime leaves. 
Soon the road will cross a covered bridge.
Underneath, the tranquil flow of water would
Murmur its melodies. 
The driver's hair billows in the light breeze.
Is a smile forming on her lips?

I like driving in the countryside
Where I can finally
                                    b r e a t h e

Friday, May 3, 2013

When I Was Eight

When I was eight, my mom
Told us to draw the black curtains over the windows at night.
My dad wasn’t around. None of the dads were around. When I

Was eight, my younger sister and I would rush
Down the stairs to the bomb shelter when the sirens went off. My aunt,

Who lived in the apartment above us, painted the shelter shortly before.
She covered the walls with babyblue clouds, large flowers,
Butterflies, birds.

When I was eight,
We lived on the second floor of a four-story building.
There was a thrill of excitement for my sister and me when
The sirens went off; we dashed down the
Neverending stairs with tingling feet.

When I was eight, we sat in our beautiful shelter,
Reading our books, eating our snacks, waiting for the second alarm.
The one that told us we could go home.
I was always worried I’d run out of reading materials.


Decades later, I am thinking of the mothers and children on the other side.
Like us, they too were
Left to wonder what is happening above ground.
Near and far.
We, the anonymous mentions in history books.
We, whose fathers were fighting each other
While we kept waiting.
And the whole while,
The fighting and the waiting were collapsing
Into each other.

The fighters had sandy trenches. Explosions. Fright.
We had waiting.
All that waiting.
In the beautiful shelter
Among babyblue clouds, flowers, butterflies, birds.