Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Last Vase (published in Canyon Voices Issue 13 Spring 2016)

(Link to magazine - tinyurl.com/z5crgql)


Safe from the high winds, the fallen walls, the sheets of sky collapsing all around—afoot, he carried it in his arms, wrapped in an old coat. It was a fine relic; the last vase of its kind to have survived the turmoil intact.
           
The earth shook every so often, objects rained at random from all directions at once, balls of fire flared from underneath. Bright and warm like springtime blossoms, he thought, and hugged the vase closer to his chest.
           
Fewer people ran in the streets these past few days. He saw none today. Could these ruins be called streets? Their ashen breath pushed through his pores. Even the scrawny alley cats had vanished.
           
Through the shadows he slipped, taking cover when danger loomed. Though most shelters could not be trusted.
           
The air has been murky for weeks. The once familiar city had turned into a labyrinth. He might have already crossed it from east to west, north to south, a few times over. Or has he been circling the same neighbourhood? Whenever he found any water pooled in the wreckage, he would suck the drops dry. He had yet to find any today.
           
Exhausted, he ducked into a pit and lay on the debris-littered ground; eyelids shut before his head met the ground, the vase cradled within his emaciated, curled-up body. His once spotless suit was now but rags splotched grey and brown, loosely hanging on him.
           
Had he fallen into deep sleep or dozed off for a few minutes, he could not tell upon awakening. He peered out from under the struck-down tree that roofed over the pit. It is possible that nobody beyond these veils of acrid smoulder had endured, he thought.            
           
Was the vase still unharmed? He unwrapped it with a feathery touch. In the dim light his eyes followed the intricate, bejewelled ornaments. He brushed his fingers across the silky design, lingering on the embossed mythological creature, half-bird half-beast, whose name escaped him. As smooth as a baby’s cheek, he smiled, and in one piece indeed. Twelve inches tall, adorned with cultural motifs, its value was immeasurable. Recalling its former place atop a glass-protected shelf in the softly lighted hall, he knew keeping it out of harm's way was now his responsibility.

But for what purpose? he wondered.

An earthworm pulsated beside him. He scooped it up. The creature hung from both sides of his open palm, tiny clumps of earth clung to its moist, plump body. Perhaps life underground remained unaffected, he shook his head in amazement. Tickled by the worm’s wriggling, a chuckle escaped his lips. The sound took him by surprise.
           
Once on the ground again, the worm squirmed away in a sinuous movement. He followed it with his eyes until it was gone. Sunk in thought for a long hour after, deep furrows formed on his brow.
           
He finally rewrapped the vase with his coat and crawled out, rising to his feet when he reached the open air. He looked up, trying in vain to trace a patch of blue sky, even a hint. Am I trapped in someone’s dream? he wondered before he turned to resume his flight.

Where to, he knew not.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Strays (excerpt from a fictional memoir in progress)



          Under different circumstances the six of us—Irit, Nomi, Yifat, Tali, Gitit, and me—would be unlikely friends, but our pet was a social adhesive. We’d sit on the floor in our room, evening falling outside the wide open door, the dog running from one girl to another, grabbed for a quick squeeze here and there, giving off screechy baby barks when she got overwhelmed with attention and glee. We didn’t know where she spent her nights, or wandered off during the day while we were caged in the stuffy classroom, being taught even stuffier subjects by Hadas and Dorit, our two instructors who made me think of Laurel and Hardy, only plump Hadas was far shorter than willowy Dorit.

            In spite of their status, our instructors also feared Discipline Officer Shemesh, who grew hungrier for reprimanding and fining outlaws when his hunts went unsuccessful. No wonder he wanted the base’s dogs and pigeons destroyed; the animals would have doubtless received a lesser sentence if they were within his jurisdiction.
            He’d have them line up in threes across the marching yard, un-shoed paws and bony feet against cement, standing at stiff attention. “No shifting feathers, no twitching whiskers,” he’d snap, his eyebrows linked into a dark frown. “Tails and wings neatly tucked under—bird mites and dog fleas form your own line!—now everyone turn to the right, and: Left- Right-Left, Left- Right-Left, Left …”
            Alas, many would soon stray in the wrong direction, the lines would entangle, (not all creatures know their right from their left), the poor bird-mites, too tiny for their own good, would be trampled by the yawning Great Dane mix, three startled pigeons would flap their wings when the brown mongrel would crash into them, the oblivious fleas would bound onward regardless, and puppy—confused by the cries and complaints rising from all direction—would be unable to restrain her wagging tail and screeching yelps.
            She’d keep screwing up—morning drills, and other Rules and Regulations—and with the rapidly accumulating violations, she’d end up in military jail. She’d befriend everyone, even the guards would be enchanted by her irresistible personality, but being restricted to a small cell she’d rebel, I’m certain of that. Decline the food, wouldn’t even march to the dining hall with the rest of the prisoners. And would most likely refuse to learn the structure of the Israeli Air Force. After all, becoming a squadron operations-room sergeant was not her career choice.
            “Won’t you do your shoes?” her cellmate would ask, brush in hand.
            “Not today,” she’d reply. “The rule is, shoe polishing tomorrow and yesterday, but never today.” And she’d rebury her head in her book while the other inmates would keep fussing with that pongy black polishing-paste—purchased with their measly military wage—shining shoes they’d never be caught wearing in civilian life.
            On the way to the drill plaza, an island of concrete slabs set in the middle of the sand, stood a lone fire hydrant, dribbling from the mouth. A few water drops smeared on the Goldas gave the same fantastic impression as hours of shining. Officer Shemesh was fooled by the effect each time. His hawkish eyes failed to detect her sham polish amid the shimmers.
            But by the time theses clumsies—named after Golda Meir’s favourite orthopaedic footwear back in the day—would dry and regain their usual drabness, they’d be in deep sleep under my bunk until the following day, and my relived feet luxuriated in sandals as I was yawing in class, half listening to Hadas reiterating the types of Air Force squadrons: combat, choppers, and transportation. “In a descending order of prestige,” she added laughingly.
            Not that it mattered much, but I wondered where I’d end up at the end of this two-month course; I was eager to bid everyone goodbye, and move on.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Damned (poem published in Canyon Voices Issue 13 spring 2016)

(Link to magazine: tinyurl.com/z5crgql)

Damn them all;
damn the fire in their eyes, and the guns in their hands,
damn their rocket launching, bomb dropping, baby killing,
and shameless propaganda.
Damn their refusal to put down hate, extinguish
anger, and discard this hell.
Like puppets in a tragic theatre, they play their roles
to the utmost and without fail
over and over and over.
And damn, over again.
Self-righteousness spewing from their mouths in torrents,
their fingers always pointing away.
Seizing land not theirs, killing brothers not theirs,
demolishing houses not theirs,
sending children not theirs to explode in crowded markets.
Why, bellows the shaken earth; why, echo the missile-torn skies.
Stop, begs the mother.
March on! command the generals.

Damn them all!
I turn to flee the burning soil, leave behind the rumbling cannons.
Damn the hopelessness and blindness, the waste and the malice,
I yell as I run.
Damn all these …
The mother’s pleading eyes slow my steps.
I halt.
I cannot.
Damn, but I cannot.


This smouldering earth is my earth too.