--for Eran Riklis
In Oslo and D.C., fat fingers trace
a line that shaves your face in half, slices
brothers into enemies, and tears
through a house: you sleep
in Palestine but stumble
barefoot to piss in Israel.
Your front door, a barbed wire fence:
"Before, we were at war, and I roamed--
Park Place to Oriental Avenue.
Now we're at peace, I follow
the laws: wait in Jail for my turn."
The Druze bride, engaged
to a Syrian soap star,
says goodbye to mother, father, sisters.
Israel stamps her passport,
but Syria won't let her through:
the stamp reads Golan,
and Golan is ours. I'll erase it, says
the young Israeli guard, touched
by the bride in dusty white, her hair
a tissue-stuffed pyramid. We have to send
to Assad, says Syria. No! wails the groom,
fingers tangled in the wire. The bride sits
on a folding chair, her cone of hair dipping
between two countries. Red tape,
like red sky, scorches her eyes.
A mother grips the great wall and cries
to Lebanon: What have you done
with my son? He had eyes as green
as the Black Sea, he loved
Elvis - who will give him his milk now?
Her tears water the desert.
On your side grows parsley, on mine, mint.
I lick the leaves, dare them to flower
and tornado the wall. Meanwhile I lift
weights and eat yogurt: wasn't Samson
a woman and Delilah the man
who cut her hair? Watch how I make the tea
on my little fire. Crush green leaves from Sinai,
mud from the Dead Sea, blood from my heart.
Like my Moroccan grandfather, pour
from on high, down to my parched throat.
I splash the tea--dark and orange-
scented--through the barbed holes, glimpse
you crouching to catch
the drops--one by one--
on your Jewish-Arab tongue.
Ruth Knafo Setton's first novel, THE ROAD TO FEZ, will
bepublished by Counterpoint in Winter, 2001. The
recipient of fellowships from the NEA, PEN,
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, she has been
published in journals and anthologies, including
Nimrod: An International Journal, Luna, International
Tikkun, Response, New Directions for Women, The
Journal of Canadian Fiction, Follow My Footprints:
Changing Images of Women in American Jewish Fiction
(University of New England Press), Word of Mouth:
Short-Short Fiction by Women, Volumes I and II
(Crossing Press), and Sephardic-American Voices: Two
Hundred Years of a Literary Legacy (New England:
Brandeis). She teaches at Lafayette College, and is
working on a collection of poetry and tales.
Potentially, might be ...