Variations on an Israeli by Sararosa Davies
I. The Kibbutznik
She is from where buildings
pinch together the seams of hills–
where wise winds catch hold of skin–
and drying eyes put faith in almond hands.
She is from a desert where laundry
hangs from open windows. White shirts stained
with instant coffee and dirt.
Her body is a caravan.
She has sand dune hips,
calves like thick Indian rugs.
Eyes that carry dates in their pockets,
thickening as molasses in the sun.
Hands on fire as they harvest–
wicks together, turning, twitching flames.
She is pious for a sunburn,
religious for sweat and lemons
puckered growing buds, beneath trees.
II. For Joseph
He is from Friday afternoons,
curried perfumes dancing
their way through his mom’s kitchen
He is from prayers of exile along green rivers.
He is from eyebrows like charcoal smudges
and travel under sandy moons.
He is now gravel, and grit, and air,
olive pits and opposition
to his families tangled up beliefs.
No longer in need of his rainbow coat,
he runs for Tel Aviv.
III. The Vendor
He is a vendor in the Machaneh Yehuda market
the immigrants son, a proud lion in a city of gold.
He fries up languages and mixes the air
into an aroma of words and meals,
of rices and salted meat.
He bargains with anyone, but his wife.
He knows what is good, and bad, and fine.
He would speak up if people took prices seriously.
IV. The Lone Soldier
She is an Uzi gun.
Her army uniform a green tree,
she plants her roots under the desert sun,
red cheeks hardening into apples.
Her commander tells her to run.
She plants seeds of bullets.
She is an Uzi gun.
V. For Eliran
He is no stranger to wars, desert fruit–
and that biblical sense of oneself.
The way an American girl
steals Hebrew out of his friends mouths
and he still falls for her accent,
even though it could cut through stone.
Or the way he wonders
if he could ever be a black hatter,
quaking at the wall.
The way his mind flicks around itself
and seems to populate the air with opinions.
Even on his own, he is a small country.
VI. For Alexandra
She has accented Hebrew,
speckled with the sweet
syllables of British cream.
Eyes densely packed with brown
flecks of cinnamon and seasons,
she is warm and unmoving
like the Marzipan Bakeries
scattered between the walls of the old city.
She’s steady in her sandals,
stubborn as Jerusalem stone,
knows this vibrating country
and its people as well
as the walls of Jerusalem
know their quarters,
and time again.
She moved in when the country
was made of electricity-
of sparkling touch and silver noise.
She knows that the present tense
can always change
and that what’s important is a belief
in the good and the bad of a land
and the careful handling
of both sides of a fence.