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,

drawn time

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.