Author's Note: These poems arose from my first trip to Israel a decade ago. My partner, new at the time, was born in Jerusalem and began his career in Israel. In this era of staying home, I miss the adventure of being in a country for the first time.
It is not the drive from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea slicing through the Occupied Territory or the stone-throwing violence at the Wailing Wall when we visit on the eve of Yom Kippur that submerges me in gasping sweaty fear; it is being trapped in a bathroom stall in Caesarea, no space on bottom to crawl under, no space on top to crawl over, the lock refusing release, I scream get me out of here, get me out of here, get me out.
We dine at the “blind restaurant” in Jaffa with Ariana and Gal. The waiters are blind and so are we— if only for an hour or two. We’re led to our table in a black-out curtained room, hand on shoulder— the way the Blind Boys of Alabama take the stage. I manage to eat, drink wine and though I hate to say it— unseen food does not taste sweeter. It’s all Hebrew between the bites and without my sight I only guess the tenor and the tone of conversation. I hold N’s hand. It’s twice the size of mine and smooth, but I can read it like a map and find my way home.
Yom Kippur, Tel Aviv
At 4:45 all traffic stops and children take the roads: skateboards, tricycles, new two wheelers. Dogs roam off-leash, old people stroll. The half-moon rises and in the distance a lonely siren cries. At the intersection of Nordau and Dizengoff a baby crawls across the street.
These poems originally appeared in The Congress of Luminous Bodies, 2013
©2020 Donna Hilbert
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