OJPCR 1.1: Not in Your War Anymore

NOT IN YOUR WAR ANYMORE

A collection of poetry written by Ada A. Aharoni, Ph.D.
Copyright 1997 – Ada A. Aharoni – All Rights Reserved.

To Haim
With much love

          How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the
               messenger of good tidings that announces peace!
                                        Isaiah 52

          He who walks with peace walks with him...
                                        The Koran

          I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
                                             Wilfred Owen

NOT IN YOUR WAR ANYMORE

 

               While watching and admiring the tantalizing foliage  

                    (Penn State University, Pa.)          

               "War is as anachronistic as cannibalism,
               slavery and colonialism..."
                    Rosalie Bertell,  No Immediate Answer

               I am not in your war anymore.
               Surely we cannot paint war green
               when even the long Cold War is dying,
               so let's paint it in all its true
               foliage colors, to help its fall

               First, flowing flamboyant crimson blood
               on throbbing temples and hands,
               then russet bronze fiery metal cartridges
               stuffing the crevices of young hearts
               while golden laser Napalm dragon tongues
               gluttonously lick the sizzling eyes and lips
               of our children, under the giant mushrooms
               freshened by mustard and acid rain
               Surely, at the close of our
               great atomic century
               we will soon find the archaic
               history tree, where we can dump
               our fearful bottle legacy

               And our grandchildren will ask their fathers,
               what were tanks for, Pa? And with eyes
               full of wonder, they will read the story of the
               glorious imprisonment of the Nuclear Giant
               in his bottle, corked for ever, and will say:
                    Well done Pa, well done Ma!

I Want to Kill You War

 

               I want to kill you war, forever,
               not like a phoenix
               that always comes back

               I want to kill you war
               and I don't know how
               and I don't know why
               all the people of the world
               don't join hands
               to kill you war --
               you the greatest murderer
               of them all.
               They just know how to kill
               the one or the two
               or the hundreds and the thousands,
               but not you,
               you the greatest killer
               of them all.
               So, we will kill you war,
               before you kill us.
               This is real deterrence strategy,
               not the useless liar one we're so busy with.
               All the peace marchers of the world
               Will take the heavy metal cases
               full of nuclear wastes
               and dump them over War's head,
               the cases will leak, as usual,

               and War will dissolve back into his archaic bottle
               where he belongs --
                    We shut the cork.

                          A Green Week

               A week like fresh mint,
               a green week spreading
               its fragrance to the roots
               of my being

               "Have a green week!"
               My father used to bless us
               on Saturday nights,
               "Have a green year"
               he beamed,
               brandishing a fresh mint sprig
               over our curly heads -
               and give it back
               to the world
               fully blossoming.

               Who will give me
               a green week
               now that he's dead?
               Now that the Gates of Heaven
               are shut, and we
               dump our grayish nuclear waste
               in the belly depths
               of our innocent green earth?

               Only peace science
               Only peace technology
               Only peace, ushering
                    A World Beyond War.

  Myopic  Scientist

 

               With green eyes like legend woods
               before burning,
               waving and sweeping
               like sky rockets

               You are created
               for exploring and building,
               for love and science and joy
               on peaceful green earth
                not to burn, not to destroy our hopes
               with nuclear bombs
               and radiation

               Dear scientist, don't let the war merchants
               steal your  research, your unaware souls,
               your  creation, your bubbling myopic brains.
                All our voices radiate in fear
               all our violins  sing our impending requiem
               brewed in your stupendous high-tech labs.
               Dear scientist, let our wings flap freely
               in fresh, clean breeze  in the spring and in the fall
               before we fall into the
               atrocious nuclear winter brewed in your
              stupendous reactors before they blow up
              as in Three Mile Island, as in Chernobyl.

               Dear scientist, don't allow the war mongers
               to gobble up your inventions to fatten their stomachs
               for star wars  and earth wars
               or for any, any uncivil civil war.

This poem, written in Amir Gilboa’s style, is dedicated to the memory of this great, late Israeli poet.

             Pollution

 

               "After a nuclear winter the living will envy the dead."
               U.N. Peace Exhibition, NYC, 1990

               When I see a bird
               and I say bird
               they say bird

               When I hear its song
               and I say song
               they say song

               But when I see bombs
               and I say bombs
               they say peacemakers

               And when I see nuclear pollution
               and I say radiation
               they say energy

               And when I see nuclear pollution
               and I say nuclear holocaust
               THEY SAY DETERRENCE.

               But what kind of deterrence
               Can be had
                    When we are all dead dead.

 Metal and Violets in Jerusalem

 

               In a time of pomegranates
                    and yellow balloons,
               why are your looks
                    so bronze-like?
               Deep in you
               a valve is locked,
               and even a warm
               yearning clasp
               cannot unlock
               the metallic clasp.

               How can I unpuzzle
               your dreams?
               I wish I could sow
               violets under your pores

               until their scent
               melted your metal
               into mine,
               I wish I could place
               Jerusalem
                    in your hand.

                        The Second Exodus

 

               Today, I again bring my grain vessel
               to the docks of your granary, father -
               while breathing the wheat smells you loved,
               me in Dagon Silo in Haifa,
               you far away back in Cairo.

               Joseph in Egypt land, Canaanite jugs,
               ritual bronze sickles from temples,
               crushing-stones, mill-stones and mortars -
               all link me back to you
               on old rusty scales.
               I remember your orange-beige office
               in Cairo's Mouski,
               with deaf Tohami weighing
               the heavy sacks of flour and grain
               on old rusty scales.
               And me listening unaware
               to the birds' chirped warning
               on the beams of your ceiling:
               "Wandering Jew, open your Jewish eyes,
               you will soon have to spread your wings
               again, and look for new nest."

               Mighty Dagon's giant arms storing in bulk,
               fill my own silo with tears
               that you are not here with me
               to view this wonder
               deftly handling bread to Israel - the land you so loved
               but are not buried in.

               For you dear father, I plant today a garden of grain,
               for you, who  always taught us
                    how to sow.

                  Arab Israeli Student on T.V.

               You ponder hard in front of hesitating microphone,
               Your eyebrows arch puzzlement over the screen.
               Nuances of troubled expression on your handsome Semitic face,
               Crack and recrack every query in the air:
               "Do I really feel at home here?
               And if I do, do they feel I feel at home here,
               Am at home here?
               Do I feel an Israeli Arab?  Or an Arab Israeli?
               Or a Palestinian?  Or all of these?  (Or none of these?)"

               Suddenly the answer blurts out like a raven in flight
               Escaping its dark cage:  "I have no identity!"

               The raven flies straight into my eyes with claws and beak.
               And I remember my own rootless wound
               In Egypt land - And I hurt your dangling hurt,
               My Semitic cousin in pain.

               The questions stir Nile and Jordan visions
               Flowing intense churning -
               "And if a Palestinian State is founded
               Would you go and live there?
               Would you feel better?"
               Again the puckered brows locked,
               Strained jaw-muscles, glowing sorrowful eyes.

               Then gently, like a dove swooping
               On its way to peaceful green woods:
               "My home is in Galilee.  But I would feel better
               if there were a Palestinian State,
               For then my Arab brothers would not fight
               The land I live in -
                    Any more."

                     Reconciliation: Sulha Pomegranate

               Why doesn't Israel explain this more - that you too
               and a million other Jews of Arab Lands like you,
               had to spread their wings wide and flee too?

               But why do you want Israel
               to explain this more?
               What is it to you?  Let's open the pomegranate?

               For me it is the saving face of Sulha
               The uncovering of the black veil
               on the face of Amina, the truthful, the just

               It shows we're not the only underdogs, for
               tragedy, as in all wars, you see,  was on both sides!

               It makes it easier to pave the Sulha path, you see
               not that two tragedies cancel one another
               but it makes it an easier burden to bear over our heads,
               when we know the other has already paid
               for the Sulha long before
               it all, all began ... wait, don't cut
               the pomegranate yet.

               Now I can identify with you
               my cousin in pain
               and you can identify with me -
               my Middle Eastern friend, cousin and
               mutual victim in pain.
               Now, let's open the Sulha Pomegranate.
                                           ***
               *Sulha:  Reconciliation, in Arabic.

                 If a White Horse from Jerusalem

               If a white horse from golden Jerusalem,
               bearing a message from the land of global peace
               strides so valiantly
               in the early dawn hours
               of my own street,
               as if it were the ocean
               as if it were the bright blue sky -
               then all is possible

               Perhaps, he has come
               with a magic
               to make all chains of weapons vanish,
               and to make you fly with me.

               Perhaps, before my hair falls
               my teeth clatter,
               before my breath whistles
               and I suffocate
               in the infamous nuclear fumes
               of a nuclear winter.

               Perhaps, he will lift us
               on his white wings
               and raise the world to year 2000 beyond wars,
               for if a white horse
               from the land of global peace,
               strides so valiantly
               in my own street - as if it were the ocean,
               as if were the sky

                    Then all is possible...

                    Grandmother and the Wolf

               Dedicated to Ebba Haslund
               from Norway

               She looked at me with wise
               bluebell eyes
               and told me the brothers Grimm
               had it all wrong,
               they had it all wrong, you see,
               for it was the grandmother
               who gobbled up the big bad wolf
               and not the other way round.

               They had it all wrong,
               they were too grim,
               those brothers Grimm,
               they had it all wrong,
               for grandmothers you see
                    are very strong.

                         Earth Day

 

               We did not know we were all
               rooted sunflowers,
               with falling seeds
               on deadly land-mines--
               nuclear waste disposal
               in leaking metal cases,
               contaminating our groundwater
               in our front and back garden,
               hidden under the compost pile.

               We did not know,
               because they never told us.
               They stole stealthily in the dark
               and dumped their radiation and destruction
               in our front and backyard--
               without even asking our permission.
               They knew we would not give it anyway,
               so they carefully covered
               the compost pile
               with grass clippings
               and green leaves, thinking,
               those drowsy sunflowers
               only turn their heads to the sun,
               and will never notice.

               I'm tired of watching the sunshine
               when fire is burning under
                    my roots.

                        Mothers You Know

          "We can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and
               following your methods but by finding new words and creating new
                  methods."
                     Virginia Woolf Three Guineas

               Mothers you know, a long time ago
               have been wisely decreed
               by diverse human creeds and needs -
               goddesses of peace-in-the-home,
               lavishly giving life, love and healing
               through their wombs and life-blood

               And they have been quite successful
               those cosy peace-in-the-home mothers,
               closely guarding us with their wisdom
               their tender words and watchful eyes.
               Surely safer than in a Nuclear War
               or in a new World War, or just a tiny war,
               so what about making mothers
               the guardians of peace on earth?
               Surely we wouldn't be so much worse?
               And they are so available those mothers -
               you can even find them in enemy land...

               Look at the terrible mess they have
               made of our blue planet, mother,
               you are the only one who can save us now,
               the only one who really knows
               how to protect your fearful children
               weeping over their drugged ailing world,
               the only one who can heal it now, mother
                    cradling it in your warm, loving arms.

                      Teddy Bears for Guns

               My man of the year
               Is the wonderful, wise one
               Who sat himself in the midst
               Of the West with a huge box
               Of chubby Teddy Bears
               On New Year's Day,
               Attracting an endless
               Queue of cheering kids -
               Holding guns

               He playfully showed
               With a smile and a wink
               And a Teddy Bear hug -
               It could be the beginning
               Of a honey-laden decade
               In a brave new world

               By wisely trading
               Guns
                    For Teddy Bears.

                  Peace Is A Woman and a Mother

               How do you know
               peace is a woman?
               I know, for
               I met her yesterday
               on my winding way
               to the world's fare.
               She had such a sorrowful face
               just like a golden flower faded
               before her prime.

               I asked her why
               she was so sad?
               She told me her baby
               was killed in Auschwitz,
               her daughter in Hiroshima
               and her sons in Vietnam,
               Ireland, Israel, Lebanon,
               Bosnia, Rwanda and Chechnya.

               All the rest of her children, she said,
               are on the nuclear
               black-list of the dead ,
               all the rest, unless
               the whole world understands --
               that peace is a woman

               A thousand candles then lit
               in her starry eyes,  and I saw --
               Peace is indeed a pregnant woman,
                    Peace is a mother.

                    The More Interesting Life

               Come closer sisters
               hear the man
               and what he sang about us.
               At twelve, a sharp bayonet fear

               jabbing through my ribs
               tickled my mind.
               You are a male,
               you will have to go to war,
               you may be killed.
               Shrieking shells
               and giant mushrooms flying
               filled my blazing nightfalls.

               I looked at the lively girls, envy nibbling,
               they will not go to war,
               they will not be killed.
               But suddenly a flash -
               a vision of kitchen sinks
               drying of dishes with feminine hair,
               a life of soiled diapers . . .
               The bayonet externalized,
               I held it with firm fist
               and nodded reassured.
               But I shall have
               the more interesting life.

               That's it sisters, that's what he sang,
               what he sang about us,
               What do we do now with what he sang,
                    What he sang about us?

                From Haifa to Near Faraway Cairo

               I recall the velvet sugar-cane juice
               we drank together
               with the smooth blue air
               under the open skies,
               the sunflower seeds
               we cracked together
               with jokes
               echoing laughter in the sun.
               How sweet the roasted sweet-potatoes
               were in those rainbow days
               of pretty sugar dolls.

               But unlike you dear Kadreya,
               Friend of my sunny schooldays,
               I was told that I was just
               a visiting guest
               though born in the land of the Nile.
               Ordered by Egypt my Jewish wings
               to spread
               to search for a new nest,
               I have found it on Mount Carmel
               and here I mean to stay.

               My foremost wish today
               is our soldier sons
               to bathe
               in the peaceful rays
               their mothers wove
               when younger than they
                    in the near faraway rainbow days.

A Bridge of Peace

 

          "They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
 and none shall make them afraid." 

                                       (Micah, 4, 4).            

               My Arab sister,
               Let us build a sturdy bridge
               Form your olive world to mine,
               From my orange world to yours,
               Above the boiling pain
               Of acid rain prejudice -
               And hold human hands high
               Full of free stars
               Of twinkling peace

               I do not want to be your oppressor
               You do not want to be my oppressor,
               Or your jailer
               Or my jailer,
               We do not want to make each other afraid
               Under our vines
               And under our fig trees
               Blossoming on a silvered horizon
               Above the bruising and the bleeding
               Of Poison gases and scuds.

               So, my Arab sister,
               Let us build a bridge of
               Jasmine understanding
               Where each shall sit with her baby
               Under her vine and under her fig tree -
               And none shall make them afraid
                    AND NONE SHALL MAKE THEM AFRAID.

My House

 

               I was a pale
               ivory tower, surrounded
               by white marble slabs
               until you came
               into my house

               You deftly climbed my hidden stairs
               gently pushed open by secret windows,
               alighting upon vaulted mosaic
               my curves smoothly answered
               your precise angles.

               I offered you my heart as fireplace,
               my hands as gloves
               to keep you warm,
               my ears as vessels
               for your words

               Laying the lozenges of your life
               on my hearth
               you lit my fireplace
               filled me with warmth,
               lonely tower became cosy home.

               I am glad you came to inhabit me
               before our summer is spent,
               before we tumble down
               in the mighty tornado
                    of a nuclear winter.

Cosmic Woman

 

 

               They tell us

               you were first born

               in warm ocean womb

               caressed by sun fingers –

               daughter perhaps

               of the stormy love

               of two unruly atoms

               maddened by the solitude

               of eternal rounds

               in the steppes of times

 

               And your children,

               lively descendants

               of their stellar nucleus mother

               dropped from the sky

               in depths of ocean belly,

               born of green and brown seaweed

               and the laughs and cries

               of a blue bacteria

 

                    Cosmic woman,

                    when you chose earth

                    as home for your vast roots

                    at the beginning

                    of the great human family,

                    it was for life —

                    not for death.

                    Cosmic woman,

                    you, who were born of the nucleus,

                    from deadly nuclear mushroom

               Save your children

                    SAVE YOUR CHILDREN.

 

 

 

 

                        Killing Me Softly

 

          "If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that unless
 we rid ourselves of our nuclear arsenals a holocaust not only might occur
 but will occur if not  today, then tomorrow ... We have come to live on
 borrowed time."
                          Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth              
     
               We wise grown-ups often advise our children
               "Stop fighting, you will hurt each other,"
               then calmly proceed to annihilate one another.
               We breed black widows with red eyes in our labs.
               War is eternal,  you say.
               Listen, my brother,
               War's second cousin, "duelling," was once sung immortal,
               the peak of honor and reason -
               yet has been banished from our world and is no more.
               Slavery redeemed eternal, and is no more.
               And so much more, like killing me softly
               with your guns and scuds
               Does a lioness devour her cubs?
               Does a gardener destroy his buds?
               Let's awake and change our absurd "nuclear deterrence song",
               for now we know,
               in a nuclear war, or any war,
               there are no winners any more.
               We breed black widows with red eyes in our labs.
               Let's remember in our canines in the blood of our temples
               in a nuclear war or any small war, there ar no winners anymore,
               and throw War quickly in the historic dirt-bin it deserves,
               Let's not leave this terrible legacy to our chikldren
               in the twenty-first century,
               Let's save cubs and buds before the fall,
               or in the nuclear pit we'll all fall.

           You Cannot Bomb Me Anymore

 

               Listen, little big man,
               you cannot bomb me
               anymore
               because I don't allow you
               to bomb me anymore
               nor to choke
               nor rape me anymore,
               for I have my own strength now
               and my own creative
               peace business now

               With this woman's mind
               this woman's body
               this woman's heart -
               we don't allow you
               to bomb us anymore
               for our sisters in Norway
               have shown us the way
               and now -
               you cannot, cannot, cananot  bomb us
               anymore.

               For it was
               the grandmother
               who ate the big bad wolf
               and not the other way round --

               so now
               we will not allow you
               to bomb us, bomb us,
                    ANYMORE.

          Palm Curve

 

               Cuddled in the heart of your hand,
               soft hand, warm hand,
               I do not feel the meaningless drops
               of life drizzling,
               do not hear its jackal-thunder
               nor see its lynx-lightning
               in the dark.

               And if the world should burst tonight
               in a giant mushroom flame,
               I would not notice -
               Snuggled in the nook
               of your gentle palm
               where I belong,
               it seems I may exist
               forever.

               We are all alike -
               gently dozing in the nook
               and the noose
                    of borrowed nuclear time.

               In celebration of the saving of Jews by Turkey during the  Inquisition

500 Years Ago

 

 

               In Toledo, 500 years ago my great, great, great,

               great, great grandmother Regina,

               fleeing the Inquisition’s torture wheels

               poured her Spanish tears into heart of velvet black veil

               and sailed over the crimson waves with thousands of sisters

                    and brothers to Izmir, to Izmir

               She had to leave behind her beloved illuminating poems,

               her ancient Bible and painted Haggada, her father’s illustrious

               scientific parchments – her whole Spanish Golden Age

               floating on Golden Fleece as she sailed with the stars

               on purple waves to Izmir, to Izmir

               The bird stopped flying – “El Pasharo vola”

               the heart stopped crying – “El Koarasson yora”

               as it preened its traumatic feathers

               and nestled cosily on quaint warm roofs

               in the new Turkish mosaic haven lavished by filigree hospitality

               sheltering a new hope in Regina’s amber eyes

               on the azure, silvery shores of Izmir, of Izmir

               Suddenly Regina’s beautiful, noble figure

               stands majestically before me

               whispering a Ladino message:

               “What we should be celebrating today

               is the saving of a quarter of a million of our brothers and sisters

               500 years ago by brave Turkey,

               and not their cruel expulsion by Spain…”

               I listen closely then nod vivaciously.

 

               Now Regina smiles again and flies straight

               to the wide open gates of Izmir, of Izmir

               on the way to upper Jerusalem’s peaceful

                    Golden Gates.

 

 

 

 

                      What is Peace to Me?

 

               Peace for me is a flowing golden river,
               students fresh from school
               with minds
               full of pockets of hope

               Not after they witnessed
               their friends' brains
               blown white veined
               on the sands, still thinking.

               Peace for me
               is to visit
               Kadreya in Egypt, and
               the spicy house in Midan Ismaileya in Cairo
               now the Square of Freedom,
               where I was born, and evicted.

               To place again my open palm
               on the Sphinx's paw,
               and check if now I'm as tall
               as a Pyramid stone.

               Peace for me
               is all this,
               and so much more --
               when I look at you our golden children
               and feel the fifth war
                    pinching the center of my heart.

                Unicorn in Manhattan’s Cloisters

          To my friends Tahita and Ralph and to the memory of Ralph,

           who introduced me to the magnificent unicorn.

               In the Metropolitan Museum,

               I watch you

               white unicorn in the arms of forests

               trailed and ambushed in all green places

               by well-known intriguing eyes

               flashing odious machinations

               from your century to mine —

               witness of Belsen’s

               human-skin lampshades.

               I shudder under your limpid betrayed eye

               tear-dewing my flesh.

               The sharp long-nosed lances

               treacherously piercing your snowy flanks —

               burrow my bones,

               as you desperately raise your front legs

               and our uni-corn

               to freedom from the piranha.

               I drown in the eely tentacles

               of your wound.

               I know what it is

               to be

               a betrayed unicorn.

                                                   May, 1976

           A Bicentennial Visit to Plymouth Plantation

 

               We walk around modest wooden houses
               in the New World
               fencing old bearded goats.
               'Godly and sober' pilgrims in
               colored bonnets and garters
               saunter work (almost)
               as in pilgrim past.

               A laced minute-man blows an ancient cannon
               like an ancient horn.  Flash.

               Is it possible this great nation
               sprouted from this grain of colony
               just two short hundred years ago?
               New York's skyscrapers,
               Boston's universities,
               Million American hopes
               on San Francisco's golden bridge --
               it all began here,
               in this tiny Mayflower spot
               on Plymouth Rock!
               The magic of it,
               the stupendous feat in a mere Bicentennial
               breathes unbound hope --

               Now Israel,
                    all is possible...

                Wilfred Owen:  We Are Still Deaf

               Dear Wilfred Owen
                    you sang
                         you warned
                              you died
               and we are still deaf.

               Our sons' teeth
               are still for laughing
               round an apple,
               yet now we tie
               not only bayonet-blades to them
               but also super Super Sams.
               Their trembling limbs
               are not only knife-skewed nowadays
               but Napalm-roasted beyond recognition -
               we have come a long way
               in the killing game.
               Wilfred Owen, you shouted:
               the absurdity of war
               the pity of war!
               and we are still deaf.

               Yet your poems tolling loud
               for those who still die as cattle,
               roaring loud against deaf drums -
               are white flags waving:
               The day will come before time falls from the clock,
               when war will be a demoded anachronism

               Wilfred Owen, you sang, you warned,
               you cried, you died,
               and we are still deaf, so deaf,
                    stupidly, stupidly deaf.

                         Sound of Peace
                           Shalom 2000

               Ships hoot from Haifa port,
               sounds of peace leap up to me
               from every jewel in the mountain's crown,
               while the "Good Fence" on Lebanon's border
               winks to me reassuringly in the horizon.

               1995 leans over me
               and enlaces my arm,
               but it is towards year 2000 I turn
               and give a long
                    peace kiss.

 To an Egyptian Soldier

 

          Dedicated to the Egyptian Pilot who appeared on Israeli television during the
            Yom  Kippur War,  October 1973

     
               I saw you on television last night
               bewildered in our land,
               your eyes were dim
               and you mumbled under your shield:
               "I want to go back to my young wife and four-year-old son."
               And I wanted to tell you
               Egyptian soldier,
               I know that this time you did not run away
               because they told you
               this land is yours
               clutch it back with firm hand.
               Yet tonight, under Israeli skies
               you ask yourself:
               "Why am I here
               and not with my young wife and child?"

               You see, Egyptian soldier,
               you will always have your Nile
               and your bed to turn to,
               but if we lose there's only the sea.

               I hope you go back to  your wife
               and four-year-old son soon,
               and our fathers come back to theirs,
               this time, after a quarter of a century of strife
               with the long longed-for
                    trophy of peace.

       In Memory of My Uncle Jacques

 

               Bohemian laughter and moustache
               Mustard tan, mustered life
               With one arm
                    Villa in flowered Doki
                    with monkey and pool
                    golden fish --

               Dark musty hole in Paris
               crowning six creaky flights
                    Broad jokes crackled
                    next to the stove -- on the stove
                    coffee and magnitude.

               Life is a hoax
               he laughingly confided,
               roam it in open car with or without
               coin or hole in pocket
               From Green Island to Rome
               Before you leave home.

                    With one arm -- not one leg.
                    The bubble of life
                    burst with the leg
                    he roams no more.
                    But warm laughter and chuckled joke
                         Ring and roam.

                      The Sapling of Peace

          (On the occasion of  the Geneva Convention, 17 December 1973)

               The mothers bore children,
               The children had to go to war.
               In October, children ceased to be;
               End of October, the fire ceased.

               The distraught mothers and fathers
               And what was left of their children,
               Could do naught in their scorching sorrow
               But plant, a frail sapling
               In the desert sand
               Under the burnt skeleton of tanks
               Fringed with human limbs
               No shade or crutch could help.

               The sapling was carried to Geneva
               By sure hands.
               Was watered by the blue lake,
               By the Bible and the Koran,
               And by the wise Tagore
               Who sang of love.

               Despite its desert origins:
               The years of passion and fire
               Inflaming the thorns of anger and despair,
               It sprouted tiny green leaves
               With amazing patterns
               of kaleidoscopic dewdrops
                    Of peace.

The Snake on the Watermelon Skin

 

               My seabound leg through the ladder window
               Was suddenly pinned to mid air by the piercing pin-glitter of
               A beady charcoal eye!
               In Camp Caesar under Alexandria's blue skies
               A hieroglyphic presence on a watermelon skin
               crippled the paralysed stillness

               I did not cry, I did not recoil, but gaped transfixed
               Afraid to tremble, lest I disturb the mystery of our silent tryst.
               He watched from every brown lop of his long-lithe body
               While his face breathed back on me breath for breath
               Overpowering my frozen blood

               Then I knew!  I knew that he existed!
               He ominously hissed on my mind that he was there
               And would always be there lurking darkly in my backyard
               Ambushing my descent from the ladder
               To dart his calculated spring.

               "Watermelon skins draw snakes," Old Fatima reiterated,
               Wobbling her white head wisely.
               But deep inside me I knew that if I removed the skin
               He would still come back.
               So, I said nothing
               There in Cleopatra's Alexandria
               But buried my hypnotising secret
               Under giant roots of silences
               Where I myself
                    Feared to peep.

                        Abdul's Children

               Abdul's Children
               Will not know more
               Than Abdul does,
               for Abdul's children
               Are not taught more
               Than Abdul was.

               Benevolent Ladies --
               Stuff your ears
               With cocktail parties
               Your noses with caviar,
               With Champagne your eyes --
               Then no more sighs,
               You will not hear
               Nor smell nor see
               Their illiterate
                    Cries.

                            Breathing

               I wish to breathe
               All my fill
               All my depth
               Full my lungs
               All the time,
               Not in gasps
               That make me reel
               All the more
               When breath fades
               In arrest.
               A faint shallow wisp
               Self-taught to hide
               In a young
               Choking throat
               Pricked by words
               Piercing looks,
               Stealthily gliding
               In and out
               Half a lung,
               Fearful of being heard
               By the outside world.

               I yearn to breathe
               All my fill
               In great gulps
               Through all my cells
               All my branches
                    All my life...

                          To A Soldier

 

               I howled
               before the dawn appeared,
               the restless bed
               creaked in fear
               beneath my banging shoulder,
               while the pit in my throat
               grew and grew
               like a yawning crater.

               Since you were clutched away
               to the War -
               the sun is black sand.
               Bombs in black sackcloth
               float under my breath
               exploding it,
               making a choking icicle
               of me.

               Before the night dies again
               on my lips,
               flash a sign from there
               my love,
               make a sign of life -
               so that I can live -
               ending howls in sounds
                    of peace.

                         This Cursed War

               From An Israeli Soldier's Yom Kippur War Diary, 
                                October 1973.                    
               The night creeps along, funeral throng
               darkens.  Memories rush and flood blood.
               Blossoming list of dead thumps fire.
               Every name pins mind with whizzing missiles,
                    Cursed, cursed war
               In jeep on Golan Heights, loneliest I have ever been,
               I watch skeletons of tanks, crowned with names of friends.,
               Sinister row, black graves, fresh bodies - old smell.
                    Cursed, cursed war
               It doesn't look at all like wars in films this war,
               Here we do not get a chance to shoot, or wave a flag,
               Shrieking shells, hyena lightning pour on us, and we run
               backwards or forwards or to the side,
               And some are saved and some are not,
               Not all, not always; but always cursing
                    This cursed, cursed war
               In an English centurion holding Belgian guns,
               We watch two American-made airplanes
               Shot down by Russian-made missiles.
               I cannot hate the Syrian on the other side
               Who holds a French gun and shoots Soviet Sams;
               We are toy soldiers of shopkeepers
               Who want to sell - selling us, in this
                    Cursed, cursed war
               God, let it stop, let it end,
               Let the nightmare end!
               Cursing is the only shelter
               We can creep into, not to crumble
               Before thoughts in the dark.
               Cursed are those who force me to be here
                    Cursed be this cursed war!

                    Remember Me Every Time

 
                 The Moon Rises Over the Sphinx

From an Egyptian soldier's diary found in the Sinai, after the Yom Kippur War
                                        (October 1973)           

               Dear Leila, to you my love
               I breathe my last letter.
               I love you in all the ways love means

               Remember me every time the sun sets over the Pyramids
               and the moon rises over the Sphinx

               Today marks the ninth year
               of my enrolling at the cursed military college.
               If I knew then to what bitter thorns it would lead me -
               the college would have never seen my face.
               I loathe the hours a man goes through while waiting for death.

               Remember me every time the sun sets over the Pyramids
               and the moon rises over the Sphinx

               I really believed what we were told,
               that we, would never begin a war -
               but we have been ordered to cross the Suez Canal,
               and my blood, my bones know I have a few more hours to live.

               I will fight and die for Allah and Egypt -
               when what I want is to live
               for you, my Leila,
               loving you all my life,
                    my Leila, my life.

                           In Darkness

 

                         By Amir Gilboa
                          Translated to English from Hebrew, by Ada Aharoni
    
               If they show me a stone
               And I say stone, they say stone.

               If they show me wood
               And I say wood, they say wood.

               But if they show me blood
               And I say blood, they say paint.

               IF THEY SHOW ME BLOOD
               AND I SAY BLOOD
               THEY SAY PAINT.

               The late  Amir Gilboa, born in the Ukraine in 1917, came to Palestine in
                        1937 and became one of Israel's most important soul poets.

                   I Opened the Door

 

                           Amir Gilboa

               I opened my door
               and many, many crowded to come in.
               I therefore pushed back
               the walls of my room
               to welcome all my guests.
               And my room became the home
               of my friends
               and my room became the world.

                   Who Did Everything On Time?

                           Amir Gilboa

               Who did everything on time?
               N either did I.  Not even after time.
               And all the present time melted
               In flashes of liquid moments.

               With me
               Even the highest mountains
                    liquefy.

                                 Translated by Ada Aharoni

 

On Yom Kippur

 

                 by Yehuda Amichai

               On Yom Kippur in the year Tashkah,
               I work dark festive clothes
               and ambled to the old quarter
               in Jerusalem.
               I stood a long time
               before an Arab's nook-shop
               not far from the Gate of Shechem,
               a shop of buttons and zippers and rolls of thread
               of all colors, and tie-tacs and buckles.
               A bright light shone forth with many colors,
               like an open tabernacle.

               I told him in my heart that my father too
               had a shop like his of threads and buttons.
               I explained to him in my heart
               about all the decades of years
               and the causes and the events,
               that I am now here
               and my father's shop is burnt there
               and he is buried here.

               When I finished it was closing time.
               He too pulled the blind and locked the gate.
               And I went back home with all those
               who went to pray.

Translated by Ada Aharoni

 

                             Seaweed

         "The bombs are not the cause of the problem, but only the symptoms
 of the deranged thought processes of man's mind..."

                                  Helen Caldicott

               I grapple with the edge
               of the taste
               of seaweed and bombs

               You have kept your
               underground river away from me,
               preferred filling your pockets
               with pebble-bombs and seaweed silence.
               You knew of your thirst
               and my river longings - yet
               not enough empathy for surging waves
               not enough to break away
               from absurd deterrence reasoning
               and send it flying,
                    there's no cold war
               anymore.

               My fears
               refuse to stay in port,
               they fling pebble-bombs
               and brown seaweeds
               like drowned hearts
                    full in my face.

               Trigger Fingers

 

               "What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
               Only the monstrous anger of the guns...."
                                        Wilfred Owen
     
               They met at right angles
               of a white marble tomb,
               then off again on spirals
               of darkness and sorrow,
               he with his deft trigger fingers
               on guns and canons,
               she with her green fingers
               on chrystanthemums.

               I'm moved you remembered
               to share our wedding anniversary
               with our dead son
               his cartridges in the air.
               How could I forget?
               Her words
               of earth,
               sprinkled on the tomb
               where their soldier son
               was buried, and
               was buried deep down in their
               cut hearts.

                        Take Us To  Free Soweto

 

   Dedicated to the African Black Poets I met in Johannesburg, at the American Embassy.

          "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies,
               in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those 

               cold and are not clothed."                   Dwight D. Eisenhower

     

               Lady from Tel-Aviv, lady from Tel-Aviv,
               now that we've read together,
               now that we've cried together,
               please take us back to Soweto,
               with our poems "abalonga goddam"
               full of cried of crippled children
               full of anger
               wrapped in pain --
               please take us back
               to Soweto

               If I only could, would have taken you
               not only to Soweto --
               but to where the leaves'
               free rustle roams,
               where poems grow ripe
               before they grow hoarse.

               But then, I'm not even
               from Tel-Aviv,
               I'm only from Haifa --
               and have no car
               to take you to
               the leaves' free rustle,
               or to Soweto

 Johannesburg, May, 1977

 

       Dedicated to President

 
          Nelson Mandela 

                      Africa Sings Freedom

     Written on the occasion of the abolishment of Apartheid.

               Inevitable pregnancy -  freedom at last
               in the heart of South Africa's
               scorched placenta
               in the heart of South Africa's
               smooth deep full throat, a free song triumphs.

               Joyous volcanic sounds burst out at last
               loud and clear - Africa sings triumphantly
               flying fire-blown icons touch golden disc
               exploding into million blooming
               proteas painted in fresh free
               rainbow sounds and colors
               placed joyfully on Apartheid's grave

               Nelson Mandela washes away the lava-pain
               with a grave handshake and a proud raised forehead,
               and the sceptics who never believe
               thrust their leering
               deep down their own throats,
               while Africa joyously sings
                    the song of FREEDOM.
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