The land no longer ours
grows ever more vertiginous in the telling:
the holy hill steepens with each new song.
Its shadow creeps across fields
& olive groves, penumbra muffling
the quotidian din of school & clinic,
silencing even the marketplaces
where once we embraced like lovers at the end
of each slow dance of commerce.
Layer by layer the volcanic ash of memory
like a veil drawn between us & the present
erases all distinguishing features:
the raised letters on name plates, street signs,
the features carved on tombs & public statues.
Soon it’s impossible to tell
whose heroes, whose dead
these stones are for.
And such lava flows of jealousy!
There’s no loss like ours,
no stillness as holy as the absence
of love & laughter.
No song quite like the melismatic wail
of an infant swung around by its ankles,
the frantic ululations of an ambulance,
the screech of an incoming mortar.
The waters of Babylon are profligate;
our tears there made little difference.
The only mountain was a simulacrum of paradise,
spilling with fountains & the seeds
of unknown flowers. But in the land
the Lord showed Abraham
no spring can overflow without authorization
& barred from the sea the Jordan hoards its salt.
Surely it was meant for us—
to bathe our wounds . . .