Bomb Shelter-Love Letter


You used to complain about those straight girls

that would just lie there in bed.

Like corpses, you told me.


In Sderot there’s a saying,

always muffled by fifteen seconds

of siren:


Once you’ve seen one corpse,

you’ve seen them all.


One white, one brown, one red, one

Mizrahi, one Arab purple yellow

Jewish polka-dotted corpse, one corpse


cloaked in burns or bruises, that your father

bought for two zuzim in this country

I never chose, where I burst for you like


twelve blood oranges, where I learned to

drink my coffee sweet, to pull

smoke through my lips


like string, to string you

along, darling, in this country

where the men learn to be hard, to break


a woman, to make a straight woman crooked

in two weeks or days or hours or can’t you see

I’m trying to love you less?


These days

when I walk by the soldiers, they shout

the foulest words of love


in a language I don’t understand.

In this country where even the buses can bleed

so astoundingly, like poppies in the Negev,


where only the godly men

sit at the front, their payot like

cigarette rings, their wool coats


so heavy, longing.

Yes, these are the men who draw breath

when they brush my arm


as if they’ve touched a corpse.

But it is at these moments that I think of

you – whatever you are – and the place


beyond walls – wherever that is – beyond

documents and green lines, helicopters whirling up

tempests of sand, always in my shoes


and later in my dreams,

I feel the breath of a mother I never chose,

an umbilical cord


wrapped taut around my neck,

yanking me back to the land

where letters to God shoot up


like missiles, and on Fridays I confuse

the Wailing Wall for the Iron Dome, on Fridays

even prayer books


smash through stone, even

Copts and Ethiopians sing

to separate Gods, always failing


to out-shriek each other.

But here I am – whatever I am – trying

to read your name:


white sand steeped

in red, breath

without echo,


vowels washed from stone.


Featured image by Maggie Meshnick.

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