from BETWEEN BOMBARDMENTS: a journal
Unable to move
waiting to be sprung
into action, we anticipate the sirens:
remembering the missiles of last night
targeting the people we love—
missing, missing, yet striking the heart:
the child choking on her vomit in her mask,
the old woman suffocating in unavoidable ignorance,
the psychotic whose nightmares came true.
We sit in the sealed kitchen with the dog,
the children all grown yet unschooled
in the blind hatred of aimed explosives.
We need each other, stroke each other,
the dog licks the rubber mask, nuzzles
the strange inhuman faces.
And then, when terror ebbs,
we remember the others,
reach for the phone:
False alarms spring us from our beds
fitting masks to our faces
still asleep. Someone must be enjoying
our terror, I think,
as we will learn
to enjoy theirs.
I think of Rena in Canada,
chewing her nails and screaming
when she recognizes the neighborhood of a hit
in Tel Aviv. Somehow her heart
reaches me, even here, even
hiding under the kitchen table with a quaking dog.
Sleeping with a radio and a shivering dog
while my one-eyed man
scans the skies for missiles. Somehow
this is not the front I had imagined,
and all those handsome heroes
"Think of the children in Baghdad"
the radio announcer tells the kids,
"how frightened they must be
—hiding in their shelters—
by the unrelenting bombing."
The news is on next—celebrations
high on Palestinian roofs
that our time to die has come.
My brother from New Jersey reminds me on the phone—
in the middle of a missile-ridden night—
of the metal table in the kitchen—the one
we would dive under when we heard
a loud noise in London
years after the blitz.
Where is that table
Tonight we wait for the alarm.
Who wants to get caught in the shower
or the toilet or in the middle of love?
You say, "I'll wash my hair after
the attack" and I decide to put off
lacquering my nails, read
short poems about decadence instead
into the night—And it doesn't come—
And we take off our shoes and lie down
fully clothed, alert, prepared
for the sudden race to the shelter.
Even towards morning while the radio clock
shines out 3 and 4, illuminating
the passing minutes, we wait,
remember the shock of the 7:00 a.m. surprise.
Although I try to weary us with chapters from Jeremiah,
"I need my nightly missile," you say, "to fall asleep."
THE MOTHER OF ALL WARS
Oedipus tries to get to
the heart of all wombs
with 400 pound missiles
and we sit here, breathless
waiting for the next
"No, no sex," Eyal says. "What man
can compete? This missile
gives it to all of us at once.
A war with no heroes, every man
for himself, every woman
fearing her own life,
from the others,
and with so many faulty options—
everyone divided against themselves.
"Even jerking off
can't do it."
We hear what we fear—
listen for similar noises—
in particular the whirring motorcycles
that zoom down empty streets
as evening falls
and we begin to anticipate the sirens.
But even our names called aloud
to seek shelter.
Mike and his wife can't stop
fighting. Why does she leave
him every night to sleep
in some distant village?
Why can't she trust her husband
to protect her?
Our phone conversation is interrupted by a siren.
Two hours later, back in place, he calls to gloat:
the missile fell near her village.
Instead of his leash
the dog brings my mask
to remind me of his walk.
Nights without bombs are suddenly empty
Still alert, waiting at home—
remembering passionate friends in cafes
involved in each other
without thought of the skies
My sanest friend is sure a target
has been painted on her chest,
that the Iraqis with eagle vision
seek her out each night,
each missile aimed at her,
and only standard deviation
keeps her alive.
Some people terrified for their lives cut
themselves off in times like these. Even I
spent hours in my room, unable to face the rest
of the family those first days of war. Weeks
later we meet our friends like wary dogs,
sniffing from behind, asking about sex
and digestion before we can kiss and smell
the sweat that emerges now from deep inside.
"The next missile will be chemical,"
my gay friend predicts, "But who knows?
Maybe Zyclon 2 cures AIDS." For weeks
he has been alone, his lover torn from his arms,
hiding from him and the anguish outside wrapped
And the voice of that man that always warms me more
than I expect is frost-bit now. I hear his control
on the answering machine and long
to rub that voice with ice the way my brother
would rub my hands reviving the blood
after long afternoons playing in the snow.
"Man like the generous vine supported lives,
The strength he gains is from the embrace he gives."
How often Pope's words return to me—that lonely outcast
who knew how much was needed and how much it cost.
The morning after a three alarm night
I smell my mother in my bath
that acrid bloody woman-smell
filling the bath and becoming,
suddenly, sensual—a sign
the womb continues its tasks
when all outside is destruction.
Little Smadar gets an evening pep talk
from her British mother, about her fear
of extinction. "We must show that nasty man
we don't care. That is the part we Israelis play
in this war."
And in the morning Smadar asks, tentatively:
"Do you think Saddam will notice
that one little girl is frightened?"
"Who do you think you are?
A post-modern Anna Frank?"
a friend remarks when he sees
I keep a journal. She
died when I was born,
I reply, why not continue
the keeping of accounts.
Fluttering between war and Purim,
the little fairy princess watches
the latest SCUD victims evacuated
from the Army compound in Riyadh,
takes both her masks, waves
her magic wand, and goes off
And now it seems it will go away, this
threat that has hung over our skies
like Joe Bl*$*#&%#$'s cloud for so many days—
thirty nine missiles. But my daughter just now
is engulfed in terror for the first time,
seeing how she has changed
So we begin to plan
our adult purim costumes
as if back into the swing of things.
Diane paints formulas on her face
to parade with me down the street
as a chemical warhead, and I can't think
of how to conceal what I have become
even though I expect to drink
until I can't distinguish
The floor of the orchard is green,
orange and yellow. All the fruit
that wasn't picked
in time, victims
of the war, slowly returns
to the earth—emitting
an acrid smell like all
the days we have wasted
waiting for missiles
to shatter our windows