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:

are comforted

by comforting


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

are missing.


"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."



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,

everyone divided

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

anticipate adrenaline,

an alarm

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

in rubber.


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

to school.


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

our lives.