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On the Bordeer

Over hills once named in Phoenician
someone upstairs is moving furniture,
heavy stuff it groans massive over
stone floors, encountering bombed roads
and bridges it makes detours through
cobbled streets, hides in cellars
and tunnels, under schools, places of
worship, hospitals.

Someone is calling for blood, transfusion
offered but rejected. Revenge alone is
on his cracked lips, blood of the others,
Zed tribe people, blood of children buried
under rubble, blood congealing on litters
carried head high through streets by
shouting mobs—God is great, revenge, revenge.

Upstairs, the furniture moves again
trucks, laboring through muddy bypasses
on side roads from Bab al-Faraj—the gate 
of deliverance, thundering from Azadi's freedom 
tower, this furniture has many holy origins,
some distorted by history, today children recite
their names in pride: Katyusha, Khaibar, 
Shahab, Jihad.

On the bills of consignment written in Nasta'liq
script, once reserved for prayer, the addresses
are lettered bold—this cabinet for Kiryat Shmone,
a coffin on wheels for Haifa, six mysterious boxes
for delivery further south, a blow to the vitals,
deep into the bleeding abdomens of sidelock-curling
youths chanting by the walls of their crumbling temples.

Blood, blood, they cry, fingers on blackened steel
triggers, as upstairs the bearded hawk-eyed warrior
intones the same message from loudspeakers on high.
Gone are the shining battalions poised for battle
on greening plains, gone the lumbering tanks devouring
fields to dust; wars are fought in streets today, in
homes, schools, playgrounds and libraries, in hospitals
and temples and everywhere the innocent congregate
listening to the furniture rumbling 
upstairs, over stone floors, clouds graying, 
horizons seeping blood in sunset as the angel
of revenge lights the fuse.

And the children in the shelters 
huddle for a few last moments 
under the iron beds until the light goes out. 

This year passed us by
     without a backward glance
          we went for a walk
               down the road

To the place where the rocks
     tumble against the apple trees
          so far below a falcon
               would need binoculars

To spy its prey down under his wings
     crouching next to a tree
          nibbling at last year's windfalls
               and swoop like a knife

Talons extended a quick kill
     and then lunch on an abandoned building
          across the border
               from where the predators swooped

Down on the sleeping town
     and the children locked themselves
          in shelters to escape
               the shrapnel of their claws

This year we did not hear the sirens
     at precisely eleven o' clock, sweeping 
          across the nation, cars hushed on the roads

Passengers standing at attention staring sixty years
     into a pit of bones, still stirring

This year we stood on a hill and watched 
     the falcon circle above the hyraxes 
          sunbathing outside their rock shelters
               we read poetry at meetings

Where the average age is still capable
     of having memories of bones
          this year we went for a walk
               we didn't even try to forget

The unforgettable
     we watched the hyraxes instead, fascinated
          by their button eyes

This year we did not turn on the TV
     did not hear about the truck bomb
          that slaughtered 152 passers by
               in Tal Afar

This year we counted wild flowers
     ochre, cerise and violet, fresh after the rain
          and in the night sky we did not notice the supernova
               that glowed its sudden fire in the East

Perhaps extinguishing a thousand planets
     and a billion lives in senseless war
          guiltless we watched the sky
               above the quiet trail beside the border

Between here and there

Sometimes, walking the dog
along the path that skirts
the cascading waters of the Iron stream
turned overnight into a shouting river
as it rushes in from over the border
with Lebanon, a brave youth inside me,
lusting to test his muscles against
the current, clambers through
the raspberry brambles on to a rock ledge
above the waterfall's chorus, hesitates,
then, content with a taunting
'I am the king of the castle'
saunters back, hands in pockets
into my shaking skin as we continue
on our way, he, I and the dog, frisking
between sodden leaves and shadows
as the sun plays hide and seek
across the international border

Somewhere over there, past the border fence
beyond the fortifications on the hill,
from where artillery surveyed valley targets,
down the road now patrolled by a white UN troop carrier—
six blue helmeted soldiers daydreaming
of breakfast and paychecks—

somewhere in a schoolroom close by
one of those brown flat-roofed buildings
crouching on the slope, somewhere
perhaps, some bright eyed children sit,
who may perhaps one day, duck under the flags,
swim the river under the border bridge,
take my lusting boy by the hand
and frolic together in a shady pool
beyond the last waterfall, teaching each other
how to pronounce 'jump', 'dive' and 'swim'
in Arabic and Hebrew 

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© Johnmichael Simon



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