The Latroun Monastery
Here the hills
have seen bloody battles.
The sun stood
still in Gibeon,
the moon halted
over this valley.
you embroider the ancient
stillness with worship.
you took root in
this naked soil.
trellised by silence.
Your dark habits
Your austere habits
like stark winter vines.
It’s a difficult land
where spring announces
itself with blossom
of thistle and briar,
and the desert wind,
a close neighbor,
shrieks in your ear
“Go away, go away, go away!”
The silent praise of your wine.
Elegy in Las Vegas
Someone else’s drowning won’t do,
we have to have our own -
complete with our croupiers ferrying
us over this Lethean glitter towards
our own sirens, the sweet lure of their damning jingle.
Their elegy for what Fate will not let us win:
Lips whispering hope, whispering ashes.
Love and friendship
thin tissues of light under permanent scars.
The heart’s silence, a brutal conquest after
the Golden Age of desire and wonder.
Slow drifting apart of earth plates that used to be one
(those leaving like trains, since they must,
obeying their blood’s command like a schedule).
In the forest of echoes we have planted a tree of remembrance.
Learned there’s an art to untying a knot,
like undoing the dressing of a wound past healing.
We walk past the house life’s adamant industry built,
its weathervane pointing to yearning’s fifth wind.
Past the locked rooms of our lives
where portraits of loved ones, of ourselves, keep staring
from empty walls.
They demand to be freed. We refuse, clutching the keys.
When the seams are about to give,
we long to go back:
Fit each hesitant step into its old footprint, just so,
as if no generations of storms have erased
them beyond retrieval.
Salvage from the refuse of life those tarnished dreams.
But instead, the head nodding sadly over the Rwandan massacres.
Instead, the hand reaching out for another chip.
For Those Living Near Railroad Tracks
What is it like to live permanently on desire's edge
to feel the cord of yearning tugged at
each time a train rolls by,
the heart's doll-like moan not Ma-ma-Ma-ma-Ma-ma
but Far-ther-Far-ther-Far-ther echoing each
rattle of the wheels
Daily to weigh on the heart's scale
your pedestrian rootedness
against the luxurious wanderings of strangers
and wince at your paltriness
To envy autumn's migratory birds
the porous traveling of clouds
not when the season comes for its transitory visit
but every single day
To lie at night listening
to the mournful whistle haul your
dreams across lands you will never visit,
each dream as close as the full-blown moon
nestling in the backyard linden branches
? ? ?
Ruth Kessler is an Israeli poet, fiction writer and translator living in Rochester, NY. Her work appears in numerous literary publications and she is the recipient of NYSCA grants and Yaddo and MacDowell fellowships. The poems in this issue are from her manuscript Geographies.
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