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Poetry

The Difficulty Discussing Poetry in Israel

Sarah Wetzel

What if there's a small blue house in Jerusalem
What if someone built the house illegally
What if a woman lives in the house with her six year old son
What if the house is scheduled for demolition
What if the woman's husband disappeared two years ago
What if it snows
What if snow can't slow the trucks crossing the city
What if people living along the road open their windows to see
What if the boy raises his face and smiles at that moment
What if he believes his father is good
What if the boy can't remember
What if men from trucks move a red table out of the house into the snow
What if bulldozers start in the garden
What if a man comes out of a house
What if this one man stands in front of a bulldozer
and raises his hand

***

— I read your poem about the house.
      You portray the Israelis as if…
            —Yes.
—There are two sides…
            —Yes.
—Are you Jewish?
            —No.

***

On the corner of Namir Street
where Philippe Starck
designed two forty story towers stands
an olive tree. A man sits half
hidden in leaves shaking the olives
free. Below him, an Arab woman
looks up, open mouthed,
trying to catch one
with her lips. The silver lids
of the leaves flash
and wink but my car
won't stop.

***

—I appreciate that you answered. I worry
     about propaganda.
            —It's winter here, the beaches
                almost empty.
—When I visit Tel Aviv, perhaps
     we can meet.
            —To talk about poetry.

***

The hall in Haifa where Mahmoud Darwish spoke in Arabic
overflowed. A Palestinian poet, I couldn’t understand
a word and so many wanted to see him. He said, I thought poetry
could change everything—could humanize—the illusion
necessary to push poets—to believe, but now I think poetry changes
only the poet. I read this later in translation. I believed him both times.

***

What if we open our hands and we look at them
What if invisible matter flows through our hands like air
through a window screen
What if we put our tongue to the mesh and taste sweet metal
What if we capture the flow in a cup
What if we fly a blue kite in its breeze or turn
a windmill
What if we slowly pour it on the ground

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