Ruth Knafo Setton


     [for Eran Riklis]

In Oslo and D.C., fat fingers trace a line

that shaves your face in half, slices

brothers into enemies, and tears

through a house:

you sleep in Palestine but stumble

barefoot to piss in Israel.

Your front door becomes a barbed wire fence:

"Before, we were at war, and I roamed-

Park Place to Oriental Avenue.

Now we're at peace, I follow the laws:

wait in Jail for my turn."

The Druze bride, engaged to a Syrian soap star,

says goodbye to mother, father, sisters.

Israel stamps her passport, but Syria won't let her through:

the stamp reads Golan, and Golan is ours.

I'll erase it, says the young Israeli guard,

touched by the bride in dusty white,

her hair a tissue-stuffed pyramid.

We have to send to Assad, says Syria.

No! wails the groom, fingers tangled in the wire.

The bride sits on a folding chair, her cone o fhair

dipping between two countries. Red tape,

like red sky, scorches her eyes.

A mother grips the great wall and cries to Lebanon:

What have you done with my son?

He had eyes as green as the Black Sea,

he loved Elvis-who will give him his milk now?


Her tears water the desert.

On your side grows parsley, on mine, mint.

I lick the leaves, dare them to flower and tornado the wall.

Meanwhile I lift weights and eat yoghurt:

wasn't Samson a woman and Delilah the man

who cut her hair? Watch how I make the tea

on my little fire. Crush green leaves from Sinai,

mud from the Dead Sea, blood from my heart.

Let steep.

Like my Moroccan grandfather, pour from on high,

down to my parched throat. I splash the tea-dark and orange-

scented-through the barbed holes, glimpse you

crouching to catch the drops-one by one-

on your Jewish-Arab tongue.




Snow, a black sheepskin, lay low,

tight-coiled, like Kronos boy's hair.

I held the front door open,

wind smashed my face and chest,

pushed me back but I rooted my feet

on linoleum, tried not

to hear loud guitar and Mom singing along, or

to smell gold and green spices simmering

in the hot kitchen. Dad yelled,

"Shut the door! I'm freezing!"

Without thinking, fast and hard,

I slammed it shut behind me.

Looked down at the untouched snow,

seashell pink glowing over black heart.

In the cold still air, a rustle, a faint thump.

My enemy, preparing to attack. He waited

at the corner. the next door neighbor's eyes burned

through the window. Cars passed, smooth ghosts,

everyone sealed into their worlds,

moving their heads to music no one else hears.

Behind the closed door, Mom dances on toes round as marbles

to flamenco that makes her weep into mint tea.

"We were nightfruits," she says. "We bloomed in the dark."

I search the coiled and nubbed snow for a splash

of music and fruit, a glint of sun and blood.

Pinkblack, silent, it waits for my rubber boots

to crunch, the neighbor's eyes to sizzle, my enemy to scream.

The cars fleet past carried by carpets that snap

as they turn the corner.

Ruth Knafo Setton's novel, The Road to Fez, will be published by Counterpoint Press in January 2001. The recipient of awards and fellowships from the NEA, PEN, PA Council on the Arts, Wesleyan Writers' Conference and the Great River Arts Institute, she has fiction and poetry in a number of anthologies and journals, including Nimrod, Luna, ForPoetry, Femspec, Tikkun, Lilith and XConnect. She is presently working on a new novel, as well as a collection of poetry and tales.

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