Jerusalem Poems


Five poems by Ester Karen Aida


Clouds Pressed Upon
String Bridge

1.
Today we’ve collapsed all of our veins.
With the last hypodermic we shoot up
our delirious cries.

Tomorrow, tremorous,
when we’ve finally aroused ourselves,
do not deny us your tenderness. God,
take us in.

2.
We’ll save you, God.
Look here: our fifty cables, taut to one harpoon,
Protrude from your gray belly.

3.
A mourning-dove has ploughed
into the earth with such force,
one wingtip intended to cut the air
is interred here.

Here is her shocked left wing,
its pale sinews vibrating still.

4.
Each ancient line a distinct fingerprint
upon the denatured ground.

Yet look on high:
part rope ladder, part gathered sheaves
grown ripe as the moon.

Our paths converge upon the constantly
winking star.

Is her merriment at this traffic
of gadgety gifts accumulated
at her skirts?


Passing by the String Bridge
Decked with Colored Lights

On the Way to Menahem’s Shiur

You uncapped your gold pen to thousands of gel-particles
tiny heads each with one of three crowns the angels set
for the pure of heart at the Mount—reluctantly. Yet lines of

light rise from brows, cornucopias stored in Moshe’s mind
spread in a wrinkle in time or faith’s overlap, a magic leap
even to the City entry. The peacock and pink and emerald

of Shiraz glass pour their individual lights to the nib of Your
pen. Little is written of the time required to prepare oil-lamps,
to trim a wick, to be sure the oil reaches the delicate neck.

Once I poured two half-used glass vials into one to make
enough, and that stayed lit. The grace of a spill after the car
pulls away shimmers too, but here we try to repeat that glory

by choice. It happens to the children’s candles, a late point
when things melt to touch heads and light rears up. The blue
Is under red is under gold or pink. Blind yourself a little by

squinting: we are blessed, we talk at each other or yell or
sometimes listen like me in the cab I say you want to listen
to the game, fine by me so he says news is about to come on

Here we are devastated by a commercial sweet jingle, I imagine
a dish soap ad like Dove fills the interior then the sober Arabic
News—and I have no clue, I wish us all good news, more gelt

to all the cab drivers more butterscotch who conceived this
Festival of Donuts? I only like the softness, some kind of platform
for the malleable man give me an almond croissant or give me

Death. My will is drooping now, my path is not as upright as I
planned and I can’t remember who’s behind this. You’re never
straight with us, God, your melting heart pools so we don’t

quite know how to respond. Out beyond the concrete walks
chins of wicks break the earth, there is a field we all inhabit, would
you like to meet there? In that green and dimming place

We consider thoughtfully if one secular criminal law will suffice
while local shaarias let Tel Aviv strut in her red boots, let Neve
Shalom, Ramallah and Jerusalem be who they are, loosely

entwined roses of sunset orange or the lilac that used to be called
Ashes-of-roses. The chiaroscuro eases our hearts, a space
soft as the down hairs of the raven’s young, so that we can rest

from eternal vigilance, each separate flame-feather has offered
itself so eyes can rest, finally; a light, dark blanket.

The Last of Lights

You can imagine the fabric washes its color
into your body if you try.
I take the train past my stop, to the Central Station,
after the hemotologist. I do it obstinately
for I am weary. Try on chenille sweaters in ochre
and magenta, in Hevron there’s a statement
of boycott, but when a woman says,
I hate you, she means, you hurt me.
I am exhausted, this is why I am like this,
Yet the cabbie called up at 8:45 and said
Good morning my darling wife, how are you
then for a three minute call they talked of nothing
and it was the very best news.
Are you like me? Do you yearn for people
and their color, their patterns, their ostentations!
to bring you back to the world after
pain-and-antiseptic? The Christians with their
mind-blowing forgiveness are
turning off diamond Christmas-tree lights
in Bethlehem, and shopkeepers wonder instead
at their ledgers. In lieu of a pearl it is
Botticelli’s Venus, her gentle face enough
for the Arabic brochure for breast cancer.
Why is no one taking? Somewhere in a memory
we know a hand on a heart. And that is where the fine
stitches are, I want to shop with Iman, we’ll buy dresses
for both of us embroidered in red thread,
let the black background grow dimmer as we speak.
As practical as strong fabric, but not the wrong way out:
Israelis, Americans, let’s flaunt our need for the material,
Let’s haunt the Arab shops til we drop.

Songs of Jonah Falling

I
This my cocoon         a unified leaf
I paint peach walls in my shady tight house.
Do leave.
Let me fan myself awhile.

II
Brotherhood is a virtue; those of my house
come first.
Only an act of nature can shake this conviction
in us.
Clasping hands in a circle and looking in
I see most the beauty of myself.

III
You took me down to the ocean-floor
though holding me all the while.
Because I could not see the meaning of their words,
Which seemed a few grains floating on the surface.
The sounds of their speech rushing past me,
coal trains of far-off memory
glinting and bulging under their tarps.

In my living vehicle you took my two eyes,
inserted a dragon’s-orb in their place.
Now I cannot tell what is before me, what is past.

I bask in honor. Solitude is a pleasing
avoidance for drama; in any case I am not your partner.
You need someone who will hear you with a constant,
unerring ear. Never wanting affirmation from family.

I could glide forever against the smooth space of these
thoughts, endless floating stories. One people
shall succumb to another, it is all the same.

IV
You spit me without warning into the body
of a woman. Squirming with child I am no longer
one unto myself. My head bobs on the body of a big fish,
A body that will go where you will it, not I. It expels
screaming creatures and flaming red tongues of fluid:
my pocket-life will be turned inside-out and shaken.
I pray You with my human mouth, let me conceive
of societal order, order to the eggs swimming
in me, the creatures grazing my body close without,
the links encasing my body. They will feel pain, my children,
as I have; they will make mistakes as I have done.
Lord, forgive them, as you have saved me
and shown me the necessary crowding taste of life,
salty like bright-hued star spokes gathered round
a grain of salt. My children, or those, it is the same.

Lapped by Monolithic,
Tested for Copper

My friend turned into Jesus or
could be the angel of death I’m still
not sure in the time I was there but
the crying out was too great for a
single body. Sound differs from vision
which in a sense is serial, look one
direction, then another. To absorb
suffering as a sound is to disintegrate
from the center, you become a hub
your spokes infinite, each a raw audial
nerve lapped by the monolithic
disharmonic cry
its distinct voice calling you

I had a bed at least, there are those
as I was a moment before, pacing
Ambulatory. I had a bed. A sheet to
cover my body while the acrid doll-
cup worked. Lids to cover the eyes
I had. Just after the man-nurse
pricked my arm, as firm yet soft as
I held our rabbit’s foot to clip her nails
        —       though her eyes were wild and red.
Someone with a plastic swan over to
Intensive, grazed my shoulder. After,
after, I closed and could see then
warmth, I was the floor under a patch
of sunlight. Then I was the wide shaft
itself stretched from my cheek diagonally
through me to ceiling gold as birth wails
to left to right how can there be peace

in such a place
                             Sophia, Sophia.
Later it will be my mother’s voice on the
phone as waves on rocks comfort ya know
ya know ya know. I open the door because
dang if the hall doesn’t smell like smoke

Ester Karen Aida is a poet living in Jerusalem.

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