Tag Archives Israel

SPEAKING OF STONES

‘For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.’ ZEPHANIAH 2.4

‘Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone. “But which is the stone that supports the bridge?” Kublai Khan asks. “The bridge is not supported by one stone or another,” Marco answers, “but by the line of the arch that they form.” Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: “Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.'” Polo answers: “Without stones there is no arch.”’ INVISIBLE CITIES, Italo Calvini

 

When they were shown the abandoned houses,

with the half-eaten food on the table,

and the children’s toys scattered as if in haste,

the upended chair, broken glass, blood smeared,

they immediately remembered their parents’ tales

of what it was like at times in the old country,

and then, it seems, immediately forgot.

 

***

 

After many, many decades he returned,

to his village in the forest, expecting

to find all the houses razed, and the ruins

blackened with fire, instead they seemed pristine,

and each of them inhabited, including

his family’s. When he explained haltingly

to a passer-by – the language returning

the more he spoke – who he was, and why

he had returned, the villager went quickly

from house to house, rousing the inhabitants.

They chased him into the forest, throwing clods,

shouting abuse he remembered so well.

 

***

 

She pretended to be a stranger, strolling

past the gates to the courtyard of the house,

studying a tourist map. The wrought iron gates

had had metal sheets welded to them

to hide the courtyard – and the bougainvillea

had been ripped from the top of the high wall

and replaced with razor wire. There was CCTV

at each vantage point of the property.

A little girl suddenly appeared

at a window on the third floor, where

the bedrooms used to be, and waved. She waved back,

and whispered, “You are standing where I once stood”.

 

***

 

The apartment block next to the beach road

is only partially collapsed. Perhaps

the next bombardment will finish the job.

Its leaning white walls and glassless windows

are like a dystopian cenotaph.

A flat-bed cart – its many passengers

huddled as if in rain – passes, pulled

by a blinkered donkey. The Phoenician sea

breaks on the crowded beach. The sand between

the road and the water line is covered

by a disparate community

of trampled plastic tents.

 

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