But the hands...

Eve Romm


Gen 27:22, Gen. Rabba 65:20

This morning, the rabbi spoke
about Jerusalem, looking grim
but alluding to joy. Grim,
because as a child he had lost points
in a trivia contest—Wrong, they said,
Israel has no capital. He spoke bitterly,
pridefully, and beside me, Jacob’s mouth
opened, shocked that in this synagogue
of more than a hundred good people,
celebrating anniversaries, all would stand
to say strengthen the hands of the defenders
of our holy land, the first flowering
of our redemption.

I finished praying alone, still
facing East—not the wall, I insist,
but the garden, the date palms,
the fountain, the crows,
the shimmering pigeons,
the kittens, and mean,
narrow cats.  


The voice is the voice of a wise man
but the hands are of those who strip the dead.


Jacob lends me a book—Adonis’ Concerto al-Qudz.
I read it by the window, in the dazzling light
of the sun on the snow.  Women knit
at their own tables. The veteran,
in the corner, reads his newspaper. The hours swell, endless
in both directions, and I hear the voice of Jacob,
calling out the coffee, while the voice
of the concerto calls out about Jerusalem,
using names I’ve never heard for places I know well:
Wadi Hilwa, Talat al-Dhuhour, the houses razed
to build the plaza where I too,
I admit it, sobbed, pressing my fingers
into the cracks in the stone,
roosting places for pigeons at best.   

– Eve Romm