across the water

his eyes lashed
          in kohl, mornings alone
he sheathes his arm
          in prayer, sets another
between his eyes,
          kisses the thick skin,
the cured smell, the animal
          warmth beneath. these
are the salted days of august,
          days of hamsin
when even evening breathes
          hot on his neck,
each moment an empty
          pocket, each seam tarred, sulfurous
and sour. on the bus
          the old, sephardi men tell him, wet
your lips. go ahead
          and wet your lips
on sweetness. don’t think
          about the ecru of your skin
or the way it clings
          to the bone.
you too will wake
          to a man’s full weight
in a hand nailing
          your head to the bed,
will burn
          and crease into morning
sheets well worn. and death,
          that savage savior,
will walk across your water,
          enter your house,
a shabaknik in a flannel shirt,
          each shoulder stiff
with power,
          each shawled in prayer.

 

Originally in December, 2016


The Scent of Salt

Outside a cottage at the edge
          of a silver desert, a camel dreams to breathe  
                    the salt, the sea. He twists
                              his head around to view the woman
                                        he carries and where he came from,

over the hot, pitted hills and the many
          varieties of salt, the ones that stink
                    of sulfur, their crystal layers mixed with silt,
                              the ones that comfort his burning
                                        feet in talc, the ones that sit like ice

floes on briny water. The variety that forms
          a woman, her arms
                    outstretched, waiting
                              for her stolen sons, those who melted
                                        in the Land of Og,

burned and buried
          in a shallow grave. In her
                    dreams she rides the camel.
                              When he walks
                                        she knows the stormy waves have overtaken her.

When he runs she whispers
          the seventy secret names of God
                    from her peeling lips
                              and walks on water
                                        to where her sons play in the desert salt.

Their feet are oars, their hands                                                     
          braid the camel’s hair to baskets
                    painted gold. She crouches there
                              in the blistered sand, spitting the husks
                                        of sunflower seeds over

the fences men erect in fear.
          Salt coats their tongues.
                    The camel opens his dry mouth.
                              Like a woman lost, his cry
stretches over the desert.

 

Originally in Spillway 2015


Ode to a Young Girl Sold

little light rises morning within morning
hands chafed clean from defile,
knuckle after knuckle pearled, bread
and boiled water, alive and silent,
as wind, as snow, muted to two dark

Rachel Heimowitz

braids. yet the innocence of thin limbs,
winced in a bathroom, rashed red
across her delicate back, penicillin
inside the animal she carries
pierced to her skeleton. night
 
within night anointed in hard breath
and the oiled smell of lubricant.
little light, eyes bleached in the ice
of his smile, no hand, no belt, just frozen sweat
and the sound of a doll drowning in snow.

 

Originally in Tinderbox Volume: 3 Issue: 4



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