On the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Gulf War.
The author recently discovered this poem, which was never published, about the 1991 Gulf War, written shortly after the war, in Efrat, Israel.
She burrows deep into the down
Like a small forest creature
Creating a warm and secure womb for herself
Far from the sound of calming but urgent voices
Far from the soft corner lamp
Creating a world where she will feel
With braces and (carefully) tousled curls, somewhat shy and green-eyed
Who helped me carry all the masks, the infant tent
(smelling of rubber and storage)
Barely an adolescent
Called upon to be my sister-mother
With father far away
In uniform, on guard
We hear the first siren
And my fingers tremble
As they unwind and navigate the inanimate strips
As they wet and roll the towel
For the bottom of the door
As they place the ugly death-shields
Over the cheeks I have kissed so often
And tears have run down
The strips tangle in the hair I have stroked
The air falters and hesitates, taken into the nostrils
That God Himself breathed life into.
My little one moves in his sleeper
And reaches out to seek my warmth
I pray for silence
And for slumber
Is he dreaming of softer (“gentler”) times?
Is he dreaming of piercing, rising and falling
My step falters
At the threshold of the synagogue
I have brought my little one to welcome
The Sabbath Queen
But we flee at the siren’s scream
And find ourselves again at the threshold of
The all clear sounds, we emerge
And beg the angels
Toby Klein Greenwald is an award-winning journalist and theater director.