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What the Light Reveals
Har Hazaytim, Jerusalem

Marble boxes cover this hill, graves
crumbled and aged, the color of teeth,
row after row facing east; buried

here are you who will rise
first, call back to the others, enter
the world of endless life. Your names

echo through generations,
like the lamplighter who walks,
torch in hand, moves

slowly from one grave to the next,
sending a glow into the darkening
night. Or perhaps just a match

set to a wick of pure olive oil,
the light clean and clear
as a summer day, sunlight

so bright we hide our eyes,
and fruit that ripens only
in the long heat of the summer sun,

fruit whose names define us:
Tamar, Te’ena, Rimon, Zayit,
whose shade shields us, whose

pips and stems compost back into the soil
on this eastern side of the hill,
where lights come on slowly with the dusk—

East Jerusalem with its cacophony of cars
and marquees, the green lights
of minarets kindled

one after the other, dotting the way
far into the folds of the desert.
Muezzins who call out,

one leading to the next—
voices, mournful, undulating—pleas
so like the shofar cries

that drift up these stone stairs, call us
back to where we come from— this umbilicus
that whispers a soul to a soul. Your names:

Keila, Pessel, Shaindela, Ruchel: you,
who loved to knead the dough: you,
who danced the hem

of her wedding dress to pieces: you,
who died in the Grodno Ghetto,
giving birth on a dirty floor,

and though we never knew your stories
our souls still told the truth, the death
was not easy. This is why we can’t sleep.

And the wind that once
blew cold in Belarus, now hot
and dry over this eastern hill.

No more lamplighters:
we are Nava, Odelyia, Yael,
and electricity now scrambles

the light between the words,
whispers rise like mist, a simple
wish that wherever we are

we can hearken back to the sweet pink
of a western sky, the last kiss of daylight
as traffic fades, the stars unveil

themselves, the muezzins now quiet. Wherever
you are, tell us why we need any answers,
tell us what any light will reveal.

 

 

This poem was originally published in Crab Orchard Review and it is the title poem of my recent chapbook, What the Light Reveals from Tebot Bach Press.

Rachel Heimowitz is the author of the chapbook, What the Light Reveals (Tebot Bach Press, 2014.) Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, Spillway, Crab Orchard Review, and Prairie Schooner and she has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. She is currently the editor of arc-24, the literary journal of The Israel Association of Writers in English and she is due to receive her MFA from Pacific University in Spring 2015.

From the poet: “I have lived in Israel for the past 30 years. I have six children and I feel blessed to be able to share my poems with others.”

Favorite poets: “Some favorite poets include Tarfia Faizulla and Pablo Neruda, Poets who have influenced my work: Dorianne Laux, Kwame Dawes, David St John, Eduardo Corral and Marvin Bell.”

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