Decade Measures

RIP Chris Bell d.24.08.87

A decade mislaid since his
lingering disappearance
then Latin’s alphabet surfaced
across a white stone – struck
below a dusty Israeli suburb

Ness Ziona stands over him
He had jumped his rusting ship
another twenty years before
leaving a trail for investigation

How he ever got to Tel Aviv
ending up an eager volunteer
only him and God now know
sharing – as they do a bench
slumped – stalbet – in a cemetery
under high apartment shadows

 

 

Dairy Parlours

Sweet stinking cattle
of Brough Hill

our machinations
are latched on to you by
German engineering
sucking you near to dry

With such heat –
you should wear white –
this is now a foreign field
of burnt harvests

A limited release
of back catalogue
memories land me
among kids with Uzis

in Tel Aviv – then south –
to be met by my family
and dairy farming
without pastures

Pinned

Her long-rooted shyness
stopped her donning angel ways
in Israel – on an Arab feast day –

but it nudged my shading
behaviour – so I took to flight
supplied by Yochai Matos –

to soar over Jaffa’s coast
and land after my exodus
from clippings in England –

ask Yochai if he offers his span
for touch-downs or for lift-offs
or just for Instagram groundings

Not stuff for my wandering mind
pinned by light and blue wings –
my weight blew away

Ploughing

Clasped – a cold buttock –
dipping to thoughts of others’
comforts – way before zeal
had become sloth-by-illness –

Working a younger body –
thinner – stiffer – bent to those
exacting tasks of hard love –
before this exhaustion set in –

Then visiting foreign suburbs –
eating with a woman and her family –
years before her daughter was born –
before we screwed –

before furrows of motherhood –
those folds of parenthood –
Old positions – long exertions
are no more first weapons of choice

She serves our meal as ritual –
common to others’ habits and grace –
Even with confusions under Hebrew
my understanding is here –

All records are coded recalls of sex –
of finding what had been lost –
then dug by honed ploughs –
all will be turned over once more


E160219 – Edited in Anthony Anaxagorou workshop at Verve Poetry Festival 2019

In Be’er Ya’akov

We must use stage whispers
of the plight of Palestinians –
lest we upset the
status quo of seventy-one years

Our distant sympathies
cannot be put on-line in one-liners –
lest we are shot down
as anti-zionist and foul racists

I hold my great nephew and niece
under the Be’er Ya’akov’s olive trees –
they will all grow –
no matter who planted such fruits

I know that my Israeli connections
ruffle my travelling conscience –
We must bow to some ignorance
lest we upset the apple cart

Quietus

It is now zero-two-twenty-two
and my sleep is distracted
by far too much thinking
about minor possibilities –

and other rum miracles
in my conjouring mind –
such as taking my mother
back to the Holy Land –

to see her greet the white grave
of her eldest son – at least once –
for me to tolerate her
misunderstandings

There will be no myrrhbearers
but only her – one more witness
before the laid down stone
which is fixed – she will stand alone

But I know that she will never return –
and I have no chance of any apology
as she struggles with family acts
of untranslatable love

She may live a few more years
having never felt his breath on her –
off his loud grandchildren –
and seen the tears of his wife

And at zero-three-zero-three
I save this disturbance of sleep
among notes on my phone
and a reminder to call my mother

A Diversion on the Road to the Dead Sea

We drove due east
past the concrete wall –
by the older stones
which marked the fall

of carved-up gods
honed by man’s cold sword –
through the broken centre
of this confusing world –

here restricted Jews
and Muslims had bled
under scythed prayers
of crusading men –

Rose water was scrubbed
to reclaim the rock –
to wash from the slabs
the foul tread of a god –

When the mosque was burnt
in a war on the dome
a madness was found –
Jerusalem Syndrome

Hopes raise and implode
back to rubble and dust –
Forty centuries of walls
have never been lost


E170119

Shelters in Israel

I measured the fixed areas
in which a life was doused –
drawn for the new owner –
one way to heal his house

Under shading palms
my foreign family sits –
another showed the plans
of his own home being built

I walked in his construction –
ready by the winter
on a tour of whitewashed rooms
and the bomb-proof shelter

He led me through the building site
taking time to watch my path –
and I then saw his dear family
cowed below the blast

The rubble and busted timber
are props across this lot –
precursors to God’s plan
for when the bomb is dropped.

The Crossing

The night’s timed howl outside
is of another wheel-rattled diesel
slowing over the level crossing
which is now closed to us

It reminds me of the distance
which we can no longer walk –
out to the suburb’s grip around
the kibbutz’s old burial ground

As if a sacred place can be safe
in this country of rude expansion –
of tightened grips on settlements
and the troubling of neighbours

They blocked the road over the line
and so all remebrance is diverted
via town in a short car journey
of blasting air and Arab music

The lock is turning into rust
as we the gatekeepers follow
the steps to where death rests
in this scalped remnant of other lives

The dead are watched over not by God
but those who live in the high blocks –
the commuters and the city workers
who pass these crumbled bones

on each day’s journey to and from
their own short hell of Tel Aviv’s pull
They pass my brother’s white grave
without knowing how far he travelled.

To Deny

That preterist way
of completed schemes
here sound as raw
as infants’ screams

I watch the place
where parakeets nest
in weighted boughs
they make protests

Those trees which grew
a heightened shade
on this claimed place
which Jews re-made

The pool’s loud shouts
a stone’s throw there –
to that shared space
we now repair

Here parents stand
in thigh-deep games –
their inflated kids
play out their day