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 out gods
honed by man’s cold sword
through the broken centre
of this confusing world

There restricted Jews
and Muslims had bled
under the scything 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 Axa mosque 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

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

Widdershins

‘The realm of the dead below is all astir to meet you at your coming’ Isaiah 14:9

I have turned against the world’s clock
and her perpetual request for following
and found myself with my back to her sun
My shadow’s stain laid like the Long Man

I am that untouched layer which obscures
but which time will shift again and again

I am part gnomon – being so subdued
that a blackbird lands in my cast of darkness

This shaded life is mine to command
as I take on the correctness of watchfaces
and counter the arguments for my decline
which are under the thin mantras she sings

I will cleanse with the Rephaim around me
in the baths in which my brother washed off
his own reductions in the last of his living world
and I will not take on her sour sung calls.

Distances

We are existing on two shifting continents
still being dragged apart by the slow forces
of nature – her spiteful ways have set us asunder
through more than time differences and flights

This borrowed bed is without the weighted duvet
which you may have reclaimed in my absence –
I sleep under a single sheet and the turning fan –
I am woken on work days by tipping trucks

I am here to consider my place in the world
with the set distance fixed like a short sentence
from which I will be released – but still without
any solution to deal with my mounting crimes

A long call brings neither of us new insights –
only the confirmation that the future is foul
and my recent behaviour is another indicator
of everything that is wrong on our edged shores

I shall return weighted down by foreign gifts
to home soil – I will not step well across that space
which we cannot pull back together –
because the landmass drift still exists

A Weariness

Over three decades ago I lived
under this ridge and these roof tiles
of repeatedly cast red clay

They were more malleable days
when constant change was good
and my future still had thirty years

From under these timber beams
Chris was removed before his fiftieth year
A weariness tinged with amazement

Perhaps Camus – or my tired words
will lift the eyes of my children to life
I sip my Arabic coffee as Israel growls

The Foreigner

This sun on me is a cure
helping my nails grow
and burning off that skin
which had been flaking

I am the foreigner
who scares the small kids
with his Englishness
and chrome walking stick

Older residents recognise
my dead brother in me
and stop to talk – or more
A grandmother touched my face

I read books the wrong way round
was one child’s observation
My kin have my eyes and brow
and are shocked by this mirror

The Shade

There is no word for this foreign heat
but under the dapple-shadow plantation
I find a ten minute retreat from our star

Here I sit and consider my options –
as a bead of sweat rolls from my chest
to track like an insect under my shirt

This is a playground for absent kids
with still swings and slides anchored
between picnic benches on which I rest

I consider my options with no haste –
for now relocated to this middle east
of loud relatives and small children

We are not sheltering in the same land
and I wonder if this half-turned separation
is my way of seeing the other side of the sun