Saturday, June 05, 2004

A poem I wrote in January, while visiting Jerusalem.

In the middle of life

Looking at myself in the mirror,
hair pulled back from my face,
wisps of hair flying out on the left –
a few strands of grey.
I look at the darker hollows under my eyes
the dark under my chin.

This body is so fragile.
What hidden in it now will kill me?
Or maybe my death will come from outside – not an illness,
heart, or lungs, or breasts,
but a fall down the stairs,
a broken hip,
a speeding car,
or something more violent –
a bullet
a bomb?

My mother died at age 48.
My aunt just died at 73.
Tobacco smoke seared their lungs.
The sacred leaf that the Indians smoked only at holy times
ended my mother’s life and her sister’s.

Now at this time of my life, age 47,
life seems so short to enjoy
between the parentheses of eternity
or of forgetfulness.

It’s commonplace to say it –
but when I was younger, life stretched out before me
into the indefinite future.
I didn’t see its end.
(Although when I was much younger, I didn’t think I’d survive 30;
underneath my daily life was always the thought: we will all die in the great conflagration. But we didn’t. Instead the Berlin Wall fell, and the bombers with their world-destroying weight stopped circling the earth).

Now I wonder how much more time is left to me?
Today I sat in Caffit
the table closest to the door
drank my cappuchino with katzefet and powdered chocolate,
ate my croissant with chocolate paste smeared in its middle
and wondered every time someone passed by –
is he a bomber coming with
the explosives bound around his belly?
like the one who came here before,
whose nerves and sweat betrayed him
before he had a chance to touch the detonator?

But that’s an old fear, death by violence –
more likely I think is the slow passage of time
and the illnesses it brings,
the dangers we carry around in our bodies every day,
the deadly freight of living.

Jerusalem, 12/28/03

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