Winter 2017 — THE POTOMAC

Three Poems

Anne Champion



Hebron, West Bank

In his living room, we are each a bomb
for him to dismantle. Ancestors eye
us locked in frames, that harsh gaze

of the sepia-faded haze of history.
Who would tear down the house
of God? It was already ruins

when I moved in, he says.
He does not occupy anything.
He lives a normal, unexciting

life here: his caffeine is daily
prayer in the Tomb of the Patriarchs
and Matriarchs, where once

a Jewish man dressed like a soldier
gunned down 29 Muslims
during prayer. What of it? he asks.

Once a Palestinian sniper
shot a Jewish baby in a carriage.
He named his daughter after her.

Political peace is no solution.
Put your water into dirty pipes,
and it will come out polluted.

The stories flail
from his mouth the way
his curtains block the view

of what's outside. When we see
this crumbling city, we'll want
to shed each jagged dirt road,

corpses of Arabs and Jews
ghosting our horizon
like tangled vines

ready for a lynching.
I'd rather have a hated Israel
than a beloved Auschwicz.

We don't need the world's approval.
Soldiers lurk on every rooftop,
every corner. They hold your passport

for long moments, one hand
on the butt of their assault rifles.
Palestinian children pull

at your elbows in alleys, trailing
like strays, trinkets adorning
the full length of each arm,

Please, ma'am, this bracelet,
this keychain, this purse,
take them back to America.

Nothing is predictable
here: you can almost smell
the winds ready to shift.

On this road, in just
one week, 3 Jewish boys
will be kidnapped and slaughtered,

and the blood of 2000 Palestinians
will wash away that sin again.
What about love your neighbor?

we ask the rabbi. You mean,
love your terrorist?
he replies,
Kindness is a weakness.

The holy text speaks of sacred
things: the way the silhouette
of a fruit tree is a thousand fingers

reaching desperately for God.
Every soul is sacred.
The Jewish soul is most sacred.

How flimsy the stitching between
this world and the spiritual world:
a few layers of punctured skin,

a white sheet draped over a body,
a rock, so easily palmed
into a fist.


Gaza Prayer Circle

At the Gaza border, no one
gets in and no one gets out.

We hold hands and chant,
Peace, Shalom, Salam,

and two invisible hands
clench my throat

until I can't breathe, until
the tears tumble down my face,

the tiniest stones,
useless weapons of defense.

I break the prayer circle and walk
away, because prayers feel as futile

as magic trinkets—any amount
of calling out to the sky

is answered with a bullet or a bomb.
I've seen it happen.

A white balloon hovers above
me, dangling a camera as it descends,

snapping my picture over and over—
I don't know if God watches me,

but I know this does.
For the war mongering politicians,

whose lies are muffled through flags,
maybe asking for peace

is an act of defiance as terrible
as homemade rockets falling from the sky.

Tunnels transport food to Gaza,
the bare minimum of calories

allotted for each person to prevent
starvation. Where

did we learn such precise
calculations of suffering?

What will it take to dull
the tools of hate? I feel silly

asking for love—people love each other
like sap: cling and scrape away.

Cruelty is much easier.
The horizon shifts

and sways in this humid heat, until
it looks like it might be a hallucination

or the world's nightmare.
A week from now, jets and drones

will rip through this eerie silence
and the world will watch stoically

as the land opens
into a graveyard of numbers,

swallowing more faceless
bodies, each corpse a pill

that numbs the pain of a long grief
whose cause you have forgotten.

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