I am pleased to announce that my poem, “From Rechavia,” has won 2nd place in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award for 2019. & here it is:
From Rechavia ©bruce arlen wasserman, no publication without author permission
There is a scent somewhere here between hay / & the must of pressed grapes & balsam / & the cats that shake themselves through the bins / & the moist of winter runoff & what passes for ice / in Jerusalem that erodes all 48 steps to my flat / & the one bold feral cat who sidled all the way / to the door before vanishing like a magician’s hat / & why are there no screens in Jerusalem & why / do the doors face walls of stone the same stone / that lines the streets & alleyways & the tiled / havens for dud shemesh tanks white as misfits / of clusters of footprints on the moon / there seems to be a pattern to the ups & the / downs of the hills & the streets climb to make / ancient off-angled passages to places like / the Kotel & the footfalls of the oldest alleys & / the pockmarks where they missed or hit in former wars / like the heart-rock I found near my grandfather’s grave / leaving time on my fingers & chalk as a remnant / like snail gloss these things say soul differently / than James Brown imagining low stone inscriptions / & there is more to give it all up for in the memories / of a child than the fan of palm leaves setting a border / for my garden & the kumquat & the tangerine trees / comparing tiny fruits & the way the lemon looks on / in the tartness of the breeze but the pomegranate sways / its seeds in an undertone like hot breath after a quickone / & these things I think took place upon the stones laid when / Rechavia was rural & bordered by farms & the monastery / where the Romans cut the cross & the slog of that walk that /must have been truly painful & why do fallen leaves never chase / the winds & why is dirt undisturbed as if sanctity is beyond / what’s already known & why is the doormat always backwards / as a tribute or a view to a future pretending to be past or / the list of the lost repeated in an ancient mother tongue? / I pay at the post office in a guttural I can barely comprehend / from the consonants in my throat & I realize I still can’t /say my name right & my immigrant state is more real than / the 5,779 ways to count the years to devolve from a snake / & all the incense burned in the desert made the air / a little sweeter & the day I arrived with three bags & / my guitar a stranger stopped to help me roll them up / the street then shook my hand & the sweetness of one / day’s travel ended like a blues riff & the lack of assurance / let my notes flow into the Jerusalem wind & the voices / inside the Souk are just enough to roll along the centuries of stones like the backs of rushing rivers / or the dates I bought that taste like caramel dipped / in honey then burned & the hummus like an evening spent / dreaming of something tearing my heart out & when I am / forced to give it all away these travels & my struggles / slowly fade like early rain like water’s rising to mist a world / away from here & one thing I have discovered is how to have / Hebrew dreams after the DMV & the gifting of beggars / as all charity speaks Hebrew & anything I lack feels fuller / in Hebrew & this is where I’ve learned yom tov & this / is where I understand bevakasha means you’re welcome / as well as please& I ease into some sense of letters & / this is where worries of never knowing the feeling of shalom /finally give guttural breath to the sounds inside my name.