This morning the Yarkon River held mallard ducks,
green sky on the green river, and the green
reeds, an embankment upon which three
jackal pups peered from a stand of bamboo.
The photographer from behind the reeds
snapped their shy appearance, and snapped even
harder when I ran past in a pink t-shirt–
“not just for liars anymore–Rhetoric.”
jackals live in monogamous pairs.
They defend their territory
from other pairs by chasing intruders
and marking their land with feces
and urine. Of the three species,
only the golden, don’t live in Africa.
Maybe everyone’s mother is jealous. Can
be there always comes a time when you think,
well, he is married to her and not to you,
and you stop talking to your father. The interesting
thing about jackals is their mating ritual: mutual
pleasuring with no copulation for weeks.
And then a week or more of coupling
each consummation lasting nearly an hour.
Father jackals help the mother
raise the young. When they are old enough, they are
driven from home, but like Tel Avivis, they tend to stay
in the neighborhood. Not me. I was born a stray.
Something tipped a painted glass sky over the earth,
and I live here, in the bubble between. Today
in the garden, something gnawed the hose on the first
lemon tree, so now none of the orchard has water.
I fiddled with connectors, but couldn’t figure
out the system. And there were no men, no women
either, lurking behind the climbing peas,
the tongues of kale, the lettuces and broccoli,
to help me.
Skyping into Gaza
Yesterday I looked out of the balcony into a street in Beit Lahia, Gaza,
and there were white buildings and green, leafy squares, and a noisy
wind that slapped the curtains. I showed Mosab my street, too,
in Tel Aviv.
his daughter Yafa, for his ancestral city. From his roof he can see
When I walk from my apartment
twenty minutes to the sea, I see Yaffo’s lighthouse
and towers, its walls that slice the southern coast.
There is an orange tree suspended in air
somewhere between the walls
of the old Crusader city.
I haven’t always
lived in Tel Aviv. My daughter is named for
a woman, not a city. This morning I ran
along the sea, north, away from Yaffo,
towards Naharia, then back down.
very strong carrying around what I have lost. I ran
and ran, until my clothes were wet
with the sea, because I never cry.
How one body
replaces another, how it is never quite what one expects,
this transmigration of bodies, from a city to a baby,
from book to an accordion, footsteps that move us
closer, the ones that move away.
And I want
to write to Moshe the filmmaker, and ask how much
light it takes to hold an image in place,
how many shadows, and fingers.
has never left Gaza since the day he was born.
Gaza is 141 sq mi. He says he travels through books,
through words. He sent me some of his words. Indeed,
they are flight worthy and well crafted in their sentences.
And it was awkward, at first,
when I stepped into his living
room, into his library, the one he is amassing anew, the IDF
having destroyed his previous
one, or maybe it was Hamas. I didn’t ask.
We sat there together,
and he answered my questions,
they cook with gas, but it is expensive. Sometimes
they’ve needed to burn wood. No, there is
no milk or meat in the house
when the electricity is cut off.
Then he has to go to the shops and buy
each time they need.
I am sorry, I say,
for asking about unpleasant
things. I want to know him as a person.
But people live in bodies, and bodies live in homes,
and homes are placed in cities, and cities once
had walls, now countries do, and bodies
have skin, and words have wings, and names
are everywhere, and when they leave
they leave gaps.
Other People’s Birthdays
To get here today I had to pack my phone and phone charger
—I was probably sold a phone with a defective battery
that I’d not even wanted. I’d gone to buy wifi so my daughter
could skype as scheduled with her father. I didn’t need the free
tablet that came with it—today’s promotional offer!
I’m not the kind of parent who lets her daughter play
with screens. But it was the sales representative’s birthday
and the sale kept getting interrupted so the staff could regale
him with a bouquet of black helium balloons, sing happy
birthday, take his photo, and when we started back he’d tell
me I was so cute. I was pressed for time and I didn’t think I
could take off from work again and come when he wasn’t there, cel-
ebrating something, and anyway it was his birthday
–I shouldn’t be a bitch. You even rescheduled
the breakup with your boyfriend, I reminded
myself in the second person, which I find
easier for confrontation. You wanted to break
up, but is was his birthday, so you bought him dishes
and books instead, and so two weeks later, you came back
to break up found yourself taking a pregnancy test, wishing
your breasts had started aching at home. Back
to the present: it’s a goddamned smartphone and free
tablet and personal hotspot and you should pay and get the hell
out when the sales rep offers to give you his personal cell
number and offers to come over tonight and help you set up your phone.
Okay, now you don’t know or care what you’ve just paid you just
want to escape and that’s why you hate complicated electron
ics. To get here today you had to tell your daughter, you must
skype with your father, and you had to bribe her with chocolate so
she’d be cheerful, though he’s suing you for not taking her to a dentist.
All the dentist stuff is, of course, untrue.
But that’s where observing birthdays gets you.
To get here today you had to tell Akilah you were glad
she’s begun to write about racism and raising black boys:
Claudia Rankine, Khadijah Queen, Langston Hughes, Toi, you said,
Derricote—we did this last semester, here, just take the syllabus.
To get here today you had to walk an extra block: the school had
closed the regular entrance when the attacks in Jerusalem caused
panic among the parents of the new French immigrants in
school. They sued to stop all construction using Palestinian
workers. “Remember Marseilles, Toulouse,” my friends
said, “don’t judge them.” To get here you had to pick
up your daughter and tell Yali his mother hasn’t forgotten
him and ask Mia how her Hebrew is coming along and lick
your fingers after peeling tangerines for each of them.
To get here today you walked your daughter to the mac boutique
—she was so proud of your new phone she wanted to buy it a cover
—she noticed a sale—from her own savings for her own dear mother.
Marcela Sulak is a poet and translator, associate professor in the Department of English Literature and Linguistics at Bar-Ilan University.Read more
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