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Winter 2020

Golden Jackals/Skyping into Gaza/Other People's Birthdays

Poetry from Marcela Sulak.

Golden Jackals

 

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.”

 

Opportunistic omnivores,

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.

                                        Mosab named 

his daughter Yafa, for his ancestral city. From his roof he can see

Ashkelon.

                                        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.

                                                                      I’ve grown

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.

                                                                    Mosab

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.

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Marcela Sulak

Marcela Sulak is a poet and translator, associate professor in the Department of English Literature and Linguistics at Bar-Ilan University.

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