Relief of Leaves by Yaakov Ben-David

By Yaakov Ben-David

Poems from Jerusalem and the Judean wilderness: cortical fires and residing waters.

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Sample text

Not dust to dust but calcium to calcium, the stuff of stars, a living connection. Thin Atacama air draws astronomers with giant telescopes— visual, radio—new pathways retracing our enigmatic need to know: where we began and how, where we are going and what future will hold a mirror to our past. Cosmic archeologists say calcium, material of stars and the human body, builds us. What we search for across this desert whose secrets shiver through narrow canyons of escape. Dry earth and thin air release twin truths fourteen billion years or four decades behind us along with every story in between: m 43 m stories we resist until they part the earth and hit us where our knowing lives.

Strands of damp hair repeated their fall across lips silenced by bullets made somewhere else. The small room’s heat, lungs under siege. Walls receded, then pressed against me. Slowly, with purpose, I brought my gaze to her son’s face: jaw wrapped in strips of gauze, clean red and black around his neck. As in so many grieving homes before and since I touched the mother’s shoulder raised my camera, got my shot. We must tell the world, they insisted, when I complained I can’t keep doing this. Can’t.

Life’s meaning loosens the leather straps climbing its ankles, shifts weight from tired feet, arranges itself on a wall of worn stone: Etruscan, Roman, Greek, and shouts in solid accent: Memory, it’s your turn now. m 52 m Daddy, Do You Remember Me? Sixteen years and I can’t conjure your comforting hand curled around mine, your smell of Old Spice set off by the temperature you raised playing tennis with neighbors half your age. I can’t evoke the name of the book where you taught me to read though its black letters on red pasteboard cover still wander behind my eyes, and I remember your serial tale of Pufti and Mike, those picnics where they chewed the drumsticks clean.

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