After last night’s coffee
This morning animals called me awake at dawn—a lovely loud bird outside my window,
then Shuki the tom cat came calling for breakfast. We had coffee together, you and I,
just hours ago on Emek Refaim. The conversation turned to war in the north and to human nature,
the creative Mirkaveh and the destructive one, its shadow. Light and shadow laughed
across your face as we walked through the narrow streets back through Bak’a, then good-bye
as you went up to your flat and I turned toward mine. A soft good-bye, unwanted and cherished.
a blue feather drifted by. It’s special, you say. We fish it out, dry it in the sun,
and I put it carefully in my tourist visa folded inside my passport. Later,
you tell me blue found in nature means truth, especially when rare. The skies here,
always blue, at least in summer when I come to you, the skies hear, do they lie?
And when the smoke from war-fires blackens the skies, what of blue then?
Where is this poem taking me? I breathe you in when we walk together
so that your scent follows me, the loveliness of desire withheld and sweet
caresses that do not stop incorporated in my lungs, blood pulsing.
I don’t want to be anywhere else or think of anything
else. Not the north. Not the
recalled—missiles, rockets, death. Contraction and creation require each other.
Life requires death, death loves life. What can you make of the sliding together
of such skins? What of the contractions of love, spasms of desire brimming
as two join one moment, experience its passionate eternity, slip away into
quiet affection, holding with arms wrapped around the skin that contains us,
the skin you spoke of last night, asking are you in this skin? Yes. I am.
The cool breath of last night slowly carried me to sleep with you
up the hill and around the corner. Are you in this skin? This poem?
Seeing others across borders can be trying. Watching rubble and fighting
on the TV, tiring. Yet, seeing the person sitting next to me? Infinitely more
difficult. My ex-wife and I saw what we imagined and imagined what we saw;
so it is with all my lovers. How can I see another person? By letting go of myself,
driving north toward the war out of Tzfat instead of south toward
Those pictures I took project some other images that I never saw nor will see.
Sun, smoke, a flying eagle that I did not know was in the viewfinder, tanks,
jeeps, shattered blacktop and glass that the camera did not capture out of respect
for a soldier’s No pictures. I have one photo of you that I really like, out of several.
Are you in that skin? Sit with me on the balcony, candles lit. Tonight you may
or may not meet with a friend, depending on the mood of the baby you helped birth.
Tantrums surround us, what’s another? I will study with companions from the north.
Tomorrow, you and I
will drive to the
We will return
Getting the love you want
From on high a voice is heard, a bitter, lowing call: the bull loves the matador.
—David Grossman, Cherries in the Icebox
To avoid the vagueness of the word “love,” I have elected to use three Greek words: “eros,” “agape,” and “philia.” These words have precise meanings and refer to various phases of one phenomenon. They also make possible a description of a developmental view of love as a possibility in marriage.
When does romantic love [eros] end and the power struggle begin? As in all attempts to map human behavior, it’s impossible to define precisely when these stages occur.
—Harville Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want
aleph. Eros (Ten)
To love this land, sandy and sun-burnt, embattled as long as history chronicles and longer,
with deep love of a grandfather in a sweater holding his grandchildren, or with soft love
of a new father holding the freshly born baby, or with wide love of a sea in the west—
to love this land that way takes their breath away. Hearts pounds faster. Blood rises
in sexual organs, nipples harden, lips demand a taste. So the three men at corners
of the small triangle kneel down to and kiss the ground at their feet. This is love, eros,
passion that keeps them alive each day, awake each night, gratifying every sense.
The scent of lavender and rosemary in the day, of jasmine at night, of dust and water
arouse and lead the men as the best perfume of the most beautiful lover each has known.
Yellow yucca on tall tree-height stems, blue cow’s tongue rising out of a dusty forest trail,
orange poppies, red pomegranates—the eyes search for small treasures of color
and large. Tall palms provide cool shade, carob trees, pines, vines, even rocks cool
skin that longs for touch. When the men listen carefully, they hear the hot dry wind
or the same sound from water falling high in a wadi. Waves tap on the western door
and on the southern backdoor. The sound cools their thoughts. They show their children,
their grand-children, their cousins and aunts and uncles. See, they say, their eyes shiny
they love the land. They want to possess her, to have her caresses to themselves, to kiss
her nippled hills and explore the moist secrets of her wadis. They want to take her,
by force if need be, from all other suitors, They want her for their own bride.
None can have her long, though, for she has her own soul, commands her own body.
bet. Power Struggle (Five)
It’s a night raid, provocatively through the tunnel slowly dug toward death,
a timeless dance. Men love tunnels like bodily openings and the birth canal,
un-recoverable. Take one. The director rejects the footage and the lion roars.
Take two, to the north. Violate the borders, crossing the lines another favorite
occupation of lovers. Poke the bull until it runs toward the matador’s red cape,
looking in the wind like swollen red lips of desire. Antagonize to ensure existence,
fight to reassure love. Violently take the desired Other, in revulsion and attraction.
It’s a love affair of missiles, rockets and bombs. Kung-Fu on the tv. A matador’s
dance of love and destruction, death and humiliation, taken at the risk of goring.
This cinema verité sex, you know? It’s anal, oral, vaginal and fucking every organ
and opening, pedophilic and necrophilic, horribly, sensually, pornographically violent—
CNN projects our voyeurism, the Fox-y lady displaying her striptease, our desire
dancing nakedly in and repulsed by lovely smoke and debris exploding into night skies.
Do you care that much if the bull loves the matador or the matador the bull?
But this is a lovely threesome, an orgy of unseen influences kicking
the doors open and firing bullets into the night. Anti-aircraft traces, rockets’
red glare, Patriot missile-ism impotent against the sly slip of the prick
into the waiting orifice at the peak of desire, lost, lost, lost to the rage
and violence, ever deepening relationship, addictively (dis)satisfying
the old men who get their rocks off on the television news, dreaming
of tunnels, trains, rockets, missiles and naked, glistening death.
gimmel. Agape (Six)
If they achieve a ceasefire, what then? The three men walk together on a ridge
overlooking valleys that cascade down to the Kinneret. Above them, the ruins
of a Crusader fort share the view. Below them, stacked rocks form roofs, walls,
a town. One holds his grandson’s hand, his sweater flopping loose and open.
Another peers over a cleric’s glasses at his wife and children, she watching them
play in the shade. The third one, shadowed and hard to see as a
smiles as his daughter and her husband carry their new baby. They stand a moment
in the cool evening breeze. Each wants green valleys, fresh water, fish, pastures for
succeeding generations—they dream of a future just out of their grasp. All three have
the thought that if the other two could only know the love that one feels now, then
the others would yield to the one with the thought the prize of the land’s body, out of agape.
The land has different thoughts. All she wants to do is to give to each of them, all of them—
taking charge of her own sacred and creative sexuality, of her skin, lips, breasts, vagina. She
would give to them, give without thought of return, give the love they seek without condition
so that they could complete themselves. She trusts that if she gives, they will learn to give
to her, to each other: to cherish, to trust, to feel safe within her arms. It is not the female who
loves better, but all lovers must learn to give to each other without wanting and to become a
safe haven. The power struggle of human social sexuality is not often love, but usually rape,
she thinks in her best imitation-academic voice. She means that the prickly pear holds sweet
fruit within its thorns, the succulent pomegranate provides nourishment, moisture, and
spreads its seeds, while grain and yeast dissolve into bread in the presence of water and heat.
dalet. Philia (half Ten)
They will need to work together to plant trees, these three men, if they want forests to grow
in the devastated battle fields. Philia. Floating under the stars in the
supported by hands of time, recalls comfort of the womb—warm, gently rocking, at peace.
Perhaps grandchildren will swim there together, or their children, meet, and marry despite
feuds of religion and state and language and culture and family traditions. Enough fucking
across borders, enough children of the enemy brought into each family… none of the three
dare thinks this. They might make jokes. There might be the stray thought, like a badly aimed
ketyusha. Botched intelligence might lead to an occasional love affair without crushing
civilians. The old men must learn to satisfy themselves with small delights; the young must
dance in waves of the sea with lovers they could not have imagined. Grandmothers,
mothers, sisters will quietly cry with sorrow and joy as one by one stars fall and wishes
come true. Jasmine will scent the night, lavender the day. Time will stand still, resting
its hands on our backs as a lover casually places a hand on a beloved, without thinking.
Stinging bees willingly provide their honey to any who ask. A cool shadow soothes skin.
It is on a seventh day when all machines do not start, all fires hibernate in charcoal,
most wars end in marriage. If only we could agree upon which is the seventh day, zayin,
part nothing, part anything. Barley will wait for the harvest, dates will fall directly into
mouths below, water will flow in every wadi. How any three men get there is an incomplete
map. We must not follow them. We must find our own path to redemption in the wilderness.
Forty minutes, forty days, forty years, the wandering remains the same. Without the death
of previous generations, the land will not deliver herself into the hands of her lovers.
while smoke rises north and south and movies reflect
our realities back to us. I'd like to stay out of this poem
but someone has to scribble the words on the front
of a film festival program while wondering who might
fall in the streets of the town where his apartment is
in the line of fire, if missiles turn back into shooting
stars. It’s all wishful thinking, dear reader, as you will
construct me here in
Cash sings right now, what war brought me here tonight.
The waitress bring a large plate of watermelon and
Bulgarian cheese. The fans turn pirouettes on the ceiling.
But what do I know? Maybe you don’t exist. The first
couple my friend married when he started as an assistant
We never met before; it was just casual conversation
about where we come from, who we know. Silver
shadows spread across the faces of the strangers
at the other tables. The ceiling fans’ flying skirts
cast them; just like helicopter blades they swirl
above while below a few soldiers extract a body
from a tank within range of enemy lines. The tank
sat in the desert for two days. How should I mirror
those details for a reader I’ve never met, letting you
fill in gaps between frames, making movies in the
reptilian brain for your new brain to watch. The
watermelon is sweet, the newspapers sour, the cheese
salty, my heart a mélange spiced with confusion and
ambiguity. The waitress flirts with her co-worker,
who imagines dying when they call up his reserves.
I long for you to read this and tell me what to do.
Actually, the waitress didn’t flirt. That’s a fig hanging
just beyond the door. I drink three liters of water.
Peace requires something…
… far more difficult than revenge or merely turning the other cheek; it requires empathizing with the fears and unmet needs that provide the impetus for people to attack each other.
—Marshall B. Rosenberg
The night swing takes you back and forth, laughing and talking
about friends, lunch, the joys of playgrounds in the evening
as we slide away from the war in the north and slip back again,
the metronome of your swing a faster tempo than our recurring
theme and variations. The news tonight reports ketyushas in
and bombing raids in
the promised ceasefire and we plan pasta and compare TV-news
scenes while dreading the call of the list of the dead, the dread
of the dead a laugh track cannot unfold as it presses and creases
against our naked longing for quiet, quiet, quite quiet nights.
On swings. Recalling. before. Recreating. after. Requesting.
our lives in a blender shake of lemon and mint and cool,
cold ice. Three weeks, now four, now six how? love has grown
with the days of war. how? we feel this deeply after only three,
four, now only six weeks of knowing each other? Nights without
sleep. When we are seventy let’s make love all night as though
we are young again and there is peace and people don’t die.
for words. for land. for names. for country. gods. but hold. on-
to. each. other. alone. together. emphasizing. fear. and desire.
Michael Dickel resided in
Jewish poet currently living in
Poetica, Blue Earth Review, Colere, and The Cape Rock. He would like to
with Israeli, Palestinian, and other artists there.