Holding – Tikva Hecht

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They leave their cigarette ends
in the worn down spaces between bricks
as if all they want is held there
written in tiny script
deep inside those butts
for God to uncurl and read.

I see it this way because of the Western Wall
where the mortar is amended by folded notes of prayers,
as if the stones can hold their posture for so long
only because the words know where the stone trembles,
and balance there, slight as children, holding steady the weight,
acting as the sages thought to make their words do,
hoping to hold the space of the temple after its destruction
with study and prayer.

You say you will take me to this country
the one with this old wall, groped between caresses
by the faithful and the traditional and the doubting
as if to touch it right would release a tangible euphoria
from the next world into this,

this country where the wilted ground in the dry breeze
is unusually beautiful in its barrenness the way death prays for life
until it is remembered,

where in the streets you see over shoulders,
guns as large as the ones I used
to water my brothers and our friends,
friends who went to this country
high and without finishing high school,
to come back decent, wearing black suits and black hats,
to marry young, have babies, talk about going back.
The ones who, my mother says when she sees them,
still have good smiles, but in their eyes look overwhelmed.

Fine, take me to this country, show it to me
the way it is for you, a place that is yours
a place, I imagine, you inhabit roughly,
but earnestly, fitting your desire and its expression
where the build-up of history should make space obsolete
if not for the way history decays too
into sentiment, so you are sure you will fit
or it will fall without you,

where if you took me
we would leave our cigarette ends
resting on the sand lining Tel Aviv
or in the cracks of that dry breeze
so they touch nothing of the land,
look nothing like the waiting prayers
they may be.

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