Kotel + Desert Folk – Jamie Wendt

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Kotel

The women sang their hymns
into the wall. They left
torn prayer books underlined
and dog-eared on plastic tables
for girls or mothers or myself
who arrive without the right words.
They left scratches in the stone,
their nails still heard, if you close your eyes-
to the sway of skirts. Women who traveled
so far they lost count of the miles
of history rolling across the wall,
their Hebrew prayers danced
around the courtyard with children.

My hand against the warm stone,
I touch the dead.
My fingers curl into the holy cracks.
Women of the past whisper
through the voices of women here now
and I refuse to listen: barrenness
sticks like a barrier to pride,
the ordering of their lives they left to God.
Crying into the stone, their tears
chip away time, hoping for another
Sabbath, a lasting love.
I stare at my wedding ring
pressed next to folded messages
in every language
with every problem, even my own,
stuffed and waiting for an answer
or to fall in the next storm,
each blessing holding its breath–

Desert Folk

From under an embroidered hostel blanket
on the backpackers’ section of the Kibbutz,
I watch S’de Boker’s morning clouds

of sand brush through women’s showered hair,
earth coloring their pruned flesh.
They look out at mountains and valleys

from the porch of their family’s General Store
like their ancestors upon glimpsing a land
all theirs filled with sweetness, sand.

These expecting mothers, hands on hips,
identical leopard print slippers, hum in Yiddish,
tunes that lift the floppy ears of nearby lazy dogs.

The women’s tattered hands affix wind chimes
and mini patterned flags in shades of daylight
to the columns supporting a blue awning,

decorations that some children made at school.
A frisbee surfs through floating dust between the hands
of five boys wobbling atop wooden benches

as if they were kings. Their wads of spit land
on desert lizards. They laugh at the failure of camouflage.
The women’s buzzing tongues, the flip of the open sign

flapping against clean windows, slap of the plastic disc
between two rough palms, scratch of my pencil,
the quiet sounds where silence is welcome.

 

Jamie Wendt is currently a student at the University of Nebraska Omaha low-residency MFA program. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Drake University. Her poetry has been published in “Theodate magazine” and is forthcoming in “Open To Interpretation.” Her essay, “American Jewish Women Poets,” was published in “Green Mountains Review” online. She lives in Chicago with her husband and teaches Middle School Language Arts. 

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