Postmark Israel: To a Crypto-Jew

 —My sister writes from Jerusalem

The Ethiopians are here,

gawking at the strange white Jews,
voices like mockingbird
hearts wide-awake

I imagine we rowed to Palestine        gripping the oars
only children
winter coats tossed        to the wave
for the promise of first fruits        muti-seeded        cupped
in our hands

And they say more Russians are coming
with eyes as fierce as the eyes
of muzzled bears, tongues
half-frozen, just beginning
to speak

If I grew up        solid and tall
my losses cut loose             in a starling flock
over the wedding canopy            my lover's prayer shawl
held up by six rifles at mid-day
between the plow and the seed,
our sun-burned backs        carving roads for the generations
come back to this little wheel        this speck          of Asian

On Sunday, another
bronze balladeer
just hit dry land;
near the Wall he sang: 
We are branches from
the old tree,
from church and jungle
hideaways, now
are returned

If we learned anatomy in the orange grove
in the silence of Eingedi's gazelle
in the refrain of         unstoppable birth
in our daughters' becoming
until rifles couldn't give us
one last day     to build
or one more breath

Give us a land
where sleep is a spring in the desert,
where obsessions rise from one's throat,
word upon flat, upon sharp,
where utterance rings daily
in a more acute ear
and the trumpet of the pole star
tugs castaways

Originally published in Kaddish for Columbus, by Finishing Line Press