Nights in Jerusalem

Joel Hanisek

I remember that on one of them there was a moon above the city.
It was full and white,
and hung like a melon from a vine. Set
against the sky with such ripeness, I thought
a stem of stars might snap
and drop it to earth, crushing
the old walls into fine, fine dust.

The night before, I stood outside the gates,
looking at the massive yellow slabs of
support, the stones in the road shining
with holy lust and the smooth polish
of footsteps that had searched for a trace of belief
and left the way empty;
only the burning tires wandered down the street
circled, fell, flamed, and gave the deep satisfaction
of black smoke.
In one of my cities there had been hoses instead.
Hate has a way of taking the elements
and mixing them up.

There was bitterness in the air,
the sharp potential you sometimes taste
when you grind a seed between your teeth.
So I spat on the ground and prayed for peace
made a small, wet splotch in the dirt, and
down on one knee, marked my face
with mud.
Didn’t that work once?
Before the battle? During the miracle?
All I managed was to get sand in my eye,
such a small thing,
I tore at myself trying to find a single grain,
ripped and scratched the softness of sight
and couldn’t even blink until I made myself cry,
then went back to the hotel to sleep,
because I was just visiting,
just passing through after all.

How funny it was the next day though,
when I woke with a patch
and everyone else was crooked,
bent sideways, from looking up
and keeping watch.
The moon didn’t fall,
but disappeared as day came, gradually,
like always, dismissing the night that some had hoped would bring
the fury of apocalypse or the soft hand of a savior.
Instead there was breakfast. Yogurt, pita,
and sweet fruit taken with prayer and uncertainty.