Friday, November 15, 2013

John’s Mystery Train

John’s Mystery Train, I write in my journal.  (I could see his name displayed on the clipboard in his lap.)  I sit quietly in the corner of the roofless safari-vehicle, the open landscape stretching to the horizon (mostly sand dunes, the smell of the sea but a hint of salt in the air), writing in my journal (a simple school notebook).  Finally the vehicle empties of others.  He notices me.

John’s Mystery Train,
I scribble again in my journal, using my secret language.  He glances over my shoulder, puzzled.
Is this Hebrew? he asks.
I raise my notebook to him.  Have you ever seen it before? I say.
He stares at my doodles.

I know John plays the guitar,
His shoulder-length hair is ink dark, and he closely resembles a singer whose voice I find alluringly seductive. (I was having difficulty talking to John; he was tongue-numbing handsome.)

As the landscape dissolves, I wrack my brain for a good ending to this tale.  Alas, none is found in the chambers of my mind.
Another misty day, I think as I crack open my eyes.
8AM, announce the digits on the clock’s face.

Friday, October 25, 2013

My Side of Things

It seems so long ago that we were together.
It feels almost unreal.
Yet sometimes it feels very real. 
Curious how perspective changes time and space.

It took a while for the anger inside me to burst forth.

No, I wasn’t angry about the breakup;
it wasn’t the most graceful of breakups
(you avoiding me, us breaking up on the phone),
but you wanted out, and that isn't something I can hold against you. 

Yes, I was in great pain,
but that was my choice.

My anger came from a different place:
remembering how you treated me while we were together,
how your initial intense interest
turned into a confusing mixture of affection and distance,
which gradually formed into

I felt more like a witness than a participant
with you.
Mostly listening,
less and less being listened to.
I slowly disappeared though I was physically there.

And when it finally burst forth, my anger
was venomous. I was consumed for days.
Until I understood:
it was mainly myself I was mad at;
it was me who failed to protect herself,
me who I needed to forgive.

Because I knew;
I knew from the start
all that I knew at the end.
But I chose:

And this is my side of things:
long before we met, and for quite a while,
I was hiding in the safety of illusion.
I told myself I was
fulfilling my dreams, though I did nothing for them,
and I knew I was doing
yet I chose

And then you came along,
to provide relief from self-dislike, to offer
a much-needed distraction
that made my illusion manageable.

Only it was a bubble destined to burst from the moment of its inception.

And sooner or later I had to face my
And embrace my

And so I did.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Some collect stamps; others gather souvenirs from around the world.  Numerous dusty shelves are crammed with treasured items. 

Someone strolls in an exotic market, in a foreign land, his hand reaches for a beautiful thing while his other hand hurries to grab the wallet; I must have this!  The stall owner wraps the purchase with extra care.  He wants to reassure the buyer it is indeed worth the hefty sum.

Old, new, borrowed,
Bought, inherited, or found.

All these precious things!

I leave all beautiful things behind, and save their impressions alone.
Ha, you might say, but these will die with you. 
I reply: By telling you about all the beautiful things I ever saw, my recollections live on, for they too hold beauty.  Though time might alter them, they would not shudder like crystal glass, grow mold, or burn in a fire. 

And if forgotten, then so be it. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Darkness gradually conquers the landscape outside.  Soon, nearby details are barely discernible, sinking into an ocean of ink.  From time to time the lights of a passing village blink in the distance.

The low hum of the metal leviathan, within its dim cavity we are carried, nearly lulls me to sleep.  The lit dashboard at the front offers some reassurance. 

Across the narrow isle, a heavyset man beside a middle-aged woman.  White strands weave through her auburn hair.  Seated by the window, her face is turned toward him.  Eyes open wide.  Pale lips.  Her voice is low and slightly hoarse, and her speech is slow.  The words nearly get entangled in one another.  She weighs each one carefully as if not to trip. 

About her father she is talking.  In a village on the northern planes, where the land is vast and the intervening houses are few, he lives alone in an old house atop a hill.  During the long winters a thick layer of ice covers the ground, and smoke eddies out of his chimney into the grey skies.  

“He had built the house himself some fifty years back,” she carries on, the words now ease out of her mouth in a smoother flow. “And he says he shall remain there, come what may.”

From the corner of my eye I see her companion nodding.  The conversation lowers to a whisper, and I turn to look outside again.  Save for our dashboard and headlights, we are as if floating in an empty space made of solid blackness. 

Shouldn’t have we crossed through the big city by now?  Was our destination altered?  I haven’t seen any side-road signs in a while.  My eyes slowly shut by themselves, I doze off, and when I open them again, we are still immersed in darkness.   

Or is it the white of the icy northern-land that I see far on the horizon?

Friday, August 30, 2013

A memory

I have a single memory from my grandparents’ previous house.  An afternoon siesta.  My parents are napping, and I, sandwiched between them, listening to the quiet coming from within and without the house.  My parents’ breaths, the glide of the few cars in the street below. 
The sounds that come from outside the house sound different according to the season; thick and echoing in the summer, and somewhat sharper at wintertime.  This early memory is seasonless.  Perhaps back then everything was bright and light, like a good feeling at springtime.  At the spring of my life then, I was lying on my back, gazing at the heavy upright shutter-panels of my grandparents’ porch.  Stripes of blue sky peeked between the panels; splashes of clouds whitened the blue here and there.  And the safely of that calmness; safety that came from everything and everyone around me.  

Friday, August 16, 2013


Sitting in the dark, contemplating my next move,
Looking back to the past,
Quickly glancing at the future,
Where am I standing now, right this minute, what did I want to be when
I was a girl, what will you be when you grow up, oh the world is
Your oyster back then, mummy and daddy are just grand
Back then
No doubts, no fears, dream on, what will you be when you grow up
The years, the years stream onward, a mighty unstoppable river
But of course I still have a future ahead of me
I can make it all happen, I will, yes I will, and the years
Move forward always forward and
The 80s long gone, and what happened to the 90s, where have the 90s
Turning the page on the century that born me
The years
What will you be when you grow up
The world is your oyster
Time never stops
Seconds, minutes, hours, days—gushing
The years

In the dark I can see better; my face disguised, the truth,
The doubts, the fears stare me in the eye. 
I have nowhere to hide, nothing to hide for, nobody to hide with. 
The blessed darkness, the moonless night.
And I ask, I have to ask,
Just this once,
What if I am a failure?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Why I write

Since childhood, writing has been one of my main channels of expression.  Creating my own kingdoms, and populating them with characters of my choice fills me with immense joy and satisfaction.  Moreover, writing is my anchor.  Putting reflections into words is vital to my thought process; it gives form and weight to abstract notions, and helps me gain a better understanding of myself and the world at large.
       Before I began writing, I was an avid reader, which I doubtless owe to my mother.  When I was young, she would cross town twice weekly, in any weather, to borrow books at the pubic library for my sister and me.  Back then my parents had little money to spend on such luxuries, and my mother’s dedication has enriched my world far beyond where my imagination, or life in the insipid suburb of Tel Aviv where we lived, could have carried me.  Thus I became a bookworm.  By the time I was a teenager, I had already consumed the library’s children and young adult books, and began devouring adult titles.  Many of them, like Gone with the Wind, took me years to fully digest, as I lacked context and the appropriate maturity to comprehend the narrative’s implications.  In high school I treasured the summer vacation recommendation-list, from which we were asked to choose one or two books.  By the end of the summer, I had read all the books I could find in the library, covering between ten and fifteen volumes. 
       Though as a child it was clear to me that I would become a writer when I grow up, it took me half my life to fully realize this vision.  The reasons for this might be many, but one of them, no doubt, is the language itself.  My knowledge of the English language has been reasonably proficient from an early age, yet it took many years to gain the confidence and skill to be able to write with fluency.
       Born and raised in Israel, Hebrew is my native language.  As an obsessive reader, I had mastered the Hebrew language.  And just as childhood experiences leave deep impressions in us, Hebrew had resonated in me with layers of meanings.  Certain words, or a combination of them, would conjure up visceral feelings, such as longing and loneliness that were associated with the ambience typical of Jerusalem’s quiet streets on the Sabbath.
       After immigrating to the U.S. in 1991, when I was in my mid 20s, I continued using Hebrew in my creative writing.  I was working on a short story collection when a friend asked me which language I was using.  Hebrew of course, I replied.  With my friend’s question hovering in my mind, I could not resist the urge to try and compose in English.  And so I decided to throw away the crutches and experience English from within.  It was a struggle.  Like other immigrants, I too often translated from English into my native language to fully comprehend what I heard or read.   Moreover, the English vocabulary is much larger than the Hebrew one, and its grammar and spelling are more complex.  I have leapt from a lake into a vast ocean. 
       As a child, I looked forward to my grandmother’s visits from London.  I loved her suitcase that held a delicate bouquet of perfume, and promises of gifts and sweets we did not have in Israel back then.  With her German-accented English Granny made me admire the language.  It, as she, represented worldliness, opportunities, and a vague sense of freedom. 
      Growing up in Israel, I never quite felt I belonged there.  I imagined a place where people are unstressed and kind to one another, and the landscape is green and lush.  As a preteen, my bedroom wall was covered with picturesque photographs, cut out from a Scottish calendar.  Gazing at the open pastures, many hours were spent daydreaming about these landscapes.  Beyond the obvious attraction for someone who grew up in an arid country, these images represented a different reality: Peaceful, harmonious, and generous.  Though I never traveled outside its borders before I emigrated from Israel, I somehow knew I belonged elsewhere. 
      This sense of unease was amplified when I turned into a young adult.  It was doubtless the result of growing up in a war zone.  In particular the four years of living in violence-ridden Jerusalem, prior to arriving in Boston.  The first Intifada (the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation) plagued the entire country, and it hit the Israeli capital the hardest.  In 1987, a year after I moved to Jerusalem to attend college, the city’s sleepy streets were radically transformed.  People were knifed in public spaces almost daily.  The bus I took to school, crossing Arab neighborhoods on the east side of town, was often stoned.  Once, a rock hit the window right beside me.  I was deeply thankful that I had been too lazy to open it earlier, as I usually did.  Through my years in Jerusalem I have developed a habit of looking over my shoulder whenever walking in the street; a nervous tendency I have never been able to overcome, even though I had left my homeland more than twenty years back.
       My grandmother’s visits were my most direct connection with the kingdom of “abroad” I had been cultivating in my fantasies.  It took effort and time, but this vision has since become my reality.  And it doesn’t fall short from my childhood imaginations.  Brought to the Boston area by serendipity, I soon felt quite comfortable here.  Of course, no place is trouble free, yet I find life here to be much more manageable.  Unaffected by traumatic wars, nor burdened by the weighty past of the Holocaust, New Englanders seem to be relatively calm, kind, and most important, tolerant of the “other.”  Inspired by the liberal spirit—and the diversity of its international and multicultural populace—my new locale feels like home. 
       Though my work often draws on my Jewish-Israeli background, I find it easier to write in the U.S., as I wrote in my piece, Air:  “[here] my wings gained strength, by and by, until they grew large enough to break the bars.  And I tiptoed into new air.  Crisp air.  Open air.  I began breathing; small swigs at first, deeper gulps at last.  In this new land.  In this new air.”
       Over the years, being immersed in English, my relationship with Hebrew has transformed.  In fact, a few years back I read some poems I wrote when I was sixteen, which left me impressed by the high quality of the writing.  I even needed to translate a few words into English.  The resonance I so enjoyed in the past slowly faded; nowadays, when I read Hebrew, my emotions are rarely stirred by the words.  At some point I realized that, though I am no longer intimate with Hebrew, I might never acquire a similar relationship with English.  In a recent poem I wrote: 

                       I love to write.
                       I am a writer.
                       I am a writer without a language.

       It was working on my first novel, From the Desert, that enabled me to complete the immigration route into my new lingual homeland.  Weaving the story for more than three years, thread by thread, has granted me a sense of ownership over the English language.  I might never be able to emulate the relationship I once had with Hebrew, yet English and I are certainly growing closer.  With this, my work and focus have gained impetus, and my mind is inundated with ideas.
       I often work simultaneity on a few pieces; flash fiction, poems, short stories, and a novella that is slowly brewing.  While much of the themes center on new ideas, some of my work relates to past experiences, such as my service in the Israeli Air Force.  
       With the distance from my native country, and using a second language, I am now better able to exorcise my devils and examine that which keeps gnawing at me.  When put in words, war and violence seem less traumatic, and help me better appreciate my homeland and my upbringing, and all the raw feelings and throbbing memories that come with it.  I find that writing liberates apparitions and enhances the act of living.
      One can never know what the paths untaken might have offered, but I am quite certain that had I remained living in Israel and writing in Hebrew, my work would have taken a very different shape.  And I love the wide horizons my immigration of both home and language made possible!

Friday, July 19, 2013


I walk into the street armed with words I wrote last night.

They are my bronze armor when dark befalls on frigid winter days.
When thoughts of an unredeemable past resurface,
Their company disarms anger, soothes the hurt,
Laces details into the larger tapestry.  

Alas, they
Often rebel.
Solemnly refuse to
Offer any consolation,
They                        just                     sit there                            and sit
Their commanding presence nearly a declaration of war
Each letter              s                t               a               r                e                 s
At me insubordinately,
Void of resonance,
Indifferent to my pleas.

Unburden me!  I demand.  Set me free!
Absolve my faults,                                       
Redeem it all!

Silence in response.
Letters curve in                  
Meaningless twirls;
The magic wand devoid of magic.

Shieldless, I cower at my doorsteps like a swordless worrier.
Met by shrewd winds, and
Strangers milling in the streets in the millions.
I turn to flee.  Back indoors! feet are commanded.
Wait, a thin voice arises from the lamppost a step away. 
I near it; the black metal is cold to the touch, quiet to the ear.
Yet I wait. 

The sun moves away; shortly, dark will fall.  I tighten my woolly hat.
And wait.  Incapacitated.  Night takes over. 
All alone in a bitter streetcorner. 

Then some slight movement underfoot.
Or am I imagining?

Slowly they start rising from the pavement,
Dropping from the awnings,
Leaping out of my coat sleeves.
Forming into
Coil and whirl; my eyes twitch, birthing more letters,
Flowing down my cheeks.  My neck, wet with words.
I bleed, I vomit; sentences stream out in
Spasms of sweat, my head implodes
With tidal surges.
The street is inundated
With waves of tales.

Pedestrians flee, cars loudly screech, the ground shakes,
A roof nearby caves in, rats run out of their burrows.

Sufficed, I shake my stiff limbs and saunter down the street
With poise.

Armor at hand.

Friday, June 21, 2013


My body is the extension of my thoughts,
My roots are planted
The freedom of unbelonging is my luggage.

I move against the stream of time, push against the flow of crowds 
In public spaces,
Heaving uphill while being pulled 
The fire is leaping in the fireplace; glasses are refilled with
Mulled wine,
Everyone in the room is red-cheeked, words fly in the air from
Mouths to ears.
The children on the floor
Play as all children do.
Today I am here, tomorrow I am gone;
Planes, buses, trains, cabs—vehicling me with efficiency of some degree or another.
Today I am here, yet my mind is already transported
I want to stay here, I want with all my might; it
Is the damn legs that won’t cease pacing, the cities
That keep changing.

The luggage of unbelonging is my freedom

Friday, June 14, 2013


Fleeting moments,
Fluttering wings,
Rays of light resting at the edge.

I touch.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Oh, sister

Your absence has been gaping a hole in me
For some time now,
And the ocean that separates us is not the reason for the abyss
Between us.
Oh, my green-eyed sister,
Deep shadows streak your pallid face.
Withdrawn, you curl up in one corner, never look
Beyond the wall of silence.
My fingers stretch out,
Yet you are not there.  You are not there.

Oh brother,
When we are old.  Very old.  Will you know me?
Shall we stroll the hills of Jerusalem together, step within the walls,
Enter the narrow alleys,
Scrumptious humus dripping from pita hunks
At Abu Shukri’s on Al Wad Road?
Our sentences get entangled, so eager we are to speak and listen all at once.
Our laughs still resonate in me.

You have grown so, you have grown so.
Oh brother,
Will I know you when I am old?

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Ocean

Though I cannot see it through the dark, I can hear the ocean from here; the surf crashing against the rocks, the current sweeping the water back and forth: 
Swoosh Swish Swash
Breakers throwing themselves onto boulders, pushing into crevices:
Plop—Plip—Polyp Plup—Ploop—Polyp Polyp—Plop—Plop
No two waves sound alike.

The guest bedroom is overlooking the bay from the villa’s second floor.

The rich are not happier, I can tell you that.  They simply conduct their feuds and brood over their problems in specious, tastefully furnished houses.  Fine wine stacked in the racks.  Porches hover over the ocean.  Expensive cars in the driveways. 

Blue blooded New Englanders.  Well educated.  Well traveled.  Well manners.  (Their vacation homes were bought while my grandparents escaped flaming Europe.)  I cleverly interject a comment into their conversation here and there.  To get their polite attention for one, perhaps two minutes.  Unfamiliar with their terminology, following the chat around the dinner table feels like cracking open a beer bottle with my teeth.

I do not ski
I am not well connected
I am not even from here

In the morning I will wake to the summery sun pouring through the windows, and step downstairs to the morning room for some coffee.  But tonight I shall lounge on the wide guest bed with my laptop for company and listen to the ocean, as the surf crashes against the rocks: 
Plep—Plop—Polyp  Ploop—Plip—Plup Plop—Plip—Ploop

I peer into the inky night, and the ceaseless waves wash away my worries.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Road

Nice car.
I like that light blue.

Who’s driving it?
Long dark hair … She looks somewhat familiar.
Do I know her?

Gee, she’s going fast,
Zipping through the streets with
Open windows.
Pursed lips.
Eyes squinted.
Brow frowned. 

I wonder where she’s headed.
Meeting someone?
Do I know him?

The landscape is opening up with each mile.
Trees canopying above,
Sunrays filter through the
Tender springtime leaves. 
Soon the road will cross a covered bridge.
Underneath, the tranquil flow of water would
Murmur its melodies. 
The driver's hair billows in the light breeze.
Is a smile forming on her lips?

I like driving in the countryside
Where I can finally
                                    b r e a t h e

Friday, April 26, 2013


Where the hills meet the water in the distance
it's getting dark now and I can see the leaves are changing color from
Green to deep blue
Your hair seems lighter in the cooling air
Your lips are mellow
Your hands reach forward

To grasp the colors
Before the close of day

Friday, April 5, 2013

A certain something

I move away from you, I look away from you
My eyes averted, my attention elsewhere; anywhere but you
My voice is stable, my motions well controlled.  One
Would never know.  One could never tell
One might even guess the opposite
Not a trace of betrayal in my gestures.  As if nothing at all 
Nothing at all

And all this time
The warmth of your painfully-alluring chest is calling me
To sit in your lap, to have your arms round me, my head under your chin
The smell of you penetrate me

Was that the scent in my dream, when 
Your torso leaned back
Your sweaty skin against my breasts, glistening as if you just emerged from water

I say naught.  I do naught.  I say and do naught
In the face of this certain something
A skip.  A thump.  A skip, a thump, and a gasp—all at once
Even when our fingers slightly touched in an ordinary act of object changing hands; less then an inch, a few millimeters of skin against skin
Nothing much, really.  But

I quickly step away and walk into the crisp autumn air
To type these words
From the safety of my keyboard

Aching for more

Friday, March 29, 2013


Where have the years gone?
My yesterdays are strung together like a bundle of supermarket ads.

This unstoppable time
torments me.

Where have my years gone;
I see them in the wrinkles the mirror throws
back at me.
In the lusterless hair strands
The loose skin.

Is that all, I wonder.
What else, rustles the wind,
what else

Saturday, March 23, 2013


      “What, no husband?” they would have asked her back home.  “No children?” they would have shaken their heads in reproach, adding, “And who will take care of you when you’re old?”
       “Well, I’ll just never grow old then,” her smiling reply would have met their scolding looks; as adults do at a child’s idiocy.
       And when the high holidays would come around, she’d be the spare wheel, the address for the sorrow of others.  “And no,” they would have firmly clarified, “we will simply not allow it; no one should sit at home all alone on Rosh Hashanah!”  The mere thought would have been equal to blasphemy, she would have known and kept her lips sealed, sat quietly at the table, and wished herself out of there and as far away as possible.  Over the mountains, beyond the seas, filling the air with her hurry.  Away, away, she would have urged her wings to stir harder. 
       She reminds myself:  She had left long ago. Back home is far aback now. 

Holidays spent in the freedom of aloneness, she longs to sit among them all; listening to random fragments of small talk, admiring the traditional delicacies, tipsy on table wine.  Spare wheel and all.

Friday, March 15, 2013


And you are nearly
I have been dreaming you
For many months (I almost stop believing)
Your forty-two letters are breathing in my drawer
I remember you as
Many threads of light
A child in a red dress
White ribbons

You are nearly here
And perhaps never quite
Slipping away, not a word uttered
You shall always remain the one surrounded
By light

For three decade now

                                                         Image: Micky Brada

Friday, March 8, 2013


[A segment from my novel, “From the Desert"]


                                    Abhorrent!”                                    “Good heavens”                       
                                                 “Why on earth—?” 
                        “Keep your voices down, else the children …”
                                                             “Oh my, and a fifteen year-old!”
                   “Alas, the sadness of it”
                              “This is by no means an appropriate subject for—“
                                                                                      “How awful!”
                                           “Upon my word, I have never heard of a …”
        “You should most certainly not take part in the scheme”
                      It is best to accept that these matters are part and parcel of life”
                                            “Just think of the precious little—“

The root of this matter is rather simple,” the rosy-cheeks woman’s voice rose above the others; “as it is, women have been struggling to gain freedom and equality since time without beginning.  When with child, this struggle intensifies tenfold, as we are then viewed as a vessel for another life.”
          “An expecting woman inevitably turns into two individuals,” said the blue-eyed woman, “her former self, and this fresh one, which naturally renders her new responsibilities.  The problem arises when a schism forms between these two identities.“
           “My wife was carrying our child when she perished,” said the rosy-cheeks woman’s older brother with tenacity, looking at the woman, “and you are considering such an abominable act? As a woman of medicine, you are obligated to save lives!”
“It is also my responsibility to protect the life of a young women, a child herself, who sought my help,” replied the woman undeterred.  “If I turn her away she will in all likelihood end up hurting herself.”
“It is well known that while the rich hire licensed physicians to perform the procedure in secret, the poor put their lives in the hands of unskilled practitioners of folk medicine; or worse, use methods of non-surgical implements, too often with fatal results,” added the blue-eyed woman.  “We should face the reality around us, and not stand by our ideals alone.”
“In fact,” said her husband, “a friend of mine lost his sister to a procedure of that kind.”
“Nonetheless, it is outright hideous to be involved in such a matter,” insisted the older brother.  “The sanctity of life stands above all!”
“Pray, pay no attention to him,” said the rosy-cheeks woman, turning to the woman as well; “he takes after our father, who, though a benevolent man all his life, held strict opinions of women.”
“He treated our mother with the utmost respect,” admonished the brother, “and adored you from the moment you were born!”
“That is true,” agreed the rosy-cheeks woman, “yet when it came to matters of the fair sex, our dear father was by no means a person of liberal views.”
“An orderly society holds well-defined roles for its citizens,” retorted the brother, his face reddened.
“Times are changing, bro,” said his younger brother.  “Gone are the days when downtrodden folks accepted their fate in obedience.”
            The woman looked at the older brother.  “I do appreciate you remaining constant to the memory of your dear wife and your unborn child,” she said with feeling.  Mumbles of consent resounded around the table.  “And I empathize with your sentiments on this matter,” she added, “yet the problem is this:  By solving one dilemma, we are faced with a host of other quandaries.”  She let out a sigh.  I fear there are no good resolutions to this somber circumstance.”
          She walked home with a heavy heart; this was her first encounter with an impasse of this delicate nature.  Though the conversation stirred a heated argument—and her indecision remained intact—she was relived to have shared her qualms with the others.  And she was glad the man had not joined her that afternoon; else, she would have said nothing, knowing the subject would have upset him.  Though he never spoke of their loss.