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    Two poems by Helen Bar-Lev

    Helen Bar-Lev is a poet and artist and one of the editors of Cyclamens and Swords, an online poetry, prose and art magazine. She lives in Israel.


    The muezzin’s voice echoes
    across the border, friendless,
    calling his compatriots to prayer,
    to holiness and to obliterate us
    frightening me, the enemy,
    a dot in his spectacles,
    a two minute’s drive in his vehicle
    to my home

    He does not know,
    the muezzin, who is mostly a recording,
    who amasses missiles in hospitals,
    that I am happy for him to awaken me
    at four each morning,
    because I find his chanting oddly comforting,
    like the peal of church bells,
    the security of ritual

    He does not know,
    the muezzin,
    who despises the existence of my village,
    and demands my demise,
    that I, the enemy, am so enchanted by his,
    that I am sketching it from various angles,
    detailing the different windows,
    the mosque from whence his voice goes forth,
    the incongruous high-rise with its terraces,
    the flat roofs, some structures ochre, some white,
    and the one building painted an audacious orange,
    perhaps by an artist like me?

    I do not know, cannot throw my questions
    over the border fence like packets of opium
    on a moonless night

    But I, the optimist,
    continue to visualize, try to manifest,
    that I and the artist in the orange house
    will exhibit our paintings
    of each other’s village
    in each other’s village
    when at last
    there will be
    no more enemies

    © 10.2009 Helen Bar-Lev


    For James Deahl

    Lord of peace
    And Lord of all wars
    I, simple artist
    Born with no concept
    Of politics,
    No heart for these horrors,
    Bow humble before you

    Are you aware
    That my daughter,
    Normally fearless
    But a pacifist since the womb,
    Leftist to the core,
    Wanders homeless from the bombs
    Demolishing her town
    Even this moment
    As I attempt
    To distract your attention
    From the news on the television

    Lord of war
    And Lord of peace
    just a suggestion to you
    In your warless heaven,
    Perhaps the time is auspicious
    To copy the chromosomes
    Of those of us humans
    Opposed to violence,
    To impose a holy law
    Which would eliminate
    The war chromosome
    From all babies born
    From now on

    A daring experiment
    An innovative concept
    Perhaps a solution
    To a continuous war
    That has lasted
    Since Adam
    And refuses to finish

    Anything really, Lord,
    That would cause war to cease,
    Permanently and forever
    We’d be so appreciative
    My daughter could return home
    Blood rivers would stop their flow
    Forests would grow from war-ashes
    And we could all sleep again

    © 8.2006 Helen Bar-Lev



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