Three Poems

Salat of the Sus, Carob Juice Hymn


I have been to Gaza, for a few hours
I wandered, taking in the sound of the bayya' sus,
samovar on his back, selling carob juice,
the sand creeping into the streets,
the salt air, unfinished buildings, expanding.
I have one card in a game
of memory tiles, I want to revisit
Gaza, scene of an accidental pilgrimage.
But the borders change. I cannot go back.

Is it the sea that calls to me, incantatory,
waves of madness? Or the salt air, the sands?
Oh siren, that city on the green Mediterranean,
water to the oil of the West Bank olive groves.
I went to Gaza once, memory is sand dunes
against the wind and the tides, waves
upon waves, refining like sand in the oyster
small stones retained in a sieve – I don't
remember. The face in the mirror
disappears as you turn away, and Gaza City
is a memory card that has no match,
a palimpsest rewritten in the grey language
of deja vu and the ocean's sober clairvoyance.
Along the shore, the sea at Tel Aviv
and Jaffa can travel
where I cannot.

The Gaza Strip, Razza as it rolls
off my tongue, stretches
its narrow length along the water, pride
of fishermen and seafood, flat sandy coast.
If grains of sand were magic dust, Gaza is
enchanted, unfinished buildings astound the eye,
a magic sandcastle illusion.

I am not allowed back by a trick
of history, an erasure. An arbitrary
line splits the sand, it bisects
Israel and Palestine, place and time,
the land of Canaan
and the Ottoman districts,
the line slices through me,
tattoos me, and denies me
the kiss of a fish that might
unbind my feet.

The Hebrew University
Mount Scopus


We are not in East Jerusalem

by virtue of a line on a map. I study in
a fortress, a technicolor maze
of geometric angles, eight blocs

of seminar rooms
and offices designed to confuse

cartographers. Eight a.m.
I look for my course
on Palestinian Jerusalem.

The room numbers print
in reverse on my class list,

rendering the code
of their order
unreadable. I look

for bloc zero, follow
neon pink fingers pointing
down grey stairs, leading

through concrete catacombs
to a bomb shelter, and up
the line of fluorescent lights

where a tower flight
dead-ends in
steel elevator doors.

Past the panorama spread
through one window, suddenly

revealing a vast glimpse
of the East city to
the Dome of the Rock and beyond

I am dizzy with
gold tiles, white
alleyways in sharp sun, then

I find my classmates and
an Israeli teacher who speaks
Palestinian Arabic, Jerusalem dialect.

East Jerusalem envelops us, we
translate to Hebrew.

The East

I am having
a lesbian affair
with Jerusalem.
You male poets
beware – did you
ever ask her
Which way is East
inside the city
that is the East?
I lose all direction
But in and in.

—Lynley Shimat Lys, Jerusalem ISRAEL/PALESTINE