Yet Another War

Tel Aviv, by Ezra Gut, October 2023

Ezra Gut

Tel Aviv, by Ezra Gut, October 2023

Under Tel Aviv Skies

A sudden siren.
I run, shelter
in a stranger’s hallway

and immediately
we are comrades
without arms
nothing in common
but the shared thumping 
of our hearts

Somewhere in Gaza       

Somewhere in Gaza
there is a woman
who looks just like me
and has raised her son
to believe in his country.

What if she is the one
who read a poem 
about that son 
at a festival up north – 
and smiled at me?

What if she is the one
her son just called
on his victim’s phone
to rejoice in his kill
of ten enemies?

Day 20   

We empty our cupboards for the soldiers called up.
Today we brought a kettle, shampoo, soaps, underwear,
coffee, and some other gear a whatsapp note says they need.
I kissed each item and asked it to bring comfort,
to ease the terrifying job they will have to perform, 
before we packed all of it into a blue Ikea bag, 

But I couldn’t stop thinking of people on the other side,
of what they must need and what I’d be happy to give.
“Remember,” Maya calls to ask, “that library we helped build
in Gaza five years ago?  It must be cinders now.” 
I’ve been winnowing books for weeks, throwing them all
Into a blue Ikea bag to bring to the students nearby.

Books! As if anyone can think of reading now – babies
here, there, sliced in pieces, bleeding, burnt alive. 
Much of their remains could fit into an Ikea bag now
like the one we’re carrying to the high school auditorium
the school that is closed now, but I hope will soon begin 
to study war no more.  I picture the children

the soldiers shooting them to prevent their leaving,
sending them into harm’s way to protect the ‘militants’.
Just now I heard a terrified man interviewed in Arabic, telling
what he sees.  “Are they shooting at you as well?”
“Aywa! Yes! Yes!” Silence. Is he safe?

Each verse of my poem is divided by rockets, shrill alarms
that rise and fall, giving us just enough time to stumble
down the two flights of stairs to take cover.  I throw down
the book I can’t concentrate on anyway and run, taking 
nothing except my love, my life.  Who knows what 
we will need when this is over, what we should have brought…

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Alkalay-Gut, at entrance to shelter

Karen Alkalay-Gut was born in London to refugee parents during the bombing, and moved from Rochester, New York to Israel the year before the Yom Kippur War.  While teaching English poetry at Tel Aviv University, she published numerous books – in English, Hebrew and Yiddish – as well as dual language books in Italian, French and Danish.

Alkalay-Gut, at entrance to shelter
Photo credit: Ezra Gut


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