Three Poems

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by Steven Sher (November 2019)


Manos de Protesta, Oswaldo Guayasamin, 1968

The Palestinian 

an American college campus, circa 1980

 

New to town, he stood each day out in the quad

recruiting students with grand gestures and with charm,

engaging faculty who soon embraced him,

invited him into their classrooms, churches, homes

to plant the seeds of solidarity.

In the coffeehouse at night, he filled their heads

with horrors done to those he loved.

When he saw me, we would nod but never stop

to talk because he knew I was a Jew.

Soon the blame-filled articles began appearing

in the student paper, the lies about Jews

circulating on lampposts and in stairwells,

behind glass notice boards beside official

bulletins: stereotypic cartoons, blood libels.

When speakers came to campus,

they were shouted down, escorted out

as the crowd became belligerent

while he just sat with folded arms among the students

in the back, nodding as the chants grew bolder,

grinning as the fists thrust higher in the air.

 

 

El Grito, Oswaldo Guayasamin, 1976

The Massacre at Har Nof 

November 18, 2014

 

One of the terrorists worked next door

in a grocery store where he observed

the movements of the Jews:

 

knew the moment they stood most exposed,

prayer shawls over their bowed heads,

trembling and beseeching G-d.

 

That morning they strode in with guns,

a meat cleaver and axe; set upon

the unsuspecting, shooting and hacking

 

their way through the room, butchering four

and injuring more: two heads

and arms cut off, eyes gouged out.

 

Bodies wrapped in prayer shawls

and tefillin sprawled along the floor

amid the pools of blood.

 

Blood hardening in horror.

El Rostro, Oswaldo Guayasamin, 1969

The Thief

Nachlaot, Shabbat, 3 a.m.

 

Shouts and running through

the winding alleys shatter sleep.

On the open deck of the empty flat

across the way, someone ducks in shadow

as pursuers close from several roofs,

triangulate with flashlights and converge.

Objects crash and loud rough voices

rouse the night. Slammed to the deck,

three cops on top, he screams “Enough.”

In cuffs the thief is led downstairs,

people watching from their terraces

and windows. He wears a hood

though it’s a warm summer night.

The cops are joking now. One or two

remain behind to sweep the grounds,

their flashlights finding our faces

in the dark. We listen for returning

silence to restore the stolen calm.

 

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Brooklyn-born Steven Sher has lived in Jerusalem since 2012. His latest (16th) book is Contestable Truths, Incontestable Lies (Dos Madres Press, 2019). His work has appeared widely since the 1970s. Recent appearances range from Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women to Mizmor Anthology to the forthcoming New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting The Holocaust. Last year he received the Glenna Luschei Distinguished Poet Award, headlining the 35th annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival. Visit him on his website.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast

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