At the Border

AT THE BORDER

For Carolyn Solomon

Border, we say, and the word begins to boil, red hot now,

flaming like the hair of our president.  We can’t say it

with a smile.  It doesn’t mean peace.  It screams clash

of beliefs, blame, as we argue about his big, beautiful wall,

about letting in or keeping out the men, women, children

waiting on the other side, black stares, fear in their eyes.

 

Clash, blame in the Middle East, too, between Israel and Gaza.

Border, we say, and something hardens in us, closes,

while the suffering—on both sides—goes on.

I want a story that helps me believe

a kiss can turn a beast into a prince, peace is possible.

When I listen, I hear one.  Yes, there are guns, missiles, grenades,

but there’s also a woman named Carolyn who lives near that border

and chooses to go every couple weeks to the heart of hostilities,

the border, where she meets the Gazans, the frail ones,

children or adults, who are ailing, maybe dying of cancer.

Or in need of dialysis—like Mustafa and two other children,

all five-years-old.  All desperate to see a doctor in Israel,

a 90-minute drive from the Erez crossing to a hospital in Jerusalem.

They can’t get there without her—or many other volunteers like her.

She comes to them alone, bringing gifts like greetings:

a bag of toys and snacks for the kids, a thermos of coffee

and cookies for the older ones. The children come with a grandma

or aunt: women under 30, men under 50 are not allowed

to accompany them.  Sometimes the Gazans speak Hebrew

or English.  Often they don’t.  She speaks no Arabic.

The car is her language:  her hand on the wheel, foot on the gas.

Sorrow needs no words.  She cries with the women, mourning

all the way to Jerusalem, when she hears that Mustafa’s mother,

only 35, has just died suddenly after a brief illness.

 

Border:  a guard, a gate.  An opening for a car—

a sick child in the back seat,

a driver for peace in front.

About the Author
Lori's poems have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies in the US, England, and Israel. Her work has also been published in medical humanities journals, and one of her poems was read on a program for BBC Radio 4. Though she grew up in Vermont and now lives with her family in Los Angeles, Israel was her home for 16 years and has inspired many of her poems.
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