Poetry as prayer

I wrote this first poem about half a year ago, and the second one in the past couple of weeks. I offer both as a form of prayer for the people suffering in Israel and Palestine right now, and as an admission of the simultaneity of human impotence and potential. 


Poem 1: Conflict Resolution

 “In the conclusion of the tragedy by Chekhov, everyone is disappointed, disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, but alive. And my colleagues and I have been working, trying, not to find the sentimental happy ending, a brotherly love, a sudden honeymoon to the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy, but a Chekhovian ending, which means clenched teeth compromise.”

– Amos Oz


1. Documentary


Don’t play me the airy shriek of the scuds

and show the school children dropping too hard

from unadorned metal monkey bars

to get beneath the thickening layer

of siren wailing, on sprained ankles running

at the green steel door, paint peeling

but no time

to read the sign

  anyway, some

  are too young to read.


Don’t focus on their faces, smudged dirt and tears –

because aren’t the sad child’s eyes what’s shared among modern tragedies? –

but instead on the folding of the world into

a reinforced box, the lines of the room that hold

their shape against the booms overhead,

the bending of time

in the crook of their

tiny jean-cased knees.


Don’t then tell me of the too-high battle cries

of kids who throw their first stone

before their first kiss,

because they miss their older brothers and their uncles and their dad,

or maybe because they got bored at the eight-hour checkpoint,

but not as a piece of flying poetry, the rootless dirt

flung from a hand with no patch to plant a flag in.

Both the metaphor and the will stone miss

the teenaged soldier target,

but even a miss invites the thickening layer of tear gas.


Instead, zoom in on the boy lying, trying to worm beneath

the graying air, father’s keffiyeh tossed over his head,

and a certain flattening of his world, the rigid tracks

his fingers leave in the dusty road,

the straight path he sees ahead.


2. Options


Generals like the word impasse

because it’s easier to press

the button with your hands tied above it,

but there are always choices in a conflict;

most are like apples, mealy, obviously off,

so that you have to feel the starving before

you’ll sink teeth to the core.


It’s when I see my people and their people

standing in the dirt yard we fight over,

the youngest combatants tossing

our rotten fruit up in the air,

catching it with the same hand, weighing,

and I notice how many of us are considering

siding with the hunger pains

that I remember how I was made:


3. In The Image of God


Image in this case is synonymous with part-from-the-whole;

like a printed snapshot of me at sixteen,

dressed in a too-big olive-green uniform and holding an Uzi,

grinning with my arm thrown around a real soldier with a straight mouth–

it tells you a lot, but it leaves out more.


There are always options, and it’s always been

between these two trees, Life

and Knowledge. It’s after I choose like mother Eve and I know

rotting apples hanging from both branches

that I, otherwise eager to own my godly attribute of creation,

start to point out my flatness, developed on glossy paper

with creases in my resin coating,

and how placing the world in my hands, oh Lord,

is like choosing to play catch with your own shadow.



Poem 2: Gunning for Shakespeare

There’s the Shakespeare tradition of resolving a tragedy…

 -Amos Oz


I wrote a poem with the same epigraph

in times never of peace

but political terms always

reminding us what we only just ceased-


Fire up the TV,

Ezra says his girlfriend sent him an article

on not overdosing on bloody broadcasts

we can’t obsess over everything away from home,

but she’ll never know for him,

that far away place is home


a theater he was raised in

falling for the characters since birth

days spent on set, taking fan fic pictures, collecting

memorabilia like the bullet

mom brought home around her neck.


But when did he start feeling like they’d all been

gunning for Shakespeare

not Chekhov bitter but

a live action shot


like in the Globe Theater

where they’d switch actors for criminals

and carry out the scene

suddenly there’s blood on stage


but Ezra’s stuck to his chair

he loves these characters as

real people

yelling no turn back don’t you see he’s got a rocket

friends on screen, he can do nothing


and he knows how old William will end it

every time its tragedy.




About the Author
Joshua Sassoon Orol is a poet and songwriter based in North Carolina.