Five poems by Rena Rossner

Vixen

 

We trace everything back to the fox,

she appeared in the playground, Friday

night and the men were coming home.

They chased her big bushy tail

and she was gone, but there were signs.

 

Red fur in unwanted places, sharp

teeth in babies’ mouths, claw

marks and hunger, unnatural, wild

eyes, people took up running in

the woods, children slipped through

fences, and the cats were gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church

 

We were on our way

driving past camels

pottery shards lined

the road and yellow dust.

The air tasted like turmeric.

You promised me almonds

and honey, blasting oud

music, the windows down.

 

It started with sinkholes

now there are shark bites

on the coast, and animals

make sounds like rocket

fire, breaking sound

barriers. The radio

announces: more people

have disappeared.

 

You quenched your thirst

on the wind, your teeth yellow

like sheshbesh tiles, clacking

you laughed into the hamsin,

cardamom on your breath

and the arak burning

always burning, we arrive.

A church in the desert.

 

People come here to pray

it was once a barracks

now it’s a sanctuary

covered in beads and smelling

like nana. Holy water here is

made from squeezing lemons

what was bitter is now

sweet with hunger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desert Rain

 

Cold swarms in

like a mustering of storks.

Wind howls at the screens we

installed to keep out sand

flies. A dog’s bark turns

into a wheeze and the rain comes,

petulant. Leaves scatter, we brace

for desert rain.

 

Last time it came down red,

iron-rich, tangy like blood.

Plague-like. The grass bloomed

sharp and full of shards. Dates

pelted the ground splattering honey

sweet grenades, and the smoke that rose

from every hilltop smelled like rot.

 

This time it’s brown, rusty,

petroleum-based, thick and greasy

smelling of gasoline. A blessing,

they call it, on the evening news.

No more pipelines, everyone gathers

it in buckets, but the birds

die, and the fish.

 

 

 

 

 

Transformation

 

Yesterday I felt it

you told me I was dreaming

again, but my neck cracked

and my toes were sore

my back itched in places

where only wings grow.

 

You and I both know

it’s impossible, but so is this,

us. You, who are made of clay,

and me, fire and air. You laughed

at the tracks of tiny bird-feet

that appeared each morning

in the dust.

 

There were warnings.

 

The dust was sand, we live

in the desert, the feet

who knows what causes feet,

you made me coffee

but it tasted bitter

I wanted sweet.

 

When you are sleeping

there is a game I play

I stretch my fingers

and watch the claws

grow, and I croon

into your ear, sounds

that even I don’t

 

Yesterday I showered

and the cramps came

I crouched down

and the water helped

like rain. I cried out

but you didn’t hear

or come.

 

One day I will grow

wings and leave you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hasida

 

The storks circle overhead again

it means winter in the desert

and I am awestruck, every year

that such heavy birds can fly.

I squint and see them, plague-like

dropping, shot out of the sky

heavy falling splats of blood

and feathers, their coming,

ominous, they are fleeing

we should all flee.

 

And then you call me

back inside, from the balcony

for tea, smoky, hot,

and your eyelashes are feathers

flapping, nothing will keep you

here, the storks are back, I say,

and you hug me, I spill tea.

 

The dark shapes move outside

our windows, and you cup my

breast, a teacup in your hand,

you circle me, a stork, big

and heavy, leaving me. Your lips

are wet and hot, from tea,

I picture poison, fire, plague,

something to keep you here

with me.

 

There was leprosy once

that afflicted houses, china

tea, and clothes, bodies,

seeping, scabbing, spots,

everywhere, sins on display.

I want to mark you.

A punishment for slander.

Every word you speak

reminds me.

 

I want a plague god,

a weapon, someone I can

pray to, beg for fire,

for beginnings and endings

for heavy birds that fall

out of skies. Hasida I’ll call

her, stork-goddess of fire

and destruction, and I’ll

send her to your dreams

where she will claw you

with desire.

 

But now, now I want

you just to hold me

your hands, claw-like

on my thighs. Hold me

as the crows come

looking for water, as the

hail pelts down, and

the bodies fall.

 

 

Rena RossnerRena Rossner is a graduate of the Writing Seminars program at The Johns Hopkins University,
Trinity College Dublin and McGill University. She lives in Jerusalem where she works as
a Literary and Foreign Rights Agent. Her poetry and short fiction has been published or is
forthcoming from
Thrice Fiction, The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, The Rampallian, MiPoesias,
The 22 Magazine, Exterminating Angel Press, The Prague Revue, and more. Her cookbook
Eating the Bible was published recently by Skyhorse Publishing. Her first novel is out on
submission.

 

 

 

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