DIGNITY

A woman counts loaves of bread, places tomatoes
near the window. Fog, lifted by the wind, 
shoulders the mountain.  White sheets change
into sails, ring the branches of the lemon tree.
The land is hard
cracks like words. 

The woman hears blossoms turning thin;
she bows to the dignity of change, breaks a loaf,
places two parts on the table.  
A kiss of sustenance, she whispers.  
There is nothing else to say.


Rochelle Mass




I ALMOST HAD THEM

A neighbor planted ten olive trees yesterday, strange, because
down the hill, row after row are cut down, piled high
then the farmer throws a match.  The pile simmers for a few days.
From my balcony I can see the smoke threading.
Yesterday the neighbor shoveled out the earth.  I watched as he settled
each sapling in, smoothed the base but tossed all ten empty buckets
into the public area. 
Coated with dusty pride he looked at one new tree after the other. 
The buckets rolled. 
Everything in my face showed disapproval.  

The air smells of burnt sugar as I turn up the hill, continue up my street 
see roses sticking out of a garbage bin.  I lift the heads.  Just as I'm about
to pull them out, hold them, see if they'd fill my yellow vase -
a cat lurches from under.  The flowers fell back as the cat flew over
my shoulder, growled till I stopped thinking how they'd look on my table.
I almost had them, still feel the petals.
Did she have a birthday?  Did her husband surprise her?  Her lover?
Was that why they're still wrapped in cellophane, because
they don't belong with her family? 
Did I want some of her life? 

I should know better, I say, as I start up the stairs into my yard. 
The cat springs ahead of me - a blur of envy and I wonder
why I'm still testing this stuff when it ought to be so simple.


Rochelle Mass

ROCHELLE MASS, Canadian born, with her husband and two young daughters,  moved to Israel in l973, lived on a kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley for almost 25 years, and now lives in a settlement crawling up the Gilboa Mountain, overlooking that valley. She is a translator and editor (Kibbutz Trends, bi-annual of cultural/political issues). Two poetry collections, Aftertaste, published with Ride the Wind Press, Canada, as well as a smaller chapbook called, "Where's my Home," published by the Premier Poets Series in Rhode Island.  A short story of hers was recently nominated for the 2002 Pushcart Prize by The Paumanok Review, short-listed for a Radio Play by the BBC, and she has had many other prizes and publications. 
TAR