Friday, May 14, 2021

“Ninety Seconds in Tel Aviv” by Sara Aharon


AFP Terrorist rockets coming in on the right; Iron Dome interceptors rising up on the left 

In the living room, the TV scrolls
a never-ending list
of communities facing missile strikes
Red Alert Red Alert Red Alert
rockets reach almost everywhere
some fall in Tel Aviv
the beating heart of a vibrant country
now missing beats, now racing, now broken.

Iron Dome warriors defend
they don’t sleep or blink
dedicated to the bone
yet one in ten missiles is a dodger.
Moving lights in the sky are not falling stars
holes in buildings
are not windows to the soul of a home
but dark hollows with burnt edges – a place
a dead child once imagined safety.

No place is safe
the living room is treacherous terrain
the list grows
Red Alerts Red Alerts  
They’re getting closer
the airport is under attack
there’s nowhere to run.

I go to the back room facing the yard
an illusion of a different world
protected by hedges
chirps, coos, witt-witt, pit-pit,
birdsong makes me feel alive
my heartbeat finds a calm spot
in mother nature’s embraces.

Let’s go to the beach, I say to the man
I took for better or worse, this is worse
In a moment of mad optimism
I pack a book about hope against odds,
sunglasses, water and a mask
a reminder of a different war.

The taxi driver plays cheerful music
I look up at the blue sky
a screeching alert from my phone
shatters my reverie
wails from the sky pierce
my short-lived illusion.

Ninety seconds to find shelter,
my phone says
we leap from the back seat
sixty seconds
I sprint this way and that
looking for a building entrance
even a stairwell will do
too far too far
thirty seconds
I still look
I freeze
ten seconds…
Lie down lie down
cover your head
I drop to the ground.

Flat on the dirty pavement
Why did I wear white pants?
I cover my head
I can’t breathe
my heart thumps against the gravel
a girl behind me screams,
“take me home, take me home”
her mother comforts her
she is my mother now.

Two loud booms above us, the earth quakes
we wait, as instructed, ten minutes
debris could fall
did I choose a good spot?
Should I crawl to the mother?
Will my late mother intervene on my behalf?
Will God or at least my brave, departed father
help me?

Ten minutes is a long time to ponder –
should I text my daughters in North America
to say I love them?
Should I apologize to all my friends and family
for leaving?
All these decades in Canada
all that privilege I enjoyed
What was I thinking?
Did I really believe it was fair
to enjoy sunny vacations here
and never share the pain, the fear?
Ten minutes of perspective.

We stand up
we look up
the Iron Dome blasted the rockets above us
all that’s left is smoldering clouds
We dodged this one.
Our angels wave their wings
disappear with the smoke.

I miss the cheer-up, cheer-a-lee, cheer-e-o
of the red robins in my Toronto backyard
but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else
when so many loved ones in my beloved country,
flaws and all, have to take shelter
in the city that doesn't sleep, that cannot sleep.

Soon we’ll toast to our survival
one more in a chain
three thousand years long
as we look towards a better future
perched atop the shoulders of our ancestors.
And we’ll try to be as brave.


Sara Aharon lives in Toronto. She is the proud mother of two adult daughters. These days she makes her living as a virtual psychologist, and since she has more time on her hands, she writes about plagues (and other things).

See Brian Henry’s schedule here,  including online and in-person writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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