Marcela Sulak

Because today the municipality
of Tel Aviv
is testing its missile sirens, and my friend
has two sons in
the army, one on the border of Gaza, and one
on the Syrian,
and we remain skeptical about whether the civil war
will spill over
or if it’s solving all our problems without our having
to do a thing.
We wince when we say it—we are just repeating
the word on the street—
and I remember how my mother forbade curse words
at home. When the urge
came we’d quote grandpa, who couldn’t say three words without a hell
or damn, until
she said not even in quotations. At 11:49 Maya starts gripping
the table. The sirens
will go off in 41 minutes, and she gets panicked just thinking
of it, starts counting
the family passports. But it’s better than living in America, after
you factor
the cost of higher education and insurance, not to mention
the 18
gun deaths a day, the higher risk of diabetes, she says. Also
she is thankful
her daughters are girls, the army is all she thought about when
they were born.
I tell her I’m glad she said that because I’m translating
Orit Gidali,
whose speaker in one poem imagines a future-fatally wounded soldier son
in the stray cat on the lawn
one sleepless dawn, and another friend said that that poem was in fact,
too melodramatic
for her taste, but I got even more worked up imaging my daughter
hit by a car
as a baby in America, and when she leapt from my shoulders at
the intersection of Q and 16th,
I felt almost a relief, so this is it, then, as I caught her like
a football in the crook
of one arm and messed up the elbow I landed on and broke
the metal shopping cart
and the eggs, while passersby picked up the scattered groceries.
Maya is transcribing
her grandmother’s memories of the war and death camps. That lady could just switch
off normalcy and switch
on the survival mode, Maya says.  That explains Israeli
culture to a tee.
Then the siren sounds, and I ask her what we’re actually
supposed to be
doing, and she says we’re supposed to be finding a safe place.
We are facing
a picture window in South Tel Aviv;
I ask her where a safe place is.

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