by Rachel Neve-Midbar
I watch you call the names of your dead,
each forms deep in your throat, falls from your mouth
like chess pieces or toy soldiers, even the children
posed with field phones and guns— everyone ready for battle.
The names tumble to the lectern, perch there
despite the hard currents of your sorrow,
your tears, my tears, splintered
and spilling from tabletop to floor. Yes
name your dead, each who fell in grace or not,
in innocence or not. And I will name mine.
When I name names, am I counting doves or darkness?
Our lists swell, the dead crowding in, anger
plain on their faces, even as we clean their bodies, prepare
the earth, all of us greedy for more anger,
to claw at borders, dispatch these names into the void,
blame clutched in their talons, the language of this conflict
so easy in our mouths, so easy—
What lies on the other side
of the mirror if we choose to walk through
to a place where the sounds of the wounded
are lost in the whispered sand
and we can only hear water, a river,
or perhaps just the clank of dishes in the sink,
the soft sound of water washing away
the last of a good meal shared together?
Lay with me back to back. Don’t you see
we are two sides of the same hair?
Please, we can do this together.
You hold the amulet while I
carry you across the divide.
Rachel Neve-Midbar, MFA, is the author (under the name Heimowitz) of the chapbook What the Light Reveals (Tebot Bach Press, 2014). Her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Spillway, Prairie Schooner, and Georgia Review. She was recently a finalist for the COR Richard Peterson Prize, winner of the Passenger Prize, and she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Rachel completed her MFA at Pacific University in 2015 and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California.
- Cover Photo by Karen Berntson. Elon, Israel 2016
ROOM is entirely dependent upon reader support. Please consider helping ROOM today with a tax deductible donation. Any amount is deeply appreciated.