EVENING IN THE OLD CITY
At sunset the city walls are on fire.
No one whose eyes take in that pink stone
will ever be the same. Pomegranate juice,
tart, stains the cobbled streets.
Cheap cigarettes and sweet smoking coals
duel for ascendance. The man dressed
like an eighteenth-century disciple
walks fast, his head down. Teenagers
call out in their incomprehensible dialect.
A man pushes a cart piled with breads
round loops encrusted with seeds and zataar
and a little boy tastes them with his eyes.
Abraham, God's beloved, would balk like a mule
if he walked these streets now. Cars
scraping through the narrow alleys
of the Old City, neon signs and loud music
just outside Damascus Gate. No:
Abraham would feel right at home here.
He'd raise an eyebrow at the motorcycles
but the press of shoppers demanding
fresh mint, dates, eggplants would feel
just like home. "Okay yalla bye," says
the girl with the blue rhinestone cellphone,
pushing past in the other direction.
Because this is a holy city, anyone
who hears God's voice here is right.
The soothing whisper of tradition...
Overhead, bright flags remind passers-by
how little we have in common. Abraham
climbs to the top of the mount, walks
quiet circles around the rock
where he almost made the worst mistake.
(Velveteen imagines this from her desk
overlooking still-bare Massachusetts hills.)
Ubiquitous cats prowl between trash cans.
The green lights of minarets dot
the jumbled roofscape, loudspeakers waiting.
Tonight the same messenger will visit
every foreigner's dream. Yerushalayim
shel zahav: you dazzle and seduce, promise
a direct line to the One Who always takes
our calls. At the staggered hours
of our evening prayers, cellphones buzz
reminders to stop, drop, and praise.
Today's NaPoWriMo prompt offers "twenty little poetry projects," and challenges us to include all of them in a single poem.
It's a neat exercise; it definitely stretched me beyond my usual writing habits. I want to tighten it before publshing the next version; some of the lines prompted by the 20 prompts are (I think) terrific, and others don't quite flow. But the prompt was fun.
Yerushalayim shel zahav means "Jerusalem of gold."