Rick Black

Two Poems

At Night in Jerusalem

I touch your wound
and know that the night is long.
Sitting beside you in the hospital
by the pockmarked walls of the Old City,
I keep watch for the first sign of dawn.

The bus was taking us
to the other side of the city,
to the onion domes of the church of gentleness,
to the arched mosque of kindness,
to the ark of the synagogue of peace.

Yet we could not escape
from this circuitous route of suffering.
It took us through all of the city’s neighborhoods,
east and west, north and south. And I kept boarding
and unboarding the bus like the angels of Jacob’s ladder
but not ever reaching top or bottom.

When I awake from my dream,
I stir beside you. It has grown lighter outside.
A man— is it me or am I still dreaming?—
is walking towards the Old City,
where he will lean against the Wailing Wall
and pray for his friend,
who was wounded in the bombing of a bus
and whose hand reaches out
to be comforted.

The Passover Seder

I want to sing of horseradish,
the strong, beet-red, eye-popping,
gullet-burning horseradish that makes
you grab for a glass of water
like a life preserver.

I want to sing of dancing in the living room,
spinning round and round with my daughter
to celebrate our survival in the desert,
until we cannot spin any more,
and land upon the floor.

I want to sing of toy frogs,
leaping above the seder table
and making everyone laugh hysterically.
I want to sing of Dayenu, but not
to sing it over and over.

I don’t want to sing of slavery
and the splitting of the Red Sea
and the drowning of the Egyptians;
I do not want to sing of the dead
and the blood and the darkness.

I want to sing of tenderness,
of moist honey cake and almonds,
of brisket smothered in onions,
of dozing off in my father’s arms.


An earlier version of “At Night in Jerusalem” appeared in arc; “The Passover Seder” is reprinted from Black’s book Star of David (Poetica Publishing, 2012). Both reprinted with permission of the author.



Rick Black is a poet and book artist who runs Turtle Light Press. A Pushcart Prize nominee and former reporter for The New York Times in Israel, he has also authored Peace and War: A Collection of Haiku from Israel (chapbook, Turtle Light Press, 2007). Other titles include Star of David (Poetica Publishing, 2012) and the limited edition artist book The Amichai Windows (Turtle Light, 2017).