Water poetry

Travel advisory II

In this country
they’ll pull you over on the road
at checkpoints. Don’t be surprised.
At any ancient city gate they’d stop you,
demand your weapons, water bottle,
everything you carry. Even your name.
You’d have to declare whom you love,
whom hate and whom you long to worship
at the altar of this reconstructed temple
in this heat.

My water flask is empty; yours nearly full
but though I ask, you do not offer.

Or was it you who asked and I, afraid,
refused?

That country we both long for lies ahead.
Anyone may enter. They say
water in the river running through it
is abundant, pure. And also free.
No need for flasks or buckets.
Let’s drop our guns, cast off our fear
and go together.

Take my hand
and in the other, hold this stone.
No, not to throw. This stone
fits perfectly into your palm.
Look: it is white.
It has your name engraved.

Prayer in time of too much rain on the prairie
(June 2010)

Let some of it fall on the Negev where travellers
press noses to bus windows: a slender landscape
leached of colour.

Let some of it fall on dusty roadside camels,
on silhouetted sheep, shepherds in sand-
storms that obliterate the world.

Let it descend, a deluge, on the shrinking Dead Sea,
the River Jordan dwindling down to a narrow prairie creek.
Top up the turbulent Sea of Galilee.

Let rain fill barrels on flat-roofed houses in the West Bank,
let them overflow the way those ancient mikvehs
overflowed with rainwater.

Remember the years of prairie drought when the slender
panting deer burst forth from dry bush
into dry clearing: wild-eyed
and thirsty.

–Sarah Klassen

These poems were inspired by Sarah Klassen’s time in the Middle East with Canadian Mennonite University’s Ancient Stones, Living Stones study tour, led by professor Gordon Matties in May 2010.

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