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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 2, June 2013


Gerry Jacobson
Canberra, Capital Territory, Australia

City of Peace

City of peace: Yerushalayim, city of hatred, city where the streets run with blood. Old City. I visit Schindler’s grave with my nephew the army officer. We place a stone. He points to a laneway with small shops. “We don’t go down there!” he says. I notice a slight bulge on his hip.

Yad Vashem. Black books of victims’ names, cries countless. I ask the black-clad lady for “J” books, looking for relatives, Jacobsons of Riga. “Oh!” she says “It’s impossible! There are so many! I came from Riga and Jacobson was such a common name!”

second generation—
in her face
the baffled sorrow
of those who descend

Ecstatic dance at a Jewish wedding; visceral crunch of wineglass, lest we forget the destruction of Jerusalem. Band thumping, sweating men’s circle, arms around younger men, in-laws and in-laws of in-laws. Arms around family, part of, apart.

of my disconnect
made summer
by this circle
of belonging

City of gold: Yerushalayim. Shimmering summer haze, hills of honey, stone buildings. City of yearning. Desire in my guts! Underground city. Limestone, karstic cavities, caverns, caves, openings, passages, underground streams, trickles, stalactites, fossils, buried bones, Roman ruins, walls, foundations, rubble.

in my dream
I squeeze through
a cave entrance
feeling my way . . .
confined in a dark world

In the dark tunnel of Hezekiah, water has been flowing for 2700 years. I am knee-deep in temptation, but brother-in-law is concerned, doesn’t want me to walk through. Discretely I turn back.

Underground hatred, stabbings in laneways, bombs on the buses. Beware of bulldozers running amok! Family group in the hotel: soldier nephew, 18, leaves his gun on the seat while he ducks into the loo. Passing man objects to gun pointing, starts a row with soldier’s mum (my sister) who screams back.

black hats
skullcaps . . . machine guns
The Holy One
deploys his forces
in the holy city

Friday evening. Walk through Mea Shearim with nephews and nieces. Darkening. Coming towards us are people in fur hats and long robes going to shul, straight out of the shtetl of 300 years ago. It’s Shabbos, my own ancestors coming towards me!

Retreat in a hotel: extended wedding families praying, eating, singing together. Seven blessings at each meal, one assigned to bride’s uncle . . . me. Holding the cup of wine: “Blessed art thou O Lord, creator of Man!”

let us
create man in our image
God said
using the plural . . .
but we are all so singular

Author’s Notes

Yerushalayim is Jerusalem (literally “city of peace”); Yad Vashem is the Holocaust Memorial (“a place and a name”); shul = synagogue; shtetl = Jewish village in eastern Europe; Shabbos = the Sabbath.

The tanka “black hats” was first published in “Sipping Pomegranate Juice,” Atlas Poetica 5 (2010).



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