photoThis Year in Jerusalem
State Street Press, 1986

"Marcia Falk's lyrical poetry evokes brilliant images of Jerusalem . . . The poems are visions filled with light, color, each a canvas of its own . . . Her pictures are fresh, with a tinge of irony . . . Underlying the beauty is always the sense of reality. Peaceful images with an awareness of war, Jews and Arabs in the same world . . . Falk . . . is surely one of America's finest poets, whose deep Jewish roots permeate her poetry."
—Marcia Cohn Spiegel, Judaica Book News


Excerpts from This Year in Jerusalem  

Sheep in a Field

I might have them be
white and soft—
their curly fleece
bobbing in the air
like curds in a bowl—
as they browse.

But in truth they are
grayish and scratchy
like those awful woolen leggings
I wore through second grade;
muddied and messy
as though wind had swept
the field's debris onto their coats,
thistles, burrs, and weeds
tossed about like schoolyard garbage;
and across their backs, smears
as red as freshly scraped knees.

Now for the facts
without the dyes of wish or memory:
sheep in a field, up close,
twenty of them, or thirty,
chewing the grass
on the last day of March
while forces spread in the North.
Can we afford more
than what the cold eye sees?

For now, let them be
sheep, alive in a field.

March, 1978, Herzlia


Song of the Eucalyptus

She was once a noblewoman in Jerusalem. One day she vanished, leaving behind all the riches of her household. She was later seen in Syria where, legend has it, she fell in love with a river god. The same legend claims that she left her body to join the river, but others say she accidentally drowned. The spring after she disappeared, a eucalyptus sprouted near a stream.

On the Banyas ridge in the sun,
I am thin and long as my shadow,
translucent as the cyclamen
aglow in the field.

Through my leaf-thin hands I hear
the beat of the stone mill,
the rock dove, the waterfall.

I make my dominion here,
build air castles in the weeds.
My feet are light as light,
they do not move.

The sheared face of the pine,
the naked red anemone
stare back at me in the afternoon.

Soon, the color drains from the grass,
the air cools around my knees,
the sky softens and blooms,
the wind rises. I stay.

Through my feet and up my body,
into my fingers and hair,
I soak up the river's bed.

I have put down my roots
and I am always thirsty.
I will never return to dry land.


The Flower Woman

6 a.m., the doorbell

gestures of eyebrows, hands, eyes
and bunches of flowers

hada hada
hada yofi
yofi yofi


and she slips the coins
      between her breasts
sets the basket
      on her head
            and goes on

I run the faucet
fill a jar
thrust the tangled stems inside
         go back to sleep

      from a dream of gestures
            eyebrows hands and eyes
      and dreams of doorbells
            chime upon chime of doorbells
I wake suddenly

and fallen petals ring the breakfast table


The Underwater Museum in Eilat

Coral clumps bulge and nod in heavy water;
between them, striped, rippled, sleek-skinned,
the fish whip by.

On the other side of the glass, we press blue kisses,
flatten hemispheres against their walls.
Our eyes narrow, take the shape of fish.

At night, winding home on the desert road,
we see ourselves staring in windows.
Ahead, a blue eye watches.

We sense it, afraid
to call it by name.


Woman Through the Window

All year, she walked past my window
every morning singing
in the heat waves, in the rain,
her basket of mint and parsley
balanced surely
on her thick black hair.
Her head straight,
her eyes forward,
her voice slipped quickly
around the corners,
and if she felt the weight,
it showed only in the slope
of her breasts,
heavy beneath black linen.
Until one day this April
she stopped coming.

In the summer, the steaming Arab market,
draped with lines of carpets,
embroideries, old clothes,
will swarm with young Europeans.
Which one will soon be wearing
the darkly woven patterns
of her dress?


© Marcia Lee Falk.