You know you can’t stay here.
Every heaven on earth has its fall from grace.
Every rhythm eventually breaks.
Someday, you too
will get that deployment call,

maybe in the night, when the kids are still sleeping.
You’ll pack your belongings, but not all of them.
You’ll leave behind memories and a history
and restart in an unknown land,
where no amount of explaining
will unveil your stranger’s cloak of invisibility.

You’ll tell stories and be met with blank stares.
They’ll change your name upon arrival
and grudgingly give you a seat
if you learn to keep quiet and adapt.
But before that, the trip through a mountain pass
you didn’t know you could climb,
after you’ve lost the dogs on your trail;
the headlights, the sirens.
Some of you will escape through barbed wire
or in freight trains and crowded boats.
Some of you will walk
through the valley of the dead,
learning to befriend the jackals.

Maybe we all come to this,
someday. Does every good thing
come to an end,
and if so, are endings meant to be like this—
needles scratched across records,
pages ripped from books, thrown into fires?
My alarm clock wakes me from a dream,
and while I brush my teeth,
I think about these things:
the inevitable fall of empires;
the quickening of blood in my veins
before the dawn breaks,
preparing my body for flight.

It’s easier to say the Red Sea parted
than to say we have this long disease
of choosing slaves and masters,
of stories ending before their time.
You know you aren’t immune.
You, too, might get that call in the night someday,
or your children or grandchildren will.
I could too. I’m looking at my kitchen
as I make my coffee, not hearing explosions.
My eyes travel over artifacts:
enameled tin pots and kettles
my ancestors brought to Brooklyn from Russia,
still miraculously intact.
(Revealing, what things people carry).
Old Passover dishes I don’t use.
The glass chickens that belonged to my mother,
who, like most of my family, is now dead.
Any day, this could be gone.
I could leave all of it behind.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be this way,
or maybe this is just the way of all life:
burning forests nourishing soil; earthquakes
swallowing life as mountain ranges knit themselves
over our faults. I don’t know.

But I know one thing: this isn’t something
that happens to them, all those others
whose heavens are less indelible
than our own.
Someday it will be me, or you.
We will gather our things and take one last look
at our life as we know it. Without time
for bread to rise, or to mourn—
believing deep down
that we can always return.

© Psyche Marks 2019

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