Yesterday and Tomorrow

I wrote the following poem, "Only Seconds", for the Roads to You concert at UCLA's Royce Hall. I read it alongside Israeli poet Sami Shalom Chetrit with the beautiful orchestra accompanying us. It was an honor to perform this poem next to Sami and to hear the last three lines aloud in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

Sami wrote to me recently, "I think your poem reads now like a prophecy." At the time we read it aloud, I felt like it was a somewhat universal poem about war and suffering. But now, it hits even closer to home because of the many relatives and friends of mine currently at risk of living out the poem. If only I could foresee an end to this madness.

May we see a brighter tomorrow.

* * *

Only Seconds

“My sweetheart, yesterday you were playing with me.
Who will I play with tomorrow?”
- A Lebanese woman crying over a coffin in Tyre,
as quoted in the Washington Post, July 22, 2006

it took only seconds
to erase her eyes
hazel tinged with specks of gold
her shy peek beneath lashes
cheeks flushed from every compliment
her sleepy gaze as she slid into dreams
tousled hair on a pillow
a half-opened book beside her

it took only seconds
to drown her voice
how she rolled her r’s
the laugh rising from her throat
startling and singular
how she picked the perfect pomegranate
the way she sang off-key while sweeping

it took only seconds
to still his body
its frenetic movements
sudden burst of energy
as he chased the setting sun
gulps of air feeding his heaving chest
the trickle of sweat falling from his forehead

it took only seconds
to vanish his tomorrow
the beauty he captured in a puddle of rain
his neighbor’s stalled car
the shadow of a building
stretching across the ground
he longed to preserve his vision
in black and white
stories to send the world

how many years
until a newborn’s cry
eclipses the siren’s wail
until the streets awaken
strewn with gardenias and orange blossoms
instead of rubble
until music drifts through every window
down alleyways to the open sky
until each balcony overflows
with colorful clothes drying
in time for the next
bar mitzvah
until all coffee shops fill
with glasses clinking
dice hitting backgammon tables
brazen laughter engulfing the night

may we wear strands of jasmine
around our necks
each wrist and both ankles
lean against our love
gaze at the moon
and know how precious the second
how priceless the moment
how permanent our love
wear strands of jasmine
gaze at the moon
remember every second
and pray for tomorrow