The Key

by Elana Bell

He felt for his key the way he would feel for
his limbs and was reassured
—Mahmoud Darwish

In the old ones with rot-mouth lingers the key
The boy lost his fingers, his mouth sings the key

A split pomegranate shines in the crack of her palm
Under seed, in the pulp of its rind, glints the key

Loai al Lahawane, twenty-two years old:
A bomb belts his waist, around his neck swings the key

From the limbs of our dead boy flourished an oak
And now in his memory we name King—the key!

This longing you whisper through concrete and wire
Which crumbling building returned brings the key?

A village wedding, cement blocks line the field
Around the bride’s rusted finger—no ring—the key

The girl with caramel cheeks shrieks and chases our bus,
Her uncoiled six-year-old arms shrink the key

All day we settle olive shoots in impossible soil
palms pocked and red-stained—Is suffering the key?

Around Mount Karmel the lush land pulses—
From a peak above the city a bird flings the key

Climb into the pliable cave of my body
In the shadow of its unfolded wing, the key

Published on July 23, 2011