A Mother in the Dark

A woman's silhouette in the window
It’s 3am and
your face
is glued like a poster to the back
of my eyelids.
I close my eyes
and your eyes
stare at me
as their eyes
stare at you
“Mama, what will we do?”
I should not even know their names
a world away
lying in my bed
in a home
not unlike your home
once was
where their cribs
once stood.
Now sweaty ash
and bloody rubble
and tear-soaked soot
beckon with screamish whispers
for me to walk among them in
that flood my mind
each hour, each minute, each second.
Everytime I shut my eyes
the question:
“Mama, where could we be?”
They said they lost you
or traded you
or gave you away as if you were
a muddy bag of goldfish
snatched from a carnival
and I worry you have suffocated
under a bed or in a closet somewhere
in a house that is dark and crumbling.
And those little eyes are asking
for food or sun or water or oxygen.
You swim to show they can and that they must
but the water is only getting murkier
and time is pain:
exacting, and
exacerbated by the unknowing,
in a bag, under a bed, in a house that is falling and
it is darkness everywhere.
I close my eyes and see
your eyes
in the movie,
they shot
when they took you.
I see you holding onto them.
Two small boys,
but too big together in your arms.
I know you will not let go.
They know you will not let go.
White knuckles and frightened eyes
I see the prayer on your lips:
“Let us live.”
It echoes in me.
in my head, in my body, with every heartbeat.
Sometimes, slow and steady, like a war drum.
Sometimes fast and panicked, like a machine gun.
Let them live, let them live, let them live.
Let us live.
And in a brief moment of quiet,
the drums and guns in my ears
interrupted by a prayer,
written in my own voice:
“Let her know.”
We are looking for you.
We will not let you go.
Your face is on posters
even across the world
even on the back of my eyelids
at 3am.
Know that we say their names
and yours:
Kfir, Ariel, Shiri, Yarden.
Before we eat, before we drink, before we sleep, with each breath.
Know that you are not a goldfish,
forgotten, discarded.
You are a woman.
You are a mother.
You are a Jew.
And the people of Israel are with you.
Even in the dark.
Especially in the dark.
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