Barbara Goldberg

They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinom . . .
Chronicles II, chap. 28, v 3

An Arab boy in blue flip flops galloping bareback the length
of the valley, back and forth, over and over, cigarette clenched
between his teeth, cell phone pressed to his ear, faster, faster,
he’s spurring the horse on now, steering him up the rim
of the valley and suddenly out into noonday traffic, out
of time, out of place, cars grinding to a halt, the rhythmic
clop clop of hooves pounding tarmac. 
                                                              From the terrace
of a pricey café overlooking the valley I see dry trampled grass,
a small grove of olive trees, black-draped women gossiping
in the shade, children wrestling, can almost smell warm hummus
with foule, pickled turnips, mujaddara, this valley still called gai
ben hinom, tophet, gehenna,
                                               where children were offered
to the great god Moloch, the stench of charred flesh, of burnt offal
pervading the valley for centuries. To the left, the old walls of the city,
to the right, a dusty white village crouched on a hillock. I am eating
a thin crust margherita one leg
                                                  outstretched the other dangling
dangling over the edge


whose sky       whose clouds       whose bleached
white sun       whose thorns        whose  hills       whose
sniper       whose troops       whose trucks       whose
crops     whose olives      whose stones     whose land

From the Top

He placed the metronome in the sink and the Mozart
on the toilet because it was the one room
in the house with no rug and the acoustics were
outstanding. Every day he’d emerge for Oprah,
his one sure way to unwind. He was a boy
of seventeen,  a young man, really, a prodigy
on the clarinet playing his instrument with tenderness
and clarity. He tells how first when playing
Schumann he heard this one arpeggio—broken

chord in the manner of the harp—and was transported. 
How can something broken sound celestial? In the echo
chamber of the skull reverberates all that’s brittle, bruised
and fallen, bankrupt and foreclosed. And yet—to be
transported in this time of static, time of woe, when what
consoles is down to earth, straight talk from the haloed
heart, broken chord in the manner of the harp.

Barbara Goldberg is the author of five prize-winning books of poetry, including The Royal Baker’s Daughter, which won the Felix Pollak Poetry Prize. She also translated Scorched by the Sun, poems by Israeli poet Moshe Dor. Goldberg has received two fellowships from the NEA as well as awards in translation, fiction and speechwriting. Goldberg is Series Editor of the Word Works’ International Editions.



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