Keren Gila Raiter

A Love, a Loss

(Set in Maasailand, northern Tanzania)

We met on the edge of a cliff
gazing into our own negative image
folding limbs and lips into caresses that we had always craved
floating on the words of our own deepest desires uttered by another’s mouth

bridging worlds with hearts, weaving continents with cups of tea, melding beads with blessings, black with white, Sabbath with savannah, mother tongues, and mothers.

pulled by shared aspirations to climb mountains, swim oceans, and create another world.
rowing into unchartered territory with readiness.

we met on the edge of a cliff
with one wing each
the ground was far below us
the sky
out of reach

unsure just how we landed
where we did in this world
how history came to meet us
jagged and curled

warned about strange birds
far flung nests
we had chased the rainbow
to find our treasure chests

the earth gave us colour
the tracks we had once followed
washed away by rain

the cliff’s edge was crumbling
our worlds were tumbling

we were enveloped by sky
our only hope was to fly

and we held each other
each wing beating as hard as it could
flagellating with all of the rhythms we knew
but our wings beat out of sync
rivers of tears grew
and why – god only knows. We never really flew

no. we tumbled. we fell
through shivering winters
flowering springs
through hot summer rains
and old buried things

we broke our crowns
our hearts gashed open
our lips cut, dry
our voices hoarse with screams

until, in turn, we stopped.

there is always a branch to catch
if you are determined to get out alive

and now all I can do
is pick myself up
nurse my wounds
and weave my own second wing.

© Keren Gila Raiter, 2013.

A World of Contrast

The folk festival had come to a close,
so before the sun set and the full moon rose,
the women descended from the mountain, traversing rock and sand,
to the ancient river valley, to walk and greet the land

with music in their ears and laughter in their bellies
they barely noticed the hostages, faces screened on all the tellies
they had captured another two – those fundamentalists from over the hill,
while the women set up camp on the river shore, told stories, and the night was still.

then as the mosquito net sifted the soft mountain breeze
and the birds were just waking in their nests, in the trees
and the women were still dreaming of Kleizmer folklore,
the neighbouring countries went to war


Wake up to the shuddering of white draped mosquito net that had let the starlight in and kept the insects out but could stand no ground against the earth-shattering rockets that blasted bits of this world into the next, around us.

A siren wails from the mystical town nestled in the mountaintop above us that only yesterday was full of accordions and violins. Fires smoulder where katyushas landed.

And my friend is strangely calm. She has seen this before. She learned how to wear a gas mask before she ever attended her first dress-up day at school. She says: every day is for living.

said the one friend to the other ‘the reality of life;
in our little country, is never-ending strife
but listen to the birds whose songs outlast the planes above
today is our day to immerse ourselves in nature and peace and love

And in between the helicopters flying overhead, the alarmed phone calls from loved ones, today is a beautiful summer day. Glorious sun rays dapple the valley with colour and warmth, rock hares scuttle up and down rocky cliff faces, carob pods ripen on shady trees, and the river just keeps on flowing and flowing, down to the lake.
Rockets sail through blue skies.

this is not a day to stop rejoicing in the world’s superb creation
look – the valley is lush and the water is cool, it’s our spirit that sustains our nation
and it seemed more dangerous to re-enter the town,
so the women walked the day the way the river flowed down

after exploring caves and climbing trees for a rest and a little snore
the setting sun and rising moon found they had made it to the lake shore
exhausted and relieved from the latest news broadcast
that said that according to the missiles’ range, they had reached safety at last

she shed her clothes and backpack and shoes, and cried to release her fears
the balmy air carried her cries to the hills, the freshwater dissolved her tears
the moon was round and red then orange, as it rose over the lake
the water was still and silvery smooth as she started to sob and shake

there are strangers that want us dead.

then back on the shore her good friend taught the teary one a song
of love for the land, its waters and people that serenaded them all night long
mosquito net hung from a tree once again, to protect them from biting afflictions
and thus the night passed while the war carried on, in the land of intense contradictions

© Keren Gila Raiter, 2013.


Bezro'oteha - black(in your arms)
He opened under the wings of a silver gull
stretched out across the shard-dark night
to embrace the air that skittered over oceans
and buoyed her up in circles of flight

he opened like a moonflower,
on the rocks, in the wind
reaching for crevices below
and stillness lying, trembling, within.

and as the silver gull took leave of the skies
to rest in honour of the half-moon festival declared by us
grass found its way into curly locks of hair
lying nestled in the blankets
in the lower reaches of the garden.

and so we sat, drinking flowers in our tea,
and we dipped our toes into the waters of sleepfulness
until they could hold back no longer
and plunged themselves over us and drowned us in their dreams

The petals that unfold from his temples tell me stories
of his life and the diurnal cycles of the earth

by day, matting locks entangled by cool blue waves crashing on white sandy beaches.

by night, stories of an ancestry of Italian immigrants to a small fishing town on the forest-ocean interface where dry earth meets salty water day after day after day and yet the two maintain a spotless integrity, affected deeply, subtly, knowingly.

wanderer by day, lover by night, this moonflower is my brother and my sister and no one I have ever known.

© Keren Gila Raiter, 2013.

An ecologist and philosopher by training, Keren Gila Raiter is awed by the natural world and the power of our emotions and stories to give us meaning in an otherwise very mysterious existence. She has deep connections with Australia, Israel and Tanzania and writes about organisms and evolution, passions and perspectives, culture and countries, and has been published by Mulla Mulla Press and Creatrix.

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