Holy War

Holy Land, holy war,

and the Saturday morning prayer


with pops of bullets.

Each “Amen” is punctuated by a firm “crack.”


Holy Land, holy war,

and the scent of baking Shabbat

bread as it twists into the acrid odor of blood—

only a block away.


The taste of peace fills my mouth, bulging my cheeks

in all of its addictive,


saccharine flavor.

Then there is the taste of revenge.

Like water, it is flavorless… ordorless.

It boils, scalding my mouth—

leaving my taste buds buzzing

and the pink flesh of my inner cheek



Holy hopes, holy war,

and the feel of my father’s fingers,

coarse and worn,

wrinkled like his thick camouflage suit.

I know the valleys of his hands like I know the rough creases

of his uniform.

Here I’ve leaned my head,

innumerable times.


He’s been gone so long.

All that I remember are his hands.

In our final moment together, his left hand held a gun

and his right the skullcap of his youth.

He held it fast on his head as he placed an army hat

atop his kippah.

Then he tucked the Torah into his gun sack

for Friday night readings in the trenches of a war.


This work received a Gold Award in The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards of 2002.