RIVER JORDAN / Poem by Hannie Rouweler

Poem by Hannie Rouweler
Nineteen hundred and seventy-three
I remember the River Jordan as a calm river
flowing behind a kibbutz
Where we, volunteers, picked apples in an orchard
Very early in the morning, got weak coffee, apples
In baskets they later were deposited in a large container.
We went around in the dining room with fried eggs,
Worked in the kitchen, talked to young people,
Sabras who only came home for their parents on weekends.
We first walked along the banks, waded through the water
At knee height in slow, slow steps where your feet almost
sank away in the mud until we encountered high bushes,
We stooped, the water level dropped to the ankles. Not one source
But several sources bubbled to the surface.
So are the words that all of us baptized on that afternoon
Spontaneously, in October 1973,
Without realizing that then also our world
Would be startled by violence. The roar of planes,
Squadrons, above our heads, the voice of radio Nathan: it’s war
On a regular and quiet Saturday afternoon in the sun, shabbat.
(On the eve of it, Friday night, always cheap wine was served
and there were laughs and stories told.)
The inanimate silence of young soldiers who had to go to the front,
The Golan, Sinai,
In full trucks. The girl that I was and looked at them in silence.
The soft humming of one of them and the staring of the
Boys, turned in on themselves. The announcement that Leonard Cohen
From Canada would fly over to come and sing for them.
I remember the Jordan as a beautiful river originated in the North
Small fruits, grapes and wild flowers on bushes
stuck to the bottom. That no one pulled out their roots.

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