Marva Zohar

Our Winter

That winter, our winter, your breasts hung from your
collarbone like a white mismatched pair of socks left on
the wire.

I remember how your shadow climbed all the way up the
ceiling when you made that first entrance into my trailer.

You took off your uniform like a cucumber peeling itself,
your skin so pale it seemed green.

You said I'm not going back there if they grab me by my balls.
I never knew a girl who talked like you.

I bathed you outside with the hose under the winter sun,
and I clothed you.
My own private refugee.

It was unthinkable for you to wear any of my dresses.
I gave you pajamas.
You were happy to wear them regardless of the hour.
You were happy, I think, even though you were very sad.

You made it sound magnificent as if you were running
from an entire army, not just that one officer who liked to
grab your ass.

You showed me something about touch—
there was no other way I could have learned,
I wasn’t ready to know it, and it hurt.

With money I had saved for the summertime, we bought
two goats from a shepherd in the Valley of the Goddess.
We brought them home hitchhiking. I know that sounds
impossible now, but this is the way that it was.

One was wet with milk, and we named her Frida
because of her eyebrows. The other was pregnant,
and we called her Persephone, but I can't remember why,
no matter how hard I think of it.

At night I smelled the fear dripping from your pores
and guessed the things that were done to you
according to the imprints your tossing and struggling
left on the mattress.

In the morning we tried to milk the goats, our hands
learned the gesture of closing on the warm, grainy sack
one finger at a time, milk squirting on our smiles.

We packed apples and sandwiches and tea and headed,
the four of us, out to the meadow.

Soon Frida would die of a snake bite. We would carry her
heavy body into the trunk of a borrowed car.
I was laughing so hard my stomach was hurting.

Soon Persephone would be attacked by a pack of wild
dogs. She would deliver two dead baby goats.
The army police would come for you soon.

But that winter, our winter, when morning came we went
out, the four of us, after the milking. There were so many
flowers, it was wasteful, painful to watch.

You just wanted to scream at the earth—
save a little for later, save some for the season of decay.

I knew every new flower was marking the coming of
summer, the annual season of death when the earth aches
for rain, and the generals of the Middle East would start
growing impatient.

Everything was so flammable.
Sooner or later a fire would start, and village men would
run out to hit the flames with blankets.

Out of the flames the snakes and scorpions, the yellow
and the black, all of them will come running toward us.

In the warmth of winter sun we cooled our feet in the
puddles as if each foot was a bottle of champagne.
Floating leaves snuck up and touched our skin,
our feet jumping up, startled every time.

We stayed out there in the meadow while the kale and
chard in our garden grew bittersweet. When the jackals
called out from the valley and the sky began to turn, we
walked home.

Home—where the long goat tongs would sip water
from rusty pots and we would do our best
with the little human tongs we had been given
to sip all that was ours for sipping
for the duration of our winter.

Marva Zohar is poet, homebirth-midwife, and feminist activist. She has practiced midwifery in the U.S., Uganda, and Israel. She is currently completing her MFA in poetry at Bar-Ilan University with an emphasis in poetry documenting gender-based violence. She is the winner of the 2013 Andrea Moriah Memorial Prize in Poetry. Her poems and essays are published or forthcoming in Ilanot Review, Brickplight, Cactus Heart Press, Tule Review, Gag, Ynet, and Midwifery Today Magazine. Marva lives in Jaffa, Israel, by the sea.