Ruth Kessler

RUTH Traubner KESSLER grew up in Poland and Israel before moving to the U.S. Her publications include the chapbook Fire Ashes Wings, and some 80 poems in journals and anthologies. Her poems have been set to music and made into an artist book. Awards include NYSCA grants and Yaddo, MacDowell and VCCA fellowships. She lives in NYC and Rochester, NY.

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Love Poem

Tel Aviv

Reinvented city, jealous, of
                                        contagious heartbeat,
     wrinkled, sun scorched dreams.
                                                            Your tattoos – wild urban gallop, the
                                        sea’s lapping lullabies,
summer’s salt and sweat.

               Always outdoors –
                                        your naked arms of light;
               your glory, pedestrian and brazen, foreign
                                                            fast-forward fast-
                                                                                                    forward dance –
your own harsh rules of beautiful ugliness.

               Racing always from newer to
                                        smart youths brewing libations of futures;
over shouk and surf
now your neon masks.

               Only behind the sycamore tree with
its timorous memories, the Old, misty-
eyed, wan with concrete blossoms,
                                        waving from your
distant spring.

               Archeology of change:
those who attempt to unearth old shards –
the simple yellow smallness of you,
unblotched innocence,
               your maiden name of longing
                                                            before all the honking needs.

All my years the shadows of your salty breath
               pulsing in my being,
my roots tangled in your multitude
                                                            of sand grains:
gorging and
childhood crib –
                              hard harbor for tomorrow’s echoes –
then and always –

In your life-long womb, in your sea-embrace,
how can I turn away
                                        from such tides
                                                                                               such tides?


Done the Palio. All your
loiterings over Sienna’s rooftops.

Bloated, Limoncello-drunk, from
cypress to cypress you staggered back home, dodging
deftly the nosy church spire, swaggering
lustily through the open window –
a glitterati-flanked reveler.

In the vineyard below frogs and cicadas gossiped your exploits.
A bat scattered tatters of night among treetops.
Fireflies semaphored news from farmhouse to farmhouse.
Against the indigo dome of the sky someone painted a ruined castle.

From the olive groves
an invisible owl kept calling to us:
Touch this moment,
touch this pregnant silence…


the afternoon sun’s ancient oration,
the bees languid drone around
pots of red geranium.

the empty streets,
the weathered stone
houses in the vaulting heat.

Who is threading her
way among heady
vineyards? the cascading
splendor of bougainvillea


below, the all-
sea’s azure
whispers the

blossom of
her olive skin, hazel
eyes, her night-
mysteries’-braided hair.

Road – silver-looping
around verdant mountains,
gifting the town the
lemon trees’ gold bounty –

Who will paint their pungent
radiance on a blue clay pot?
Who will glaze their simple songs
of seasonless sunshine?


Hear history’s reverberating trumpets,
and tell me:
               Was not my voice amply heard? –

               In the furious crash of waves against
a thousand ships –
               In the silver flash
of spears inscribing for a decade on the sundered
air my deathless name –
               In the bloody cries of nameless men, the anguished
screams of untold women, children, on
that fateful night?

               Was it not heard in countless curses
                                                                           hurled at my shadow –
               Untold verses in my honor
memorized down centuries
to follow?

Just as my face –
concealed, God-provenanced –
                              was seen by all above
the predatory arms of famished
flames that night

so long as man’s commanding compass –
                                                                                          like the Gods’ –
                                                                                                         will be desire,
always will be.
               Always will be.

Poetry in this post: © RUTH Traubner KESSLER
Published with the permission of RUTH Traubner KESSLER