Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


A Documentary
by Sondra Zeidenstein

Make the smallest distinction…
And heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
--The Faith Mind Sutra

Two mothers in Jerusalem: one Jewish, Israeli, one Muslim, Palestinian.

The daughter of one, a suicide bomber.

The daughter of the other, victim of her bomb.

Rachel and Ayat. Both seventeen. Same dark long hair, large dark eyes,
same color skin, same height.

They didn’t know whose body parts belonged to whose body.

For four years since the bombing, Rachel’s mother seeks to meet the
mother of Ayat,

to convince her to condemn the act of her daughter, to urge “her people”
to turn against violence.

She needs her daughter to have died for something.

For four years the mothers are kept apart: impassable checkpoints, fear
of the camp’s dark streets.

Finally they meet, each in front of a camera crew.

They speak to each other’s faces on a tv screen, the covered mother and
the uncovered, each one with a speech

put together over a lifetime:

Say it, that your daughter did wrong. Say you want peace.

When I have a home, when I have my land back, when the occupation
is over.

back and forth:

When you stop, I’ll stop.

No, you stop first.



My land.

No, my land.

The grooves of language.

Rachel was always at my side. She helped me, always.

Ayat was distinguished. She loved her studies. I would not have let her,
I would have held her back if I knew. But this is what she chose.

Each side given full voice. Even handed. No tanks, no bombs, no stones.

This is not Israel. This is my country.

This is not your country. Just say your daughter is wrong.

Just say you’ve taken my country. Just live in a camp as I do.

Just say peace comes first.

This is bedrock, ground--two pairs of dark eyes grief worn.

I listen until there is no right or wrong.

Sondra Zeidenstein's poems have been published in magazines, journals and anthologies, and in a chapbook collection entitled Late Afternoon Woman. A Detail in that Story is her first book; Resistance is her second. She is editor of several anthologies including A Wider Giving: Women Writing after a Long Silence and Family Reunion: Poems about Parenting Grown Children, and publisher of Chicory Blue Press, a small literary press, now twenty years old, that focuses on strong writing by older women.