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Tuesday, March 12, 2024


by Rikki Santer

The Yatir Forest in Israel ends at the border with Palestine. The largest human-created forest in Israel, 12-square-mile Yatir was created in the 1960s on semi-arid land with four million trees, 90 percent of them Aleppo pine. —National Geographic, March 24, 2023

after Hamas, after Gaza

A ring of trees in Israel

encircle his legacy, a memorial

from his bowling buddies

three decades ago. The certificate

declared from Leviticus:

When you come to the land

you shall plant trees.

My father never visited that land

and neither have I but I trust

his trees are there still in the Negev Desert

perhaps an arboreal Heinz 57 of carob,

redbud, olive, almond, pear, cypress,

cedar, and oak. 

Bologna sauce is what my father

cooed he’d squeeze out of me

when his hugs were hymns

in gratitude for finally finding

the good life with wife, daughter, son.

His ideas of assimilated Jewish

migrated to my secular shaping. 

Synagogue just on high holidays, 

Sabbath just another Friday night

for cheeseburgers and Hogan’s Heroes. 

And Zionist? He was more B’nai Brith 

bowling league and temple dues.

These days I imagine his Israeli trees

forsaken by milk and honey. Their roots

sponging up bloodshed. Their skins

trembling with gunfire and bomb.

Their bent architecture davening

a shameful Kaddish.

Their barren fractals of branches

reaching and reaching 

for nothing but air.

Rikki Santer’s poetry has been published widely and has received many honors including several Pushcart and Ohioana book award nominations, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in 2023 she was named Ohio Poet of the Year.  She is currently serving as vice-president of the Ohio Poetry Association and is a member of the teaching artist roster of the Ohio Arts Council.  Her twelfth poetry collection Resurrection Letter: Leonora, Her Tarot, and Me is a sequence in tribute to the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington.