She talked a lot, she did. Too much, (8)

In slow heavy French voice.()

I slid away her casting nets

Of worry words: ‘I feel so alone’

‘Will I reach a train on time?)

So when I heard we were to share

A room, I turned to face,

That I had avoided.

She spoke of Sharon dying.

‘Where were you born? I asked.

Already fixing jigsaw pieces

In my head: an alyah story,

Returning to the homeland

in one of the calls, outside or inside.

‘Why shift, I asked, from Lille to Jerusalem?


‘I was not born a Jew’.

She began and laughed amused

At our wide open eyes

Noga Israeli, I English

Beneath a Neem tree in South India.

As she unravelled her ball of wool,

Her heavy French accentuated voice,

Peeled precisely each step backward,

Adding further shocking twist.

‘In Lille lived a commune of evangelist Protestants,

Gentle people, a minority accustomed to discrimination

By the greater Catholic society. During the war,

They gave succour and help to fleeing Jews.


But I was not born a Protestant’. A pause.

Another forming jigsaw piece discarded.

My father was from a patriarchal Catholic mould,

Dominant, authoritarian: he right, they wrong.

Exasperated, my mother left when I was 5.

She abandoned us. My brother was 2.

He remarried. A Protestant woman,

Who did not like me. Nor I her.

But I changed schools to Protestant.

And so began my path away

From Catholic, Father and Lille.

From New Testament to Old.

I first approached the liberal Jews,

But with confidence I dived deeper,

To the Orthodox.

At 20 I stepped from the shore,

And landed in Jerusalem.


My younger brother reacted too

For me providing an unwitting foil.

For my father: a Jevovah Witness

Was far worse than a Jew.


I married, a Swiss Jew. I have

Two daughters. I had one son.

On a motor bike, he drove

The length of India, then crashed

In a Jerusalem street, at 42.


That was two years ago.

I did not cry for 6 months.


I came to India, to Jaya, to Nanital,

There I wept and could not stop.

Two, three months in one place.

I could not move. With Jaya

You cannot hide. Slowly I turned my face.


I am not born a Buddhist.


Eight years ago, I left my husband.

For no better reason than I had to.

He kept our son. My beloved son.

Who felt I had abandoned him.

My daughters to the same


Into this void, fell the words

Of Stephen Folder, Israeli Jew,

Uncompromising yet gentle words,

The Buddha’s words: impermanence.

With Tiech Nat Han talking Zen

Easy in my mother tongue,

I took refuge:

Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.


I am an orthodox.

I love shabhat, I love this Buddha path,

Mindfulness weaves happily the two.


We sit eating momo in a Sarnath dive,

She and I. I have invited her.

‘I came back to Budhgaya, Sarnath,

To fix something I thought was still broken,

But I see now nothing ever was.

Sometimes I could scream with sadness,

But it’s just feeling passing.

Deep inside is a joy

that no sadness can every cover.

Yes even the feeling of being alone

Is not stronger. She laughs


I have a grandson now, 6 months old.

My daughter lost an unborn child when

Dan-il died, but conceived again.

‘I told him of Dan-il’s death’

She told me the other day.


I dream one day to bring them here.

My daughters to Jaya Open Dharma, India.


Sarnath 2006

Edited with Tammy Mendam Writers 2010

Edited Holton 2012

Edited Halesworth 2012

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