By Tara Ballard
Al-Quds, Nablus, Tulkarem! The Drivers call:
Which servees we shall take together? We want
Ramallah, the height of God. We have friends there.
Kaddish? How much? ‘Ashreen shekel. Twenty total,
as you like. That is all. Yalla, let’s go. Climb through
the door of yellow taxi-bus: an old Mercedes, leather
seats split, windows belching a gust of tobacco smoke.
I am the one woman. My husband and I in the back row.
Eight men turn to examine us. Whole trip will be one o’clock—
ah, one hour, yes. Eyes fasten to my hands, folded
on this skirted lap, and we are patient as Driver hurries
through Wadi an-Nar, desert Valley of Fire.
First checkpoint, easy passage. Palestinian flag
painted on metal trash bins. Two soldiers with
machine guns nod, and we are through. Next checkpoint,
not so easy. Even inside the Territories, IDF has many.
My eyes finger the purse, identities safe within.
Husband’s words—only if we have to—enter
my ear, and we turn our glance outside. But this?
What? A barrier before the point, because today
is different. Today, huge stones block this road. Piles
of rock front like bold words. Driver’s hands yell
in irritation: Shoof! Look, we must find another way, another
road. Ah, yes, nothing is certain here, but this. Yalla, let’s go.