by Ellen Summerfield
Born on the same day as the state of Israel,
I’m bound to her like twins are,
not those who grow up in the same family,
wearing yellow polka-dot skirts,
parting their hair on the same side,
and often mistaken for the other,
but the ones who are separated at birth
and find out much later, upon reuniting,
that they toss their head in the same way,
take pleasure in similar things,
finish each other’s sentences.
My sister Israel has lived far away—
launching missiles while I pitched a softball,
preparing for battle instead of flute recitals,
donning fatigues when I dressed for parties—
but she’s no stranger to me,
for I can penetrate her layers of scar tissue,
her body cast, her gas mask,
and see her fears. We’re both afraid.
We’ve inherited fears that won’t go away,
that taint us like huge purple birthmarks.
In my tidy suburban existence,
they accompany my daily steps.
They surface at night
in my protected American bed.
Because I, like my twin, have grown up
hearing the cries of my ancestors,
I understand her aggression and swagger,
her faith in power over trust,
her dread that unhealed wounds will be
reopened yet again, her vow to unload
the weight of two millenia and redirect
the ill-fated history of a people,
whatever the cost.
We are family, but the truth is:
being oceans and continents apart,
we do not know each other.
We are twin strangers.
When we meet, will she welcome me,
reject me, care about me? Will I recognize her,
believe in her? Will we embrace?