Security Check at Allenby Bridge
I took an old man’s nail clippers
I tore wrappers off birthday presents
that were never meant for me.
Shook out a thin, quiet woman’s underwear.
Every cup the woman in the dusty black dress
packed in newspaper
white china with a green stripe
went into a plastic cart.
She pulls at my sleeve.
Perhaps she is saying,
“Don’t break them.”
They told me:
Protect the security of the State.
Wear the uniform with pride.
How to say,
hada mamnua: this is confiscated;
ruch min hun: go in this direction;
how to take the women aside to a booth
when the metal detector goes off,
make them remove bracelet after golden bracelet,
pass the hand-held detector
over arms and legs, chest and back.
Little prices to pay
there is no choice.
A humiliation of small details
I fingered a businessman’s toothbrush
I tried to untie the knots of string
holding together the pilgrims’ striped blankets
with my clean white gloves.
The week the pilgrims returned from Mecca
they were detained on buses at the border for three days,
ate cucumbers and yogurt they brought in string bags.
A tall man carrying a beige suitcase told me,
“We are so glad to be home.”
The Jordan river slowed to a trickle;
the lowest spot on earth.
Shed your silver sandals.
Shed your stained white robes.
The concrete is burning.