Immagine & Poesia

“Two Zinnias” poem – “Inside the old guest house of the Notre Dame de Sion, Ein Karem, Jerusalem” painting by Helen Bar-Lev, Israel

inside old building


“Inside the old guest house of the Notre Dame de Sion, Ein Karem, Jerusalem”

copyright Helen Bar-Lev


Two Zinnias


Two zinnias in a glazed vase

clipped by nuns’ careful scissors,

are the only decoration in this spartan room

in a convent in Jerusalem

but it is clean, the mattress comfortable

flagstone floors, yellow- and red-ochre,

have been polished to a gleam by passing shoes

these one hundred years, even more


We have returned to Jerusalem

after an absence of some months –

a jittery city, it is more intolerable than ever

horns constantly honk, faces do not smile

congestion and pollution, agitation,

congregate in its centre

together with beggars,

street musicians, religious Jews, Arabs

an incongruent conglomeration

which beckons in a manner I cannot fathom

and repulses with vengeance,

as though one reaction triggers its opposite,

a contradiction of emotions

that is disturbing considering I lived here

for so long and loved it with passion,

wrote love poems in dedication,

painted its landscapes from every angle

until my ability wilted and the brush

could no longer respond to my commands


So that earlier today when I walked

through this city in the heat of its summer

and watched dusk extinguish the gold from its stones,

I noticed a nostalgia for it – for the once-Jerusalem,

almost expecting the present

to disappear behind a curtain

and lo! enter the Jerusalem of old,

the city I knew and yearned to return to,

smaller, happier, more beautiful


These are my thoughts now, late,

in this sanctuary amidst the city’s insanity,

this secluded quaint convent,

where quail and jay and gay flowers reside,

whose energies are lovely, light,

a place that does not disturb

nor disappoint my memories


While the two zinnias in the vase

blink red and pink

in the heat of the night

and soothe me


© 6.2007 Helen Bar-Lev

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