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Walking to Elijah


She loomed before me like a prophecy,
wearing a black robe that swept the sand
and a dangling crucifix. I stared until

her eyes beamed under a birdlike crest.
She had observed me through the chapel window,
carrying poppies, a worn map, and a note

with ink-blurred numbers, home of my hosts
for Sabbath dinner, 17 Elijah.
The sun went down, squeezed like a fat stewed peach

too bulky for its jar. It would soon be dark.
Her coarse sleeve grazed my arm as she held torn paper.
"I don't know the address, but we'll walk together.

It's good gymnastics." Gliding in black folds
(I thought she'd fly), she waved the scrap
at a man sipping tea. "There's no such place,"

he barked. "Yes, there must be, she's lost her way,"
my black angel insisted, and he joined us.
Lost. Yesterday a bomb had exploded here,

responding to arrests. Shops closed. And now
the Sabbath, day of rest, its supplications
for peace unheeded. Soon our group was growing

into a procession. Asked for Elijah Street,
passersby shrugged and fell in. One lean man
offered advice in Serbian; at the next corner,

a woman stood sobbing, until, curious,
she crept along. People followed meó
or was I following them? Where were we headed?

We passed a mosque, a church in ruins, a cloister.
Hats were skullcaps, knitted cartwheels, scarves,
a fez, over faces with family features.

Inside a basement window, men at prayer
gazed upward: a black condor? No, the nun.
She hovered, then made for another house

and rang a doorbell, the diners sitting down
to Sabbath wine. Still, no one knew Elijah.
It was late before I reached my friends,

and I don't remember anything else that evening
except a black gown, hats, opinions crackling
in a fire of languages that halted prayer.


Grace Schulman

Without a Claim
Mariner Books


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