A Life Not Lived, A City Not Departed

Photo: Remains of the Robinson’s Arch of the Second Temple

This poem germinated in a poetry workshop held in downtown LA in July 2021 and dedicated to Tisha b’Av, a Jewish holiday that recalls the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. Some of the references here allude to my childhood in Moscow and adult life in San Francisco and So. California, with a (sadly) brief summer lived in Jerusalem in 2019.

When the City fell,
why was I chosen not to re-populate it?
Given instead the continents to wander
and never settle fully in one place?

When through winters of snow
Through keeping my Jewish head down low
Through Soviet parades
and Golden Gates
Through bars and beaches
and sunburn stiches
Through anthems sung loud
from the lips of the proud
Through culture wars won
that weren’t my own
I knew I belong here

I will return
To walk the limestone steps of the pilgrim path to the Temple
Ten feet below the ground and yet ascending
To hike through the weeds and thorns of the Valley of the Cross
Dried but so fragrant
To scan Yiddish broadsides pasted in the maze
of One Hundred Gates
To raise my eyes to the turquoise heaven of the Sephardic shul Ben Zakai
To watch women in regal headwraps
with eyes of opal blue and jasper
and their men in black-and-white
drink coffee on Ben-Yehuda Street
And as the Sabbath descends
To wander lush, carless streets from Baka’a to Geula
and sing midnight nigun in Nahalat Shiv’a

You can bomb me at the Jaffa Gate
You can stab me in the Gay parade
My bus may burn
But I will return
For I belong here

As long the City stands
I have nothing to mourn,
only much to accept

Text and photo © Lane Igoudin, 2021