(turning nine in captivity in Gaza – October 23, 2023)
Blue sky, white clouds, yellow sun,
red balloons, hundreds and hundreds of red balloons
on sinuous strings held by the hands of children and grands,
strangers and friends all over the land at the far eastern end
of the Mediterranean, where Isaac and Ishmael
once were brothers.
Balloons held by hands gripping sinuous string
until fingers unfold at the stroke of nine, all at the same time,
releasing balloons to suffuse the sky, to float, to fly free
on the whims of the feral wind.
Balloons answer to no god.
And wind knows no borders,
no prison walls.
Yet guided by puffs of prayer, perhaps,
on this day you turn nine, you will somehow see
blue sky, white clouds, yellow sun, red balloons,
hundreds and hundreds of red balloons, the boundless
love of a bereft land asking only, in this moment, to hug you,
and all your brothers, safely home.
About the Poem
NBC Nightly News on October 23, 2023, ended with a story of an Israeli boy turning nine that day in captivity in Gaza. Ohad had been taken hostage on October 7. The NBC story was visually beautiful, showing balloons released into the sky all over Israel, in the hopes that the wind might carry them over Gaza, and Ohad might see. But the lingering heartbreak of the story is children caught up in a seemingly never-ending war.
About the Author
Elizabeth Edelglass is a fiction writer and book reviewer who finds herself writing poetry in response to today’s world—personal, national, and global. Her fiction has won the Reynolds Price Fiction Prize, the William Saroyan Centennial Prize, the Lilith short story contest, and the Lawrence Foundation Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Fish Prize and won third prize in the Voices of Israel Reuben Rose Competition.