I wanted so many things but more than anything I wanted
If only I could write.
My parents taught me words in Russian, French,
I added words of my own. In a new home, new words— words
I shoveled the words like coal into bins, to keep me
warm—community words, story words, Bible words,
wife words, mother words, words from my childhood,
I was afraid of some words—old, forget, remember.
And on top I piled the words of Israel—war words,
Long words: negotiation, mediation, reconciliation, repatriation,
Short words: die, dying, dead, death, calm, truce, border,
I pried open words that were shut like shells and spilled the
meat into sentences and pages and books.
With the arrogance of my craft I imagined I would find the
words to part the sea, banish the evildoers, herald the
light. I didn’t.
Hate. Love. Let me have the words to bridge them and 1 will
Dayenu, “it would be sufficient,” is the refrain of the Passover seder
Pnina Moed Kass has lived in Israel for 36 years—the third country she has made her home. Much of her writing has dealt with the struggle, or pain, or victory of an “outsider.” “Five Words,” an IRAYA Short Story winner, is about a young girl whose mother heroically throws her off a train bound for a concentration camp. When the girl reaches Israel she struggles to become part of kibbutz society. A series of seven picture books in Hebrew, “Berele,” portrays a snail who yearns to be as strong, or as fast, or as adventuresome as the animals around him. “Mr Shaabi” (in a UNICEF anthology) is about an Iraqi Jew trapped in the bombardment of Baghdad. Real Time (Clarion 2004) is a novel about people involved in suicide bus bombing. From the 16-year-old suicide bomber, to the Arab doctor, to the new immigrant from Odessa, to a teenager from Berlin, they are all outsiders.