Who would have expected so many Germans?
Still they arrive,
Half a dozen a week,
With their excellent leather shoes
and superb command of English.
their gold hair shining like a beacon
in the gloom of the dining room.
The old Kibbutzniks have long memories.
The young German volunteers sweep the stables,
scrub the toilets,
collect the garbage,
call the chickens,
and then wring their necks.
They never complain about the filthy work.
Perhaps they are here for such a purpose of penance.
The Israeli men love to fuck the girls.
Greta and Leni don’t mind the knowing winks
and guffaws that follow them,
like buzzing mosquitoes,
in and out of the social hall.
Some can understand Yiddish,
even try to speak it,
horrifying the old women here,
as if they heard something obscene.
I don’t know why these German boys and girls are so happy.
The kibbutz hot and dusty and dry.
The swimming pool empty and baking like a molten crater.
At night the dogs go mad,
kicking up hollering clouds
as they try to rip each other’s throats.
Yet Hans and Dieter sing folks songs by the campfire,
drinking flat Israeli beer,
smoking cheap unfiltered cigarettes
as they cough up phlegm with relish.
They understand this land,
connect with the scorched fields of burnt grass.
The New Yorker,
am so lost here,
craving pavement and broken glass.
Sometimes a German never leaves,
and marries an Israeli,
bringing bright blonde children into the nursery hall.
But their jobs never change:
slaughtering the cows,
cleaning the toilets,
boiling fat for the soap factory.
These old Kibbutzniks have long long memories.
Penny Jackson is an award-winning writer who lives in New York City. Her books include BECOMING THE BUTLERS (Bantam Books) and a short story collection L.A. CHILD and other stories (Untried Reads.) She has won a Pushcart Prize for her short fiction and was a McDowell Colony Fellow. Penny is also a playwright with plays produced in New York, Los Angeles, Edinburgh and Dublin. www.pennybrandtjackson.com