Two Poems from A Full Life by Joseph Cohen

 

The plague

Like the tribes of Israel crossing the desert,

I work in the sun in North Africa,

Baking on a sand dune.

Coming from the south,

A black cloud approaches,

It bellows, travels speedily, hugging the earth.

Is this a biblical tableau

Unfolding like a nightmare?

Within minutes it envelops me

And everything about me.

Droning, whistling and buzzing,

Millions of locusts eat anything edible.

The shield the earth from the sun

Much like an eclipse.

As children in Brooklyn, we caught

Innocent grasshoppers in empty lots.

But these were larger, relentlessly driven

By an invisible energy.

Soon, darkness turns into light.

The deluge rises, heads north.

Dazed, I return to my tasks

Working in a staging area,

Waiting for orders to go to the front.

Quiet falls upon the land,

Nothing left but metal and wood.

 

Mosaic of their Fantasy

In the village square of Orange,

Near Avignon, Algerian urchins

Play and sing at sunset.

Roman ruins as a background,

The light clear and warm,

The stage is set for the tableaux.

Hoe best to capture the colors

And seasoning of their young lives through my lens:

With a smile, I appoint Nazira the leader

And ask her to direct her

Playmates to play their roles

for my camera.

She takes easily to the part of a queen

Tending to her minions

Lateefa does her

Scarf dance with grace.

Joining in the fun, karim stans

Proudly, ready to on the world.

Adela dances as if she

Were performing on the banks

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