February 06

Holy Thighs

Ruth Knafo Setton

I know why you went to Israel,
land of milk and honey: my sweet lord,
Jesus or Yahweh or Allah. You wanted
to walk His steps, taste His blood,
follow His laws. But listen, my
children, and I’ll tell you why I went:

thighs. Only thighs, and nothing more.

Come closer, I’ll tell you: He was on TV,
a soldier in olive-green, eyes like cracked
olives. He crouched to light
a cigarette. Camera followed. Rumpled
hair, open shirt. He stood, and camera—
caught by surprise—stayed, lingered:

there, in the inverted V of his groin. Pants

tight, taut against thighs: archway--
open promise to desert, this small kingdom
of passion and pain. Camera and I melted
at the legs on this man: harsh as the land,
rocks of Gibraltar, mountains
to smash my head against.

American thighs were not the same. My boyfriend

had a brilliant mind, crooked smile,
but chunky thighs, padded ass: he semi-
jiggled as he walked. No athlete he:
I’m a talking head, he said proudly
While I, glum, watched him from bed.
He swam two laps and got winded, never

walked when he could drive. I made him

quote Kant, James and Kierkegaard,
but Lord be my witness, I saw only
my soldier, slammed into him—
harder, harder—

I moved to Israel, had no choice.
’68 was still gold and light, a dazzling land:

Hebrew down to our toes, soldier girls

strutting, men’s cigarette packs tucked
in short sleeves. I dragged my suitcase out
and breathed in: holy air—dust, flowers
and sweat. Then I saw them, rubbed
my eyes and blinked to be sure: oh my God,
an army of men: tall, dark, blond,

muscle and bone men, Marlboro ad men,

side-curled men, pale scholar men,
soldiers in khaki and unlaced boots,
grizzled and bearded, virgins and lovers,
sun-dappled and corn-thatched, men
as delicious as my mother’s lasagne,
a black-eyed man who made me ache,

right there on holy ground,

milk and honey drenching me.
I fell to my knees, pressed
my Jewish thighs to the ground,
and cried: Hallelujah! Thank you Lord!
I’ve come home! And I’ll be
ever so good! Amen.