“The Air is Cold” by Val Conder

Val Conder


9:20 AM Israeli time, and
we step out of the hotel, into
a beautiful bright (they mostly are)
day. The streets of Haifa are thronged
with people coming and going, and
all seems well … for about 30 seconds.
Exquisite blue skies, soft breeze.
My wife is talking, when I notice
every third person is in uniform,
and every uniformed person is armed …
an M-16 with the magazine in …
Cold chills race down my spine—
these guys aren’t on maneuvers.
Something … very close, very wrong.
My hand begins to open, close, search
for the rifle I left in Nam. I listen
for the crump of mortar rounds,
explosions, sirens, gunfire, screams.
I look for cover,
get ready to throw myself
on top of my wife
who still sees nothing wrong.
A darkness that haunted me in Nam
blots out the sun … The air is cold.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005

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