Spotlight: Summercamp Sirens / Days Like This / Rattlesnake

Summercamp Sirens

When cities are burning
and children sleep in your bed
you can’t measure suffering
like sugar, one tablespoon
at a time. Mornings are full
of orange juice and hope
and getting out the door
to camp and watering flowers
walking as if you forgot
that there’s a war on
and that hairstyles
and nailpolish
can get territorial,
and games like Catan
are played on the ground.
We find insects smashed
between pages of books
we read to stop remembering
and find acorns on windowsills
thimbles too big to protect
even thumbs. You snap
pictures, nails, tempers.
You have cornstarch dreams
tinted with food color.
Your lips move as you read
headlines and you spell
everything: hate, bodies,
soldiers, rockets, fear.
But you can’t spell sirens
language is heavy as feathers
and you wonder why the birds
don’t burst.

Days Like This

When you hear that a rocket fell
make black coffee, dark and sweet.
When you hear that a soldier died
bake cookies, then eat them all.
When you look outside your window
watch for birds, they know everything.
When you lose power and it’s dark
make love, even to yourself.
If you love a fruit
you cut it open.
Sometimes snakes
eat their own tails.
And forests grow
in the strangest places:
over graves and under tunnels.
Children ask what these words mean:
Hamas: I tell them anger
Siren: I tell them song
Tunnel: I tell them water
Soldier: I tell them dream
This is how we learn to forgive.


mid-July but it feels
like August when the rains
don’t come and the air
is filled with the smell
of animal death and sand
when iced drinks melt
faster than you can drink
them and everything sweats
bullets, dread, fear
everyone gets a chance
at forgiveness but not
in this heat, it leaves
no room for change
for different maps
everyone knows everyone
and yet
we fight
and spit
and cry
and break hearts
Our children learn
to fire shotguns
and wring chicken necks
like hands just to put
an end to suffering
I love this place
beautiful and cracked
where every leaf reminds
us, and neighbors’ fights
take the shape of rockets
falling, I could be any
where, staring at the sky
and driving down the endless
asphalt, listening to malls
and indifference, but I’m still
in love, and the grass reminds
me, parched and dry, that
wildflowers make the sound
of a thousand tiny stars


Rena_Rossner_optRena Rossner is a graduate of the Writing Seminars program at The Johns Hopkins University. She also holds degrees from Trinity College Dublin and McGill University. She currently works as a literary and foreign rights agent at The Deborah Harris Agency in Jerusalem, Israel. Her poetry and short fiction has been published or is forthcoming from Carve Magazine, Midwest Quarterly, The Mayo Review, Rattle, Chicago Literati, Arc 23, and more. Her cookbook, Eating the Bible, has been translated into 5 languages and is published by Skyhorse Press. Her first novel is out on submission.