Two Poems by Diane Mehta

BOMB 79 Spring 2002

After Oslo

Behind the old battles, calls for uni-national
sovereignty, peace is the initiative, after factional

alliances spin their wheels and come to grief
that having no alternative will better your beliefs

more than any New York Times or BBC,
Anti-Defamation or Arab League or national unity

government, or, for that matter, you and me.
Not believing in heaven, but in eternity

makes it easier to conceive, or concede
there are more interpretations than we need,

heartbreak to spare: children without heads,
women without legs, the routine of blood-red

sunsets over settlements, refugees.
Seen from Europe, Gaza shares Tel Aviv’s

horizon; from Jordan, the view is a river
rimmed with mines, a natural border of silver

water. In between the sea and the river, orange
groves line up their soldiers, mobs lynch

whoever they pull over, and nations
pull out their embassies. No patience

for Oslo; streets are no safer.
Real countries do not exist on paper.

Shopping for Volcanic Bread at the Greenmarket

Morning thick with smoked trout and pretzels
   in red canisters, wild roses
slanted over the lips of green buckets, purple-shaded
   Macintosh, Empire, Macoun.
Checkerboard dazzle: bouquets of radishes
   flanked by pumpkin and purple cabbage.
We also wait to be bought. At dusk,
   vendors undersell themselves.
Do we buy for cheap what we never needed—
   organic spelt, corn relish
made four ways, pinwheels of volcanic bread?
   It’s a global market, we parrot,
as if the principal rules cannot be broken—
   the produce we purchase
spins our economy, deepens our investment
   in ourselves so we can help others
less savvy find that same speed-limited road
   to open-market independence.
Each century evaluates, according to history
   books, the liberties it thinks
it guaranteed, the evils it upended; today
   our code of conduct is a dollar
but there’s more for the money. Take it or leave
   evils in their place (take it).
A woman and her daughter sell bitter orange
   marmalade at a small table
at the Greenmarket; hand-bottled tastings
   of sweet-and-tart pain.
The hoards pay $7.50, 30% more than it costs
   at the Garden of Eden two blocks away.
The more we charge, the more we pay
   in riches and the unraveling
of them, when the time comes to explain
   our appetites and whether the flavors
would have been better blended if we followed
   directions or if we had experimented.

Diane Mehta is a poet and critic living in New York. Her most recent poems are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Witness, The Gettysburg Review, and Poetry.

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Originally published in

BOMB 79, Spring 2002

Featuring interviews with Steven Holl, Stephen Mueller, Janet Cardiff, Laurie Sheck, Cornelius Eady, Victor Pelevin, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Bill Frisell.

Read the issue