Visitation Sunset invades Palestinian villages apocalyptically. After dinner at the makeshift restaurant he was invited to linger for the rest of the evening. Beside the traditional cube-house with its shallow dome, a path led to an outer staircase, the path concreted over apart from a gap for a cable of vine-stem to twist up through, and out of sight, over the roof. ‘Go up,’ they said, ‘Itla’ fooq’. Above, the plastic chairs were arranged in a rough circle with their backs to the walls of a spacious upper room: their feet rubbed on the polished concrete floor. ‘Ahlan wa sahlan,’ the grandfather announced in welcome. Around a dozen family members were sitting in the room, and a somewhat ceremonious conversation ensued. Anise tea in glasses was brought in, on a tray, and handed round, and later, coffee. At half past ten some of the group made a move to leave, whereupon, ‘Badri!’, the grandfather objected, ‘It’s early!’ Everyone remained for another half an hour – this was the daily ritual. *** On an afternoon of afterglow, they walked through the unnamed corridor-streets of the village – old stone, infrequent windows, gently veering and climbing ways. Round a corner, in line with the houses either side of it, was a dilapidated and seemingly abandoned structure, perhaps two stories, but the ceiling between them too low for ready entry into the shadowy space underneath. This building was said to be the oldest in the village, variously reckoned as Roman, Byzantine, or Ottoman. ‘Is this the Roman ruin?’ he asked, lingering in front of it. ‘It’s just a cattle-shed!’, she laughed. *** The church was dedicated to the Visitation, its site one of a number claimed as the event’s true locality. A protective curtain wall draped round the complex. He arrived at the hour of the evening blush, as a small crowd gathered in the pebble-cobbled plaza in front of the church’s west face – talking, playing, settled on the girding bench-steps to wait – electronic bells rang out from the tower, pulsing over the hillsides, olive groves, and the red earth.
Martin Potter (https://martinpotterpoet.home.blog) is a British-Colombian poet and academic, based in Manchester, and his poems have appeared in Acumen, The French Literary Review, Eborakon, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Poetry Village, and other journals. His pamphlet In the Particular was published by Eyewear in December, 2017.