Yael S. Hacohen

Of Women in the Tent

Turn off the light! someone would bellow.
         Then the fireflies and tiger mosquitoes
run like messengers between our cots,
         humming their constellations of combat.
We are spent dry after a day of discipline,
         of marching, of perfect formations.
In the darkness, we rub our cherry
         bruises with coconut oil and menthol slims.
We unzip our kitbags, and like Pandora
         who loosened the great jar’s lid,
out comes flying all manners of hell—
         tampons, energy bars, knockoff jasmine perfume,
phone-chargers coiled like thin white snakes.
         We tuck our M16s under our pillows,
and someone, inevitably, caresses
         the rough of the pistol’s grip.
Someone, inevitably, whispers too loudly
         and wakes up Ortal.
Her tiny scorpion-like eyes glowing.
         In the darkness, we are all desert dangerous.
Our daylight quite selves bursting open,
         ripping at the seams.


Why should a word be a shield?
If anything, it drags me

back to the war.
The metal of my mind

rounded onto itself
like the 5.56 casing of an M-16 bullet.

When I stand in a rain field in January,
I align the sights of the riffle.

Shoot, my CO whispers.
I listen to my lungs fill and empty.

And I cannot pull the trigger
just to make it stop.



Yael S. Hacohen is the author of Between Sanctity and Sand (Finishing Line, 2021). She is a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley in Rhetoric. She has an M.F.A in Poetry from New York University, where she was an ‎NYU Veterans Workshop Fellow, International Editor at Washington Square Literary ‎Review, and Editor-in-Chief at Nine Lines Literary Review. Her poems appear in The Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Bellevue Literary Review, Every Day ‎Poets Magazine, Nine Lines, and many more. She was a finalist in the 2015 Glimmer Train Very Short Story Competition, the 2015 ‎Consequence Prize in Poetry, and the 2013 MSLexia Poetry Prize for Women.‎ Yael lives in Israel with her husband and two daughters.