The Clay Urn / Paul Rabinowitz


The Clay Urn

a novella by

Paul Rabinowitz

ISBN: 978-1-59948-787-8, 98 pages, $13.95 (+ shipping)

Release Date: March 25, 2020


Paul Rabinowitz’ photography and short fiction have appeared in Long Exposure Magazine, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Pif Magazine, and others. His most recent book is Limited Light, a collection of black and white portraits of artists. He is the founder of ARTS By The People and has produced multimedia performances and poetry animation films that have appeared on stages and in theaters in New York City, New Jersey, Tel Aviv and Paris. In the 1980s, Paul lived in Israel and served in an infantry unit in the army and a reconnaissance unit in the reserves.



The Clay Urn is a gripping story of humanity, love, and finding beauty in a war-torn life. Rabinowitz has an eye for delicate sensory details, which he sets brilliantly amongst a jagged landscape of fighting, destruction, and pain. The Clay Urn is a must read. ~Erin Jones, author of Tinfoil Crowns


The Clay Urn is a moving portrait of life in the midst of war. Poetic and visceral with striking moments of magical realism, it’s a powerful and timeless story that touches audiences with its humanity and connection. ~Jasmine Smith


This is a necessary story to hold close for a lifetime. The tension is breathtaking. The relationships and experiences fill me with gratitude and a shared understanding of love, loss and resiliency, of making sense of the senseless. The moment you reach the end, you’ll want to start from the beginning again. And again. We will turn to “The Clay Urn” often for mercy and grace – just as with an old friend. ~Lynne McEniry, author of some other wet landscape

The Clay Urn

Chapter 1

Ilana searches for her glasses on the bedside table. Looking beyond Ari’s sleeping body and through the large open window above his head, her eyes settle on a crescent moon floating high above the Judean Hills. Stars pulsate in the expansive night sky. A deep ravine snakes its way through the arid desert to the lowest point on earth. Ilana exhales and wonders if the attraction will last forever. He doesn’t snore. She’ll have many nights of uninterrupted sleep. Her grandfather snores like thunder, and her grandparents are still together. Her grandfather survived Auschwitz and resettlement, two terrorist attacks and four wars. He deserves to snore. She prefers the window closed at night; the desert air can be cool. Yesterday, she saw a nightshirt in a store on Ben Yehuda Street. She ran her fingers over the heavy material. “Jerusalem can be cool at night,” the shopkeeper had said. Ilana misses Tel Aviv: the hot, humid air, the beachfront and café. She misses her grandparents. They’re frail and stay close to home. In the afternoon, they will go out to the seaside promenade, find a bench and let the sun graze their skin. Her grandfather will rub her grandmother’s arm. Liquid eyes will look out beyond the horizon.

“Dis is good,” he’ll say.

A group of children will chase a sandpiper. The little bird will scurry along, jumping over the white foam, shrieks of laughter echoing off the incoming waves. A vendor with thin, tanned legs will haul ice cream in an oversized metal cooler, the worn leather strap cutting his shoulder. Pushing forward, he’ll move quickly along the sand, brandishing a blue popsicle stick. The children will yell with excitement, their mothers’ eyes shifting from intense conversations to check the chaos.

“Dis is good,” her grandfather will repeat to her grandmother.

The late afternoon sun will dip below the water, a silver glow pushing through the mist. Rising slowly from the bench, her grandmother will angle her grandfather’s beret and look towards the busy street. He’ll extend his hand and recall the day little Ilanachka darted across the street. Ambulance sirens whirled. Mothers screamed.

“I’m okay, grandpa,” Ilana had said as the medics carefully lifted her onto the stretcher. She squeezed her grandfather’s hand and pressed it to her cheek. His eyes welled up. “Don’t worry, grandpa. I’m OK.”

Waiting for the light to change he’ll look into his wife’s eyes and let the memory drift away.

“Dis way?” he’ll say.

Smiling, she’ll squeeze his thick hand. “Yes, dis way.”

Ilana adjusts her glasses. She stares at the subtle movement of Ari’s chest, his skin stretched tightly around well-defined muscles. Small breaths. She wants to slip her arm under his waist and pull him close, feel the warmth of his excitement, put her hand between his legs, whisper words into his ear, and let him mount her waiting body. She inhales. A bright star streaks across the open window. In the muddled blackness a dog shrieks. She rests her head upon the pillow, inhales, and finishes. Ari does not wake.

Friday will be the first time Ari will meet her grandparents. They’ll walk down Arlozorov Street. Ilana will hold Ari’s hand. They will find her grandparents sitting at a table under a red and white awning. She’ll make the introductions. “Dis is like Paris,” her grandfather will say to them. “You’ve never been to Paris,” her grandmother will remind him.

Ilana will smile and rest her head on her grandfather’s shoulder. She’ll pull him close and say, “I love you.” They’ll drink cappuccinos. He’ll ask Ari about future plans, about his army service—where he was, what he did. Her grandmother will listen. She’ll study Ari’s eyes, the timing of his smile. Ilana will glance at the clock on the wall and signal for the check. Her grandfather will say something in Yiddish, Ilana will answer in Hebrew, her grandmother will respond in Polish. They’ll rise and her grandfather will point towards the seaside promenade. “Dis way,” he’ll say.

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