Regrets | Holly Day

Regrets

I feel I have failed my children
Because they’ve never been on safari
I’ve never taken them to the ocean
They’ve barely left this state. I comfort myself

With thoughts of children crying in airplanes
Getting seasick, carsick, memories
Of how poorly I traveled when I was a child. 
I’m saving them from having these memories themselves. 

Years from now, they’ll hate me
For not introducing them to elephants
Or whales, or seals in their natural habitat
Never get to see herds of giraffes or horses or antelopes
Loping across far-off arid plains.

©2022 Holly Day
All rights reserved


Holly Day…

…has worked as a freelance writer for over 30 years, with over 7,000 published articles, poems, and short stories and 40 books and chapbooks—most recently, the nonfiction books, Music Theory for Dummies, Walking Twin CitiesTattoo FAQ,  and History Lover’s Guide to Minneapolis, and the poetry books A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing),  In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press), I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Press), Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds (Cyberwit), and Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press). Her writing has been nominated for a National Magazine Award, a 49th Parallel Prize, an Isaac Asimov Award, eleven Pushcart awards, three Dzanc Book’s Best of the Web awards, a Rhysling Award, and two Best of the Net awards, and she has received two Midwest Writer’s Grants, a Plainsongs Award, a Sam Ragan Prize for Poetry, and a Dwarf Star Award from the Science Fiction Poetry Association.



From a Friend Now Living in Israel | Holly Day

From a Friend Now Living in Israel

I hear horrible things on the news, in movies
and call her up to ask if they’re true
what it’s like to live around such atrocities
if she doing anything about it herself.

She laughs and tells me that everyone
hates Israel, that she’s gotten used to living in a country
that outsiders just don’t understand. “It’s all lies,”
she adds, says something about anti-Semitism

and Arabs, and how people mostly just want to live with their own
but that people are welcome to live wherever they want
she doesn’t mind.

Roses
Digital Art
Miroslava Panayotova ©2022

Poem ©2022 Holly Day
All rights reserved


Holly Day…

…has worked as a freelance writer for over 30 years, with over 7,000 published articles, poems, and short stories and 40 books and chapbooks—most recently, the nonfiction books, Music Theory for Dummies, Walking Twin CitiesTattoo FAQ,  and History Lover’s Guide to Minneapolis, and the poetry books A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing),  In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press), I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Press), Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds (Cyberwit), and Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press). Her writing has been nominated for a National Magazine Award, a 49th Parallel Prize, an Isaac Asimov Award, eleven Pushcart awards, three Dzanc Book’s Best of the Web awards, a Rhysling Award, and two Best of the Net awards, and she has received two Midwest Writer’s Grants, a Plainsongs Award, a Sam Ragan Prize for Poetry, and a Dwarf Star Award from the Science Fiction Poetry Association.



Moon Days Details | Holly Day

Gerry Shepherd
Variant One
©2021

Full Moon

We put through the request for more teeth, sharper teeth
retractable claws and thicker skin. The directive is fright
but it takes a couple tries before Development gets it right.

The changes need to be quickly reversible, otherwise
the game will be over before it begins. We punch the new changes
into the computer cards with careful precision, feed them through the input slot, 
wait. 

The changes correspond with the full moon, plenty of light
to make sure the schematics were followed properly. 
already, we note where improvements could be made, plan careful phrasing 
so as not to offend the tech department.

3 Days

I have the sudden desire

To eat paint chips, drink turpentine, root around in the garden
For toadstools and mushrooms
Fight a bear. The phone sits in its cradle, refusing to liberate me

From all of the good choices in life that brought me to this point
The conscious good-food choices and intermittent exercise
The firm shake of my head when offered dangerous substances

To ingest, to smoke, to shove up my ass.
There are things I did that could have led me to this point
But it doesn’t seem like there were enough.

Details and Damning

She tried to only focus on the cool, crisp raspy scratch
of starched hospital sheets, focus on how her sweat refused to be absorbed 
into the rubber mattress just beneath the sheets
clung to her backside in a warm pool. She wondered if
she rolled over, it would look as though she’d wet the bed
if she could roll over, if her friends would just look away
embarrassed for her, but she couldn’t roll over, she knew she couldn’t.

Her friends gathered around her bed and tried to distract her
from the chance, the fact, no, the chance, let’s not lose hope
that she would never be able to roll over again, to walk again
might never leave this room again, maybe frighten her 
away from the edge of death,  because yes, there could be death 
looming somewhere in the room, perhaps even capital D Death, 
a specter only she could see.
She would get better soon, they assured her.
They’d come by every day until she could come home.

There were more inane words of encouragement
from her parents, her lover, a stranger who had seen the accident
from the rails of a highway overpass, a stranger who kept describing
the accident in excited detail, as though someone in the room
might be writing a book about her accident
and he wanted them to get it right. All she remembered was seeing
rabbits scurrying out of the way as she spun out of control
a deer staring, curious, from the safety of a nearby stand of birch and fir
brittle, yellow cornstalks rising in waves to catch the car as it finally fell.

©2021 Holly Day
All rights reserved

Posted in Film/Documentaries/Reviews, General Interest, Guest Writer, Video

The making of a 1949 Hollywood film in the little town of Much Wenlock (Shropshire, England)

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It’s hard to imagine, but in 1949 Hollywood descended on my little home town of Much Wenlock. Both its locations and inhabitants featured in David O. Selznick’s screen version of Mary Webb’s 1917 novel, Gone to Earth. The film’s star, Oscar-winner Jennifer Jones, certainly looks the part, and in this respect she well conjures the book’s central character, the untamed but doomed spirit that is Shropshire lass, Hazel Woodus.

As an American, Jones of course had to receive specialist drilling in the Shropshire dialect, a form of speech which these days is scarcely heard, but would have been the norm during Webb’s childhood. She writes it very clearly in the book’s dialogue, and Jones makes a good stab at it, but it perhaps sounds overdone to modern ears. People in England do not speak like this any more.
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Mary Webb herself spent her adolescence in Much Wenlock, and for the rest of her too-short life lived in various parts of rural Shropshire. She knew country ways intimately. Her writing is rooted always in the landscapes of her own growing up – the upland wilds and rugged long-gone lead-mining and peasant farming communities, the small market towns. But although she observes the hardship and poverty with a keen eye, she has tended to be dismissed as a writer of the romantic and rustic, her work parodied in Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm.

In her day, though, she had some very well known literary admirers including Rebecca West and John Buchan (Thirty-Nine Steps). I think her novels deserve a rediscovery. Her themes are still relevant today: male attitudes to women being one of them; human cruelty and wilful destructiveness for another.

In Gone to Earth, the central character, Hazel Woodus, is eighteen, motherless, and living in an isolated cottage with her coffin-making, bee-keeping father, Abel. Her only companion is a tame fox, Foxy, and her only guidance in life is dubiously received from her dead mother’s book of gypsy spells.

Two men want her: the Baptist Minister who marries her and tries to protect what he sees as her innocent spirit, and the fox-hunting landowner who wants only bodily possession. Hazel herself is torn between respectable conformity and her growing sexual awareness. And if I tell you that the term ‘gone to earth’ is the huntsman’s cry when a fox goes underground to escape the hounds, you will know that the story does not end well.

In other senses the book’s plot may be purely allegorical. Above all, it is about the pointless destruction of natural beauty and freedom. Webb was writing it at a time when three of her younger brothers were fighting in the World War 1 trenches.

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Much Wenlock 1949 in outside and inside the medieval Guildhall: scenes from Gone to Earth, director Michael Powell

100_6020_thumbThe making of the film did not run altogether smoothly, and there are perhaps some parallels between Hazel as an object of male possession and control , and the position of the film’s star, Jennifer Jones. She had had an affair with the executive producer, David O. Selznik, and by 1949 they were married. He wanted Gone to Earth to be solely a showcase for her, and he did not think the film’s makers, the fabulous storytelling team of director Michael Powell, and screenwriter, Emeric Pressburger, (The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) had done her justice. He even took them to court for not producing what was in the script. He lost the case, but he still had the right to make an alternative version.

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The upshot was that for the 1952 American release, renamed The Wild Heart , he chopped all the scenes that did not make the most of Jones, had new scenes shot, and to make sense of the makeover added a commentary by Joseph Cotton. The film was not well received, and so did not serve his purpose. Only recently has the original Powell and Pressburger version been fully restored.

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Hazel goes to the Devil’s Chair

For more on Mary Webb:
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“This year’s discovery has been Mary Webb, author of Gone to Earth. She is a genius, and I shouldn’t mind wagering that she is going to be the most distinguished writer of our generation.” — Rebecca West, review of Gone to Earth in the Times Literary Supplement, August 30, 1917

Mary Webb: neglected genius for the synopsis of Gone to Earth and also for details of her other works.

– Tish Farrell

© 2014, Tish Farrell, All rights reserved; photographs either as indicated above or in public domain

unnamed-6Unknown-951ts8NDtDUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_TISH FARRELL (Writer on the Edge) ~  is an award-winning English writer of fiction and non-fiction for young adults. In the 1990s, after a career in Museum Education, she went to live in Kenya, East Africa. It was here that she began writing for the African Children’s Literature market. An anthropologist by training, she was dismayed at the lack of contemporary fiction that reflected young Africans’ lives in their increasingly urbanised world.

Her first short novel, Jessicah the Mountain Slayer, about a Nairobi street girl, and a picture book Flame Tree Market were published by Zimbabwe Publishing House, Zimbabwe and Phoenix Publishing, Kenya. Both books won awards at the 1996 Zimbabwe International Book Fair and have remained in print in both countries ever since.  In the United States her short fiction has appeared in the multi-award winning Cricket and Cicada Magazines. Now living back in England, she writes novelised short stories for reluctant teen readers for Ransom Publishing. The most recent title, Mau Mau Brother, tells the story of the 1950s Kenya uprising from the viewpoint of a Kikuyu boy. She has also just published a Kindle novella e-book, Losing Kui. This new edition was originally published by Cicada Magazine and is suitable for adults and young adults alike. Go here for more about her Books

Tish blogs about Africa, the ancient Shropshire town of Much Wenlock where she lives, writing, and much else besides at: http://tishfarrell.wordpress.com/   

Purim Shpiel | Michael Dickel

The Jewish Festival, Purim, occurs March 16–17 this year, 2022 (17–18 in Jerusalem). This BeAttitude, from The BeZine, March 2017, is a part midrash and part Purim shpiel, with a bit of exegesis after the poem. If you don’t know what midrash is, see Deborah Wilfond’s Midrash following in this issue for a description and example of modern midrash. A Purim shpiel is a drama-carnival done for the holiday, usually humorous, often satirical, related to The Book of Esther.

Purim Fibonacci

Purim—
that carnivalesque

masquerade Persian New Year
of the Jewish Calendar rests
Carved wood mask
Nacius Joseph (b. 1939)
Haitian Sculptor
in the arms of Mardi Gras, an
upside down play of masked and
unmasked images dancing
at the party while Purim shpiel
stages a drama: unfolding
parody, satire, commentary—
the whole Megillah. And
who puts on an Esther mask
on the way to the
Beverly Hills Purim Ball, but Hadassah
herself, on her annual pilgrimage
to the festivities of inversions.
Nu, who do you think inspired
the Rabbis to write in the Gemara
that Jews should get so wasted
that they cannot distinguish

…

between "Blessed" Haman and

"Cursed" Mordechai, if not Vashti?

Vashti, who released herself
from the lustful gaze

of her husband's court,
now wears the death mask of that
same Ahashuerus who banished

his Queen to her freedom.
The Tel Aviv Opera Purim Ball
rejoices in the refractions
of self and story—politics
of the beauty contest


Wood mask
Artist unknown
for the virgin, check or mate.
Revelers cheer an Uncle arrogantly
dressed in mourner's cloth
who entered her in competition,
then stripped her of her mask
to save their people,
while letting his people massacre
others—another masquerade.

…

And in Tel Aviv and Beverly Hills,

the masked dancers
drink up the casts
and no longer recall

the difference
between good and good,
mask and masque—

so many layers
of truths, peeled
one after another,
as the frenzied forgetting
tears off masks over masks,
Angel of Time, oil painting
©Licka Kerenskaya
layered like ancient rubble
under old cities and their tels,
like history and politics,
like geology and religion,
until what lies beneath
and beneath again
barely glimmers
in the eyes

…

of the masquerade.

And Hadassah laughs,

dancing freely with Vashti,
two lovers at last

hidden and unhidden
at Tel Aviv and Beverly Hills
Balls—globes of pleasure

circling the world
in three complete lines
forming seventy-two
masks, each one
a part of the whole.
Michael Dickel

Exegesis
Anonymous commentator
Digital art from photographs
©2017 Michael Dickel

The poet dons the mask of commentator, but the poem always wears at least one mask in the presence of the poet, so beware. And, if the poem reveals (a) different mask(s) to you, dear reader, please explore. The poet does not trust that any poem reveals all of its masks at any one time, especially to the poet.

The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates the tale told in The Book of Esther, a story that, remarkably, does not once mention G-d. Set in Persia, which rules over the Jews at the time, The Scroll of Esther (or Megillah) layers many levels of deceit and masquerade, and the tale turns on itself in many ways.

Book of Esther

The King of Persia, Ahashuerus, banishes his Queen, Vashti, when she refuses to dance in front of his guests. Mordechai urges his niece to enter the beauty contest held to replace the queen, but to hide that she is Jewish (and probably not eligible to be queen of Persia). So she uses her non-Jewish name, Esther, instead of her Jewish name, Hadassah, wins, and becomes Queen Esther.

Meanwhile, Haman, the viceroy to the King, hates Jews and especially Mordechai, who refused to bow before Haman, and who is in the story honored for revealing (through now Queen Esther) a plot against the king. Haman has to lead him through the streets on a horse, Mordechai dressed as a king, Haman’s own idea of how to be honored—which he is asked to tell the king at a party, perhaps a masque (Haman thinks it’s for himself that the King wants to know how to honor a person).

Haman, whose orders are like the King’s own (another mask), plots the hanging of Mordechai and the genocide of the Jews. While the rest of the city celebrates an occasion of state (the defeat of Jerusalem), Mordechai dresses in mourning because of Haman’s plot against his people. However, this is an act of treason during the celebration. He thus shames Esther into unmasking herself to Ahashuerus, who reverses Haman’s murderous order when he learns his wife is a Jew.

Purim mask

Jews celebrate Purim as a day of deliverance from death (and genocide). However, the rescinding of the order came too late to the walled cities, which had to fight to defend themselves (under dispensation of the king). So, the celebration of Purim as a holiday is one day later for the cities that were walled cities at the time of the story (including Jerusalem and Tiberias—this is called Shoshan Purim).The scroll ends with the recounting of Haman’s hanging and the killing of his kin, the death tolls from the battles at the walled cities, an unmasking, perhaps, of another form of genocide—in the name of defense.

The Poem

The date of the holiday itself loosely coincides with Carnival (Mardi Gras) and the Persian New Year. Jews celebrate with Purimshpiel (Yiddish for Purim stories, usually in the form of plays—traditionally, parodies and satires on current events using the story of Esther) and by donning costumes and masks, holding parties (balls), and getting drunk. Yes, the Gemara says that Jews should get drunk enough that they no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai, respectively, the male villain and hero of the story of Esther. Perhaps it is to make up for Eden and the whole Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil thing. This poem could be read as a sort of Purimshpiel variation.

Donning masks
Digital art from photographs
©2017 Michael Dickel

The donning of masks allows us to hide who we are, but masks also reveal who we are, or an aspect of who we are that is usually hidden. Carnivalesque masquerade allows us to try on aspects of ourselves or display those energies that we normally repress or hide (perhaps in a closet somewhere, with the costume). Drunkenness allows forgetting, but also disinhibition and release. Perhaps we learn of the capacity of good and evil within ourselves, as well as about those other parts of ourselves that would otherwise be “masked” by everyday existence.

So, the poem has Hadassah, the Jewish girl, wearing the mask of her alter ego from the story, Queen Esther. Yet perhaps this is an aspect of her all along? Perhaps we all have hidden “royal” qualities? Esther replaced Vashti, who was banished by King Ahashuerus for refusing to dance (naked) before him and the court. And Queen Vashti, in the poem, wears the mask of the king. He banished her from the court, but to where? Did she stand up for her own self-respect by refusing to succumb to what, centuries later, a feminist film critic would identify as scopophilia, or the male gaze? Was her banishment a freedom? How does gender play through this story, that seems to focus on men, but relies on a woman at its center, perhaps two women, if we look more closely at Vashti?

The poem suggests in its own center that masks unveil as we peel them, but also there is the hint that they reveal at each layer (like the layers of rubble beneath old cities that mound into tels, which hint at the history of the eras of the city; and like the layers of both geology and religion, which are ancient with something hot and molten at the core, like our own psychological being). This move to the psychological enters the mystical, with the masked women, who appear to be King Ahashuerus and Queen Esther now that they wear their masks, dancing together (yet at separate balls, one in Beverly Hills, its own masquerade and center of Hollywood glitz and glamor, and the other in Tel Aviv, the “new city” of Eretz Israel). This is like the Malkhut and Shekhina, or Shabbat (King, or male aspect of G-d) and Bride ( Queen, or feminine aspect of G-d).

Arithmetic or is it geometry?

And then comes the poem’s mysterious end, which references Exodus 14:19-21 the three lines of Torah that, with 72 Hebrew letters each, Kabbalists believe can be permuted into the 72 Names of G-d. The poem suggests that these Names are both masked and masks (that hide or reveal?)—their hiddenness echoes the hiddenness of G-d in the text of Esther, and the ineffability of divinity in all of its guises.

Purim mask

The stanzas follow a sequence of line numbers each, counting the first line of three dots (which wears the mask of the title). The pattern goes (before the title, think of 0): 0 lines (an extra line break marked with … before the sections that follow after the first one), 1 line, 1 line, 2 lines, 3 lines, 5 lines, 8 lines. This pattern repeats three times (for a total of 60 lines), then goes 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, for a total of 72 lines, like that number of Hidden Names.

The sequence of numbers used (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8) is the first part of an infinite series, known as the Fibonacci sequence, that has many interesting relationships in math and nature, including the pattern of sunflower seeds in their flower, unfurling fern heads, and, significant to Jewish mystical allusions, the branching of trees.

The Hebrew word for life, chai, has the numerical value of 18. Twice chai, or double life, is 36. Double that, and…72. That the number of lines in the poem equals 72 probably doesn’t mean much more than that our lives are not singular, but layered with intersections of meanings.


Explore more
The author in costume, Purim 2017
Photo ©2017 Aviva Dekel

Wrestling with Esther: Purim Spiels, Gender, and Political Dissidence by Emily Nepon— a modern Midrash that informs this poem.

Purim and the Masks We Wear by Ari Kahn— a commentary that, while coming from a very different perspective, has some interesting background from traditional Midrash.

The Astounding Achievement, Maybe, of the Man Who Definitely Wasn’t Fibonacci by Dan Friedman— an interesting article about Fibonacci from LA Review of Books, reviewing Keith Devlin’s book that covers his experience researching and writing a book on Fibonacci.


This originally appeared in The BeZine March 2017, and is a lightly edited version of :

Dickel, M. (2013). Drash Meets Mosh: Purim: A Fibonacci Sequence? (Column). Drash Pit . February. Online. Original url: drashpit.com/Main/Drash_Meet_Mosh.htm (no longer active). Archived.


©2013 original, 2017 edited version Michael Dickel
All rights reserved


Posted in Illness/life-threatening illness, Poems/Poetry

Antibiotic Blues

Courtesy of Anton Darius, Unsplash

I’m bulbling, bumbling like a dumb blond(e) from the Golden Age of Hollywood
without the figure
or the yellow locks,
a himbo who isn’t very beau.
How can a petite podwery, poerdy, poderwy-
POWDERY damn it
wite, white pill-or is it the pinkish-bluish capsule with the cryptic digits-
besiege a brain and morph it
into mash, or is it mush, to match
the collywobbles in the gut during
eight days of frustrating pharma fog thicker
than a full-frat, full-fat Frappuccino?
Science squashes my IQ as I misplace my cell phone, followed by the TV remote, keys and
bank card and my, um…I forget.
As if hijacked by the shakiness of a heat haze, I stumble to the ice machine but
come back with nothing.
Dates and deadlines become meaningingless in a malfunctioning memory bank, and
I fix and refix phrases like “extra much” that sounded Shakespearean when I typed them.
Mercurial emotions mock me like the menacing Space Invaders of my childhood as
innocuously constructive criticism rips up any remnants of calm.
Someone’s profiting from my prescriptions while I’m vantiqued, vanquished by the salvos of adverse effects.

© 2020, Adrian Stonaker

Originally publish in U-Rights Magazine, December 2019.

Crisscrossing North America as a language professional, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee Adrian Slonaker is fond of opals, owls and fire noodles. Adrian’s work has been published in WINK: Writers in the Know, Ariel Chart, The Pangolin Review and others.

Posted in 100,000 Poets, Musicians, Artists and Activists for Change, General Interest, Poems/Poetry

Freely Accessible Sound-Cloud Playlist for 100TPC Read a Poem to a Child Week Initiative, courtesy Michael Dickel and Randy Thomas

READ A POEM TO A CHILD WEEK

Sep 23 at 12 PM – Sep 28 at 11 PM EDT

August 26, 2019: THANKS to Michael Dickel (Meta/ Phor(e) /Play) for putting together this post for us on behalf of The BeZine  and for his interview of Randy Thomas. This post was originally done for last year’s event, but the SoundCloud playlist is still up and has grown a bit. I’m posting it today to remind you of this charming resource. / Jamie Dedes



A SoundCloud playlist!

August 2018: Thanks to 100 Thousand Poets for Change co-founders Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, and especially to our 100TPC friend, Voice-Over legend Randy Thomas, we have the honor of presenting a compilation of children’s poems read by master Voice Artists and created for the 100TPC community in support of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Read A Poem To A Child initiative. / Michael Dickel


Randy Thomas and the other voice actors / voice over artists in the playlist (further down) volunteered their talent and time to Read a Poem to a Child!

Thomas started her career as a radio personality and DJ in New York, LA, Detroit, and Miami. She’s announced for the Oscars, Emmy Awards, Tony Awards, Entertainment Tonight, The Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame Inductions, The Kennedy Center Honors, and much more. You likely have heard her announce:

“You’re watching Entertainment Tonight!”

or

“Live from Hollywood, it’s the Academy Awards!”

Voice Announcer Randy Thomas
Source


The BeZine asked Randy Thomas a couple of questions about how this came to be:

The BeZineWhat inspired you to organize these wonderful readings by VO artists for Read a Poem for a Child?

Randy ThomasI am always intrigued when invited to use my voice in a positive way that gives back to the community. My dear friend Michael Rothenberg, a world-renown poet told me about his effort to share a poem with a child during one specific week. He found interest from all over the world. It’s wonderful.

The BeZine: You have inspired a number of voice artists to contribute their voices—how did that happen?

Randy ThomasThe Facebook community of voice actors and friends that I have seemed to rally behind this idea. We all have our own audio booths to record quality audio in, and they are all being so generous with their time and Voice sharing these poems. I am proud to have played a small part in this beautiful effort.

You can hear the amazing results below, in the embedded SoundCloud playlist.


Please feel free to play these recordings
for children around the world!

These may be played right here from this post or go HERE.



Thank you Randy Thomas
and brilliant VO artists
for sharing your talent for the children!



All audio ©2018 by the individual Voice Artists.
Poetry copyright belongs to the poet
or other current copyright holder.

Post text ©2018 TheBeZine.com and 100TPC.org
Link-sharing of the SoundCloud playlist is allowed.
Link-sharing or credited re-blogging of this post is allowed.
Readings in the playlist are provided for free personal use,
not for commercial purposes or paid events.
The audio may not be recorded or redistributed in any form
other than a link to SoundCloud without permission of the voice artist(s).

Julia Vinograd Slipped Into My Writing

Julia Vinograd died at age 75 on December 4, 2018. (Coincidentally, my mother entered the world 101 years ago on the same date.) Vinograd was recognized in 1985, when she won a Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award for The Book of Jerusalem, which is how she first came to my attention (I have a copy of the book on my poetry shelf). She was called “the bubble lady” in Berkeley, as she was known for blowing soap bubbles on the street—something she learned diffused tension and calmed people during the turbulent period of the late 1960s.

I found it interesting in Tom Dalzell‘s obituary of her to note that other poets she cited as influences on her work also influence my own. Her poetry influenced my own, and she slipped into a couple of my own pieces—epigraphs to a poem and an anachronistic cameo in a work of flash fiction. The event in the flash occurred in San Francisco in 1967, but according to her obituary, she first started using the bubbles in 1969—but she was in Berkeley in 1967, so why not take some poetic license?

I wish I had had the chance to meet her in person, but I am grateful to have her poetry. I offer both my poem and flash fiction here, to honor her memory with her presence in them.

Go forward, dear poet and Bubble Lady. New adventures await. May your bubbles bring peace wherever your soul now travels.

(A selection of Julia Vinograd’s current books is available from Zeitgeist Press.)

In the beginning…

                                 Jerusalem is weeping,
                                 all temples shake in that sudden storm…
                                                           —Julia Vinograd

I
As our minds turned to words the bowl
you spun and placed
	on the mantle
		shattered—
light spilled everywhere
		chaos turned on order

(but I forget how it went, now)— 
		pains?
and doubts?
	loud! voices shouted
		across empty rooms
(borders)
	we still strain to fill with remnant shards—
			(something like that)

Shadow gave shape and definition
to every thing it touched
		naming the light in harsh accents
		as it played along the edge of white-gold rings

We sought a new urn where we could place our ashes—
	(I intone)—
and desired sparks
	to ignite old passions

Grey-grit drudge of
	laundry room
	kitchen sink
	garbage pail
	lawn clippings
	scraped paint
condensed into
	doubt
	shouts
	inertia
two sparkling flames
		and shades
of memory that slips
	like drips of water from a leaky faucet
evaporate
	down the drain
		through the grease- and hair-
	clogged trap on their way
to the sewer.

Now we piece a pot together
		as though it could be
whole
	and wear baggy clothes in place of revery.



II
This dazzling street corner, then, is where it all begins;
you and I walk down different sidewalks, along right-angles
toward sunrise and sunset, north pole and south.
Some fly buzzes around my ear, you slap a mosquito
because we no longer believe in purple candles with
proud intensity, and have stopped discussing
with any sincerity the form of oak trees, or
tomorrow.  We just pay the bills today,
and to our credit keep interest

	in something or other.  In this case, we grind grain
	and wear millstones and pretend we have some deep
injury or insult
	which overshadows simple flight

To	jobs
	and play
	and children
	and marriage
	and society
to	greed
	and avarice
	and lust
	and melancholy

we dedicate
	our lives in earnest transition
from spark to ash—		(I swear)
	I live
		this death with you.

but we all know that these words lie
		to the starving child

in war-torn Jerusalem

	each child’s tear holds a bit of the shattered pot
and remembers the light we have extinguished

in our haste to turn away

                                 Jerusalem is weeping,
                                 listen with your blood.
                                                           —Julia Vinograd

In the Beginning originally appeared in Drash Pit, January 2013.


Evening

Time slows as light escapes and shadowed night falls over her face. Waves glitter moonlit sonatas in soporific rhythms of heart beat, lost sleep, then run deep in memory. Wet sand shines. The malt whiskey-mellow mood soaks into wind whispering patterns of hush, hush, hush. The bearded woman wishes for her nomadic life, no one’s wife wishes as fervently.

Neutralized like lost neutrinos whose loose cable sped them beyond light, she floats in her beach bar chair, feet digging dry, warm sand. Dinner din rises, falls, rises, falls from inside and outside, all around her the social groupings of ritual meeting, eating, drinking, mating. This world whirls faster through space than she can comprehend. Physics unravels the surrounding universes.

Night fall, an illusion. It rises up in the shadow of the earth around them. Out beyond shadow or illusion, light remains. Moon reflects evidence, an occasional passing satellite agrees, the spots of planets, if she could recall which and where, concur. Time measures itself in movement through space while flying particles imagine themselves still. Like her smooth-faced lover who so engaged dance that he seemed still, the world flowing around him impossibly in motion.

He did move. Into her life. Into her house. And, now, out of it. Gone. Like the hitchhiker long ago, and the man with the long ponytail before him.

Like 1967, the Summer of Love finished and gone. She stood on a street in the Haight one day, watching people. Then she went to Golden Gate Park for the funeral. Men, or probably boys from her current perspective, waved top hats, wore odd clothes from other eras, bright clothes tie-dyed last week. Women, or likely girls like her, showed scads of skin, tie-dye coverings, with vintage wear mixed and matched, furs even. Everyone strung out with beads. Dress-up days. Long flowing hair. Afros. The coffin hand-painted, a sign on the side: Summer of Love. Behind it, the corpse of Hippie. The Diggers dug it down to the grounded burial plot, tried to bury it next to money.

Hippie had died, they said. Killed by the media. Overexposed and misrepresented. Time covered the funeral, photo-spread opportunity. Maybe the counter culture period began here, or perhaps freaks freighted feverish transition into then.

Escapades of escaped expression extended from happenings into mediated madness; Hollywood and Madison Avenue caught the wave and surfed into the scene with conspicuous desire for consumption. She watched the mock funeral laugh at itself and joined in; Julia Vinograd blew bubbles in the procession. Someone said Ginsberg had come, but not that she saw.

A boy on stilts walked in the funeral, from the funeral into her life. She circled him on the street, he bent down, handed her a joint. Smoke and mirrors present, multimedia wonderment, diamond dream reflection, ghost stories and revelations. Rainbows refracted from his prism glasses. Nothing near but naked skin and slippery sweat.

They swam at Muir Beach. They meandered or stumbled through fairytale-fogged redwoods. One day, he drifted into the riptide and floated down to LA. She climbed a tree and joined a commune. Rumors reached out to her, reveling in revelations that he followed the Dead around the world, stilt walking the crowds and selling on the side.

Beach bar community buzzes, bees making honey. She follows the flower trail out of the whiskey haze and picks her path home. The gully crossed, she winds her way under the wind, tight into the pattern now, checkerboard laid bare, check and mate.

Matter never quite coalesced from the rambling energy randomly dominating her. She makes her way into the place, a sort of shelter sorting her out near the beach but away from everything, equidistant from the sun.

Shaking dinner from the kitchen, she eats what she wants and no more. Perhaps that is the pattern, she reflects. Then she swims into sleep on the sofa.

Evening originally appeared on Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, May 2013. It also appears in Michael Dickel’s collection of flash, The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden.


@2018 Michael Dickel

Closed Doors to Hotel Rooms

Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now
by Amanda Palmer and Jasmine Power

 

released on BandCamp 23 May

Mr Weinstein Will See You Now - Artwork / photo: coco karol / design: andrew nelson
photo: coco karol
design: andrew nelson

A bit of lyric

amanda:
you came with bows and bells…

jasmine:
i’m not here to have

amanda:
you came here armed for action…
you knew the drill.

jasmine:
move over before i shelve myself
i’m not here to help you.

amanda:
every man behind the curtain

jasmine:
jerking knobs and smoking guns

amanda & jasmine:
shut your eyes pay no attention
just keep calm and carry on

black or blue, you choose
you’re free to be in between
play or lose
you say

Conversation fragments (via email)

Amanda Palmer: The song [Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now] began as a “let’s write something, anything together” jam session between me and Jasmine Power, a 24-year-old Welsh songwriter who happened to be over to a dinner party at my house. She’d been randomly invited over by a mutual Welsh playwright pal of ours, Hywel John. We’d never heard each other’s music, and after bonding over a late-night music-sharing wine-party, we found ourselves in a studio three days later, excited to create something from scratch.

The news about Stormy Daniels was just hitting fever pitch, and I found myself thinking about closed doors to hotel rooms across the world and over time and how they’ve been the backdrops of so many of these painful encounters. That was the starting point, and we wrote with the idea of a split self: two voices inside one woman’s head.

I’m goddam proud of it.

Me: First listen—haunting, almost like ghost voices signing from the memories.

[I meant singing, but, signing—why not?]

Sorry—possibly a vague impression. It takes me a few listens/reads to absorb poetry. This is poetry.

Amanda Palmer: That’s the idea. The lyrics aren’t supposed to be completely audible.

Me: Like the memories and stories—suppressed and emerging.

Amanda Palmer: Exactly.

A bit of lyric

amanda & jasmine:
black or blue
you choose
you’re free to be in between
play or lose
you say
it’s still not what you meant to mean
black or blue
you mean
what?
you can’t be serious
don’t you dare forget

jasmine:
that i’m the one writing this
i’m the one writing this

amanda:
and this never happened.

jasmine:
i’m the one writing this.

amanda:
this never happened.

jasmine:
i’m the one writing this.

Memory fragment

For me, sexual abuse re-sounds as shattering glass.

Decades ago, I worked as an overnight counselor in a shelter for runaway teens. One night, shattering glass took me into a room. A teen girl held her hand, blood running down it. Broken glass from the window had cut her open as she slammed her reflection in the glass.

She had been praying. She saw herself in the window. She was angry at god and struck herself, her reflected self in the black glass of night.

When I went over to her, starting to tend to her wounds, she kept shouting, “he fucked me he fucked me he fucked me,” looking at her bloody hand. Then she looked up at me. “My father fucked me,” quietly.

Am I surprised by #MeToo? No. I saw too many teen girls sexually abused by family members, by fathers—if men did this to their own daughters, why wouldn’t they abuse any woman?

Encounters with teens’ stories—shattered psyches wanting to rebuild a sense of self, running away from what they could no longer live with—these stories forged what I would later call my “street feminism.”

The power of a whisper shocked me into an awakening awareness. It was, perhaps, the most powerful whisper I have ever heard.

Mr. Weinstein Will See you Now

The strength of Amanda Palmer’s and Jasmine Power’s performance lies in the haunting, quiet emergence of story fragments weaving into a single story—the building emotion, the details that in Hollywood’s male gaze would be erotic details:

your shirt is on the table…

your skirt is on the floor…

countered by crossing voices from women’s emotional reality:

you crouch down in the bathroom…
our time is at a loss
the mirror makes you sick…
won’t have you in me

The music uses piano to paint the emotion, the growing power of the singers. As they share their stories, their voices slowly build toward crescendo. Matt Nicholson, a British composer and film-music arranger, brings “strings and orchestration to make the track more cinematic; almost overdoing it at points to kick Hollywood in the face,” Amanda Palmer writes.

At times, the orchestration pulls back to let the voices and piano convey raw emotion:

amanda & jasmine:
just turn me over

jasmine:
fast and
let’s get this over with
let’s get this over with

amanda:
let’s get this over with

jasmine:
let’s get this over with

Amanda Palmer: I’d been fiddling in my own head for months with ideas for songs and tunes to address the #MeToo movement, and it’s such a hard thing to write about it. It’s so personal to these women, these stories, and it felt too wrong to write something funny and cabaret; the topic is too harrowing.…
It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever made before; it’s almost a mini piece of theater.

Me: Disturbing, powerful theater that almost hurts—the beauty of the singers’ voices, the music, combined with the pain and hurt of the reality of sexual violence—“black or blue/ you choose / you’re free to be in between”—but in between is neither here nor there—dissociative—hard to find a self, to cohere.

Shattering glass.

Until the voices gather the shards, arm themselves, and reclaim their lives:

amanda:
every version has two endings

jasmine:
every time the penny drops

amanda & jasmine:
open casket, open casting
this is where the story stops

jasmine:
i storm out through the hallway
i leave the scars inside
you won’t portray my picture
this film is mine

And at the end of the song, in response to “this never happened,” the song arrives at: “i’m the one writing this.”

Amanda Palmer and Jasmine Power
are “the one[s] writing this”

Amanda Palmer: It’s not surprising that, just like the movement itself, it took two women getting into a room together, comparing notes and joining forces to create something almost like an anthem for taking back our narrative.

Every time I play the track for one of my female friends, we have an important moment together.

I don’t know if most people will even understand this song; and I don’t care.

The women we wrote it for will understand.

—Michael Dickel
Essay @2018 Michael Dickel
Song Lyrics @2018 All Rights Reserved (Used by Permission)


Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now

photo:
coco karol
design:
andrew nelson

Song written by Amanda Palmer, Jasmine Power and Sketch & Dodds
Vocals: Amanda Palmer and Jasmine Power
Piano: Sketch & Dodds

Production: Sketch & Dodds
Strings: 7 Suns Quartet
Cello: Earl Maneein
Violin: Jennifer DeVore

Recorded at Applehead Studios, Woodstock by Chris Bittner, and at The Bunker Studios, NYC, by Todd Carder
Jasmine’s vocals recorded by Owain Jenkins at StudiOwz in Wales-Pembrokeshire in December 2017.
Mixed and Mastered in London by Taz Mattar


This originally appeared on Meta/ Phor(e) /Play as Behind Closed Doors to Hotel Rooms.

Related from Michael Dickel, on The BeZine:

Warm Blanket of Silence

An essay Michael Dickel has been writing since 1988, and of which he read a revised version for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women at Verses Against Violence 3, organized by Rachel Stomel in Jerusalem, on 24 November 2016.

Posted in General Interest, The BeZine Table of Contents

The BeZine, December 2017, Vol. 4, Issue 3, A Life of the Spirit

“The spiritual life . . . is not achieved by denying one part of life for the sake of another. The spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of its dimensions wholly and with integrity.” Sister Joan D. Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today

The theme this month is “Spiritual Paradigms, Awakenings, Miracles.”  I expected to get submissions that spanned the distance from atheism and agnosticism to firmly entrenched faith, which I did. I did not expect to get several notes from writers and poets who admitted that though they wanted to contribute, they found themselves seriously blocked. Despair. Depression. Those two do confound our creativity and both are rife in a world where 1.6 million people lack access to adequate housing (Habitat.org), where forced displacement is “an unpresidented 65.6 million people” (UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency) and where, while hunger in general is on the decline, 3.1 million children still die of malnutrition each year (Independent).

For people in kinder circumstances it’s often near impossible to reconcile with the realities of physical illness, disability and mortality, poverty and food “insecurity”, decreased opportunity/upward mobility, and difficulty finding employment and/or getting an education. These circumstances create anger and make it understadable that some doubt a compassionate God or simply find it impossible to believe in a God at all. My own thought is that perhaps God, like Creation, is evolving. That thought is not new with me.

Having said all that, what for me came through in reading submissions is that atheist or agnostic, religionist or independent spiritual being, all have a Life of the Spirit. The spark of Light is clear from the writing desk to the neighborhood bar. Sometimes the Light goes by other names: Hope, Compassion, Wisdom, Generosity. To paraphrase Rabbi Meachem Mendel Morgenszter of Kotak, Poland, God (however you might define that Being) is found wherever you let the Light in.

This month we are proud to introduce a wealth of new-to-us writers: Julie Henderson (U.S.), Eithne Lannon (Ireland), Imelda Santore (Philippines), Mike Stone (Israel), Anthony Vano (U.S.), and Ali Znaidi (Tunisia). We welcome back: bogpan (Bozhidar Pangelov, Bulgaria), Paul Brookes (England), Kakali DasGhosh (India), Mark Heathcote (England), Juli [Juxtaposed] (England), Michele Riedel (U.S.), and Sonja Benskin Mesher (England).

My warm thanks to all twelve members of our core team, some of whom have contributed poems or feature material to this issue: John Anstie (England), Naomi Baltuck (U.S.), James R. Cowles (U.S.), Michael Dickel (Israel), Joe Hesch (U.S.), Charlie Martin (U.S.), and Corina Ravenscraft (U.S.).

On behalf of our entire core team, The Bardo Group Beguines, I wish everyone wonderful year-end celebrations and a peaceful 2018.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community,
Jamie Dedes,
Founding and Managing Editor,
The BeZine

A LIFE OF THE SPIRIT

How to read this issue of THE BeZINE:

Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling, or
You can read each piece individually by clicking the links in the Table of Contents.
To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.
To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Editorial

A Frozen Spring, Juli [Juxtaposed]

BeAttitudes

The Light of Laughter, Corina Ravenscraft
Looking for the Light, Naomi Baltuck
The Spiritual Life Is One of Constant Choices, Henri Neuwen

Essays

Toward Becoming “UnLapsed”, James R. Cowles
Old Church, Old Hat …, John Anstie

Creative Nonfiction

Stelle Nacht, Joseph Hesch
Wild Turkey Neat, Anthony Vano

Poetry

First Christmas, John Anstie

Christmas, bogan

Ash and Prayer, Paul Brookes

#I just washed#, Kakali DasGhosh

Selections from Nothing Remembers, Michael Dickel

Braid Your Hair with His, Mark Heathcote
There Is Music in Silence, Mark Heathcote

Workshop, Julie Henderson

December Sky, Joseph Hesch
Our Better Angles, Joseph Hosch

‘especially in times of dark’, Juli [Juxtaposed]

Earth Music, Eithne Lannon

full circle, Charles W. Martin

.saint anthony., Sonja Benskin Mesher

Waiting for My Nails to Dry, Michele Riedel

The Scent of a Soul, Imelda Santore

Contradictions, Mike Stone
A Word’s Worth, Mike Stone
A True Believer, Mike Stone
By the River Jordan, Mike Stone

Sufi Ghazal, Ali Znaidi
Doubt, Ali Znaidi
Mysticism on the Move, Ali Znaidi

EXCEPT WHERE OTHERWISE NOTED,
ALL WORKS IN “THE BEZINE” ©2017 BY THE AUTHOR / CREATOR


CONNECT WITH US

The BeZine: Be Inspired, Be Creative, Be Peace, Be (the subscription feature is below and to your left.)

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SUBMISSIONS:

Read Info/Missions StatementSubmission Guidelines, and at least one issue before you submit. Updates on Calls for Submissions and other activities are posted every Sunday in Sunday Announcements on The Poet by Day.

Selection from Nothing Remembers


The following poems are from an unpublished manuscript, Nothing Remembers. This selection explores the spirituality and rituals of death (and remembering), among other themes. [Autumn 2018 update— the poetry collection, Nothing Remembers, is scheduled to be published by Finishing Line Press during summer, 2019.]


For Irwin Gooen

…for man goes to his everlasting home,
and the mourners go about in the street.

—Kohelet 12:5

The door closed. Clouds cover the moon;
the rain a memory blocking out the stars.
Desire has drained into the trembling house,
tools disused gather dust. Seeing nothing
out the windows, the house wraps dark arms
around the one in his old chair, quiet now.
Some music might have played, but his lovers
forgot the words and did not sing anymore.
Higher on the ridge, a lone bird calls alarm.
The mills on the river below fall in on themselves.
But apple trees still blossom, lilacs scent the air.
The oxygen tube shines silver, snapped
like a cord, unneeded. A pitcher of water
fell, crashing into the silence. At dawn,
a golden light suffuses the house, the man’s
body empty in his old chair. His fountain of
words evaporates off the wall where he wrote them.
The wheels have fallen from the truck.
When his friends find him, they lay him
beneath the stone he carved.

And the dust returns to the earth
as it was, and the spirit returns to G-d,
Who gave it.

—Kohelet 12:7


nb: Kohelet is the Hebrew-Jewish name for The Book of Ecclesiastes

Originally appeared in print: “For Irwin Gooen.” Voices Israel Poetry Workshop June 2010. Jerusalem: Voices Israel. 2010. p. 17.


 

Drawing Breath(less)

A bit stretched,
this line we pen between life
and death, between life
and life. Sometimes
our own. Sometimes
another’s.

Elongated,
my legs akimbo on the couch
reading some poetry, a novel,
a bit of a bitter philosophy.
You sip coffee in the morning—
maybe wine, if evening
falls while we.

Opening up
the locked cabinet we find as usual
an emptiness familiar, comforting—
vacuumed of emotions, better.
Like work and social
gatherings where
they pretend.

We pretend.
Something involving chocolate,
painted skin, holding
each other together
against centripetal forces.
Central petals of the flower
tight in bursting buds.

Reaching stars
when standing, that is, seeing
them tired, failing to drink enough.
Glimpses of intimacy obscured
and hidden while seeming to
reveal. Grief in a game of
hide and seek.

I don’t know if
you or I will ever understand. This.
Perhaps I am in the psychiatric ward
again. Where I used to work. Or perhaps
you are in rehab, for your failure to drink
enough alcohol to fuel the economy.
Forgetfulness sells.

In explorations
such as these nothing can be found,
everything lost forgets where it lived,
death lives and life, well, you know.
Toss the rounded river stones
into a pile, throw some flat stones
skipping over water.

In explorations,
I don’t know if
reaching stars
we pretend—
opening up,
elongated,
a bit stretched.


Moon Glow Cemetery Row Digital art ©2015 Michael Dickel
Moon Glow Cemetery Row, Digital art, ©2015 Michael Dickel


Nothing remembers

where in our times we these rocks piled into buildings
that fell down a thousand years ago dis(re)membered from war
or earthquake raised and razed again into where nothing
recalls again the warm day anemones bloom hollyhocks
poppies forget no one and another rain day another dry day
pass hot and cold while an orvani drops blue feathers in flight
a hawk sits calmly on a fencepost and flocks of egrets
traipse toward the sea no cattle no grains all harvested
in this place we would call holy land nothing left to it but conflict
with the passing of her life that tried so hard to hang onto one
moment many moments missed so many more empty echoes
a difficult way to say goodbye to a mother watching her
evaporate like rain in the desert her mind dust that dries
lips her droned words faded as warmth from a midnight rock
meaning what the layers of history these rocks un-piled
reveal sepia photos a couple of tin-types dust school
reports cards newspaper holes the shells of bugs raised and razed
again and again into our times where nothing remembers


Originally appeared in print: “Nothing Remembers.” The Indian River Review. 2. 2013. p. 9.

Here is a video of Michael Dickel reading it (in Tel Aviv):

 


©2010–2017 Michael Dickel

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Michael Dickel, Peace & Justice

Silence i — Warm Blanket of Silence

It was September in 1998 when I last visited this text, but I began writing it in 1988—an unlikely time for warm humid air in Minneapolis where I lived. Still, brought up by storm, bereft of beaches, warm ocean-born air covered me in that north-central city, the nearest seacoast thousands of miles away; I could smell that salt breeze left over from and carried here by hurricane Gilbert and his aftermath.And this is what I wrote in 1988 and revised (somewhat) 1998. Now, in 2016, I pulled it out, dusted it off, made some additional revisions and edits (including cutting about 15 pages out at the end) for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I read the version of the following at Verses Against Violence 3, organized by Rachel Stomel in Jerusalem, on 24 November, 2016. I have made some edits to the version I read and added a bit more, to more clearly state my position at the end. Both the edits and what I added arose from the discussion after the reading in November.

When you read this, the bombs may be falling still, or falling again; or a temporary lull may have been ordered, or a ceasefire may be in effect. This peace-around the corner, while children, invalids, and old people are blown into mass graves, has been the latest, most visible testimony to the power now handled by a few men—which begins to seem like the power of nature, to bring famine, plague, or cyclone and take it away again at will.

“The bombings, for example, if they have anything to teach us, must be understood in the light of something closer to home, both more private and painful, and more general and endemic, than institutions, class, racial oppression, the hubris of the Pentagon, or the ruthlessness of a right-wing administration: the bombings are so wholly sadistic, gratuitous and demonic that they can finally be seen, if we care to see them, for what they are: acts of concrete sexual violence, an expression of the congruence of violence and sex in the masculine psyche.”

—Adrienne Rich, “Vietnam and Sexual Violence,” a column for APR, first published in 1973

“…it’s time for men to start having programs about rape. It won’t stop until men learn that the victims aren’t responsible.”

—Irene Greene, director of the U of Minnesota Sexual Violence Program
in an interview with Doug Grow.]

 

The Warm Blanket of Silence

It is a comforting warm atmosphere, and that it should bear with it the responsibility for the death of hundreds and the devastation of fragile third world economies, responsibility for the spawning of floods and tornadoes, dumfounds me at this distance. The air around me is a comfortable blanket, secure and cozy, cuddling me into gentle submission, into ignoring the terrible violence that spawned it, that delivered it to my doorstep along with the bananas and the coffee and the economic well-being that are part of my privileged existence. How do I set my comfort aside and grapple with the need for others’ relief, for a fair-weather change? So easy to retreat, to retreat to the warm blanket, to snuggle against the supposed truth: I am not the perpetrator of those violent deeds. For I am not a violent man, myself.

So it is with the storm, the raging blast of destruction and domination that is U.S. foreign policy, especially in the what we once called the “Third World,” now (in 2016) also the Middle East. That storm accounts for the cozy climate of the privileged in the U.S. (and I own that I was, while living there, and still am, as an ex-pat, one of those privileged). Thousands of deaths, devastation of economies, the spawning of the floods of war and the tornadoes of insurrection and destabilization all account for the stolen ocean breezes. And if I feel as helpless against the hurricane of foreign policy as I do against Gilbert, that same comfortable blanket beckons me: I am not the perpetrator of these violent deeds. For I myself am not a violent man.

If not perpetrator, then collaborator, if not in the destruction wrought by the storm, then in the destructive forces let loose when men beat women, when parents beat children, when men beat other men, when men rape women, when men use violence, oppression and sexual power to coerce those around them into submission. And if it seems that I have leapt hugely into an abyss from foreign policy to domestic, personal, and sexual violence (are these different?), then it is because I am looking for the beginnings of our national imperialism in the place it seems to me things begin: at home. If acts of violence in foreign affairs are not acts of sexual violence, as Adrienne Rich suggests they are, and I by no means believe that they are not, then the same indifference and silence towards the raping, beating, and emotional violence that plagues our own sisters, mothers, lovers, colleagues, brothers, and ourselves allows for our silence and indifference about how our nation conducts its foreign affairs. We may not perpetrate the violence, but we collaborate with it when we remain silent: Even if we are not, ourselves, violent men.

Collaborate? With silence. Silence is collaboration, the great hushed whisper that approves by not calling out, by not naming the violence of person against person, by looking the other way. Too long men have ignored the violence, or viewed it as the victim’s problem, or, when forced to acknowledge the truth, tried to suppress the violence in patriarchal fashion with laws, jails, and punishments (more often than not punishment for other suppressed members of society more than for those in power), rather than treating the roots, looking to the core of the matter.

“Such inhumanity will not cease, I believe, until men, in groups of men, say “no more.” Until the Jaycees, Rotary, American Legion, male sports groups, and the like begin to discuss rape in their meetings and begin to give a loud prohibition to sexual abuse of women rape will not stop.”

—Ted Bowman
quoting himself from a letter to the editor
of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, December 30, 1983.

Part of the problem is that many men do not see wife and child beating as a men’s issue. Here I generalize, for some activist men indeed do (singer, songwriter, activist Geoff Morgan, for instance, or witness quotes above), and no sweeping statements should be made about men, women, or any group of people. Traditionally, however, men do not seem to have dealt with this issue except as an issue of the victim—a woman’s or child’s issue, or if a men’s issue, a men’s issue based on their own victimization, as in child abuse. Rarely have men confronted the issue as an issue of their own suppression of others, or of their own fears or inability to be whole. An issue of their own rage and explosiveness. We often ignore the fact that we can be violent men.

I know I have viewed this as a “women’s issue,” I know my friends have, I know that some of the concerned men I met with in Minneapolis have all ignored men’s responsibility, to greater and lesser extent, while wanting to acknowledge our “sensitivity.” In failing to acknowledge our potential for violence, we continue the oppression. It is when we deny our own anger, often at ourselves or other men, that we become most likely to blow up with rage at others, also.

But, I am not a violent man. And I do not beat or rape women. Why should I consider this my problem?

Because men are the most common perpetrators of this violence, and men ought to consider solutions that will stop other men from violating other human beings. (I speak hear of male abusers because I wish to arouse men to action to stop sanctioning this abuse with our silence—what I say may apply to women abusers as well.)

We should stop being silent and start taking responsibility, stop saying that this only effects the victims and recognize the effects throughout society and culture, stop subscribing to the patriarchal code of silence that allows the male, even requires the male, to dominate and control those around him, and start working with each other to end family and personal violence. If we want accusations like Rich’s to be untrue, (that violence and sexuality are one for men), we have to speak out and say that it is untrue for us and unacceptable in those around us. We have to act according to these words. We must disentangle them in our own psyches and lives and acts. We must, as men, face our own violence, turn our own sexuality from oppression to eroticism (not to be mistaken for pornography) and spirituality (not to be mistaken for patriarchal indoctrination), from desire for self-gratification to tenderness for the Other.

(skipping about 15 pages to coda at end of original essay)

The first step for any change in attitudes we have and perpetuate about gender, sexuality, and violence begins in the mirror. I must face up to my own capacity for abuse, my own tendency to authoritarianism: my own reluctance to feel, to trust, to be vulnerable, to love (and be loved). I must face myself in my worst aspect to create my best. If this has been, up to now, a social commentary and proposal, it is now a call to all men, and to myself, to begin the act of change within each of us. I ask no one to give up manhood. On the contrary, I ask each man reading this to embrace his own manhood, and to recognise that this manhood is not the violent, competitive, truncated beast that is so often reflected in our culture and our self-images.

I am not a storm, unleashed by nature, not a furious distemper whipping and whirling through the world. I am not corrosion, destruction, death and war. I am not powerless in the face of my actions, hopeless or helpless. Although I could be all of those things. I am not Hurricane Gilbert run amuck, nor Gilbert merely placated, worn down by feminism, politics, my mother, my lover, or my therapist. I am a man choosing to change that which I can. I have missed opportunities in the past, and these missed opportunities are scars that run deep into my psyche: I watched one man die violently where I might have made a difference had I not been silent. I experienced the sudden death of my father with an incomplete relationship because the silence between us—despite all of our words—had grown too big, was broached too late. I have attacked myself, despised myself at times, and lashed out at others.

I may be hunter, and warrior, which means I have the capacity for destructive and abusive violence, and also the capacity for sustaining power and strength. I am also lover and parent, which some may take to mean that I could control and possess a (male or female) vessel in an attempt to fill my needs, but for me means that I can form a tender, erotic, spiritual, and emotional alliance which truly satisfies. I am human, which means I have the power to repress and deny the reality of my emotions, and also that I have the power to experience, survive, and grow in the world by knowing my deepest feelings. I am parent, which means that I can continue the cycle of destruction and violence that I have inherited, and also that I can be open to growth and change. I live in the world, which means that I can strive for dominion, and also that I can strive to form a spiritual community not only with my fellow humans (male and female), but with nature itself. Change begins at home, the choices are mine.

If I do not wish to suffocate under a warm blanket of storm blown silence, I will have to own the destruction that the silence protects. If I own the destruction, I take responsibility for the violence, and then I can change. If I change, I empower myself. I can complete myself. I can choose life, spirit, love, nature. I am not, by inheritance from my father or otherwise, beast; but human being by inheritance of my mother and my father, together. And I will try to be.

“While I have yearned for leadership from persons and groups more influential than I, I also know that the burden of responsibility lies on my shoulders. Consciousness-raising doesn’t cut it! It is time to talk with my sons, brothers, and male friends and yours also. Will you join me in speaking to your male acquaintances? Can we make a difference? I think so! Let’s do it!”

Ted Bowman 1988

(This is as far as the reading went.)

I have brought this essay back for what I imagine are, to the readers of The BeZine, obvious reasons—an unrepentant “pussy-grabber” has been elected to the office of President of the United States. As a man, I renew my decades-long commitment to stand against such violence and abuse, to resist the “locker-room” excuses and all violence, but most certainly violence against women and children. One thing I take heart in, though, is that what I have witnessed at the Verses against Violence reading this year and in the past—people speaking out, women (mostly) and men resisting the violence embedded in our society and breaking silence. The outcry about the orange-man’s grabbing statement, while it did not stop him being elected, was loud and clear. In 1988, I suspect his comments would not have been a subject in the media. I suspect, but who can know for sure, that the media of that time would have shrugged their shoulders and themselves said, “locker-room talk.” In 1998… possibly not much better. Things are not where they should be, they are not where I want them to be, but at least there was a shout of “NO!”

So, let’s shake the blanket of silence off of our shoulders. Let’s do what we must, do what we can. Let’s not accept in complacency what this presidency likely will bring.

—Michael Dickel (Meta/Phor(e)/Play)

FANNY BRICE, She won hearts on the Vaudeville Circuit, the Broadway stage, and on the big and small screens

File:FashionableFannyBrice.jpg

File:Fannybricebain.jpg

Fania Borach, a.k.a. Fanny Brice. October 29, 1892 (New York City, NY) – May 29, 1951 (Hollywood, CA) Star of radio, television, stage (mainly the famed Ziegeld Follies), screen. Comedienne. Chanteuse.

Though a Yiddish accent was her signature shtick*, Franny Brice didn’t speak the language.

“I breathed and ate and lived theatre — in my neighborhood were all the nationalities of all of Europe. That is where I learned my accents; the Polish woman with her intonation rising up like chant. I saw Loscha of the Coney Island popcorn counter and Marta of the cheeses at Brodsky’s Delicatessen and the Sadies and the Rachels and the Birdies at the Second Avenue dance halls. They all welded together and came out staggeringly true to type in one big authentic outline.” Fanny Brice as quoted in Broadway, the American Musical, by Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon.

Fanny Brice made such an impression that though she died when I was one, I feel like I remember her. My elders reminisced, sharing vivid memories of her stage performances.  There was great pleasure taken in her subsequent movies, which were often aired as television reruns in the ’50s.

Thirteen years after she died Franny Brice was honored with a stage portrayal by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. My Aunt Yvonne and I saw the play . . . with Mimi Hines though, not Streisand.  Uncle Phil saw it with Striesand and said he couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role.  Aunt Yvonne and I agreed we couldn’t imagine anyone but Hines playing Brice . . . until we saw the movie version with Streisand. Streisand has the look and she had the manner, voice and inflection down pat.

Lily Tomlin‘s Edith Ann owes more than a nod to one of Fanny Brice’s most well-know and best-loved characters, Baby Snooks:

FRANNY BRICE was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the child of Hungarian Jews. She grew up dreaming of the theatre and made her determined way from small-time vaudeville venues to Broadway and Hollywood. Big names were a part of her life: she got a pink-slip from George M. Cohen, was saved by Irving Berlin, and hired by Flo Ziegfield for his world-famous follies.

To survive after Cohen fired her, Fanny Brice played vaudeville theaters but didn’t give up her other stage aspirations. One day she went to see Irving Berlin. She needed an act for a charity show. He introduced her to his new vamp song, Sadie Salome (go home), which I think morphed in Sadie, Sadie Married Lady in the stage play Funny Girl. Subsequently, she was hired by Flo Zeigfield and her career took off. Her success was unprecedented. America embraced Brice despite her ethnic act, something that was generally unwelcome in those days.

Ultimately, there’s a lot we can say about Fanny Brice; but the truth is, she was simply t smart hardworking New York girl who happened to be a world-class comedienne.

1946  Ziegfield film “Norma, the Sweepstakes Winner” staring Fanny BriceHume Cronyn, and William Frawley. This is a reprise of a skit Ms. Brice did on stage in the Ziegfield Follies. Hume Cronyn looks great here and is actually about twenty years younger than Ms. Brice. I would venture that none of us remember William Frawley stage and movie star days but most of us certainly know him as Fred of Fred and Ethel in I Love Lucy.

* schtick-Yiddish-a device (trick, cheating) to get attention.

© 2015, article, Jamie Dedes, (originally published in Brooklyn Memories); the top two photos of Brice are public domain photographs from the George Grantham Bain Collection of the U.S. Library of Congress; David Stone Martin’s Baby Snooks illustration © NBC Publicity, web source: the artist/illustrator David Stone Martin’s Drawger

Body Artists, Bright Glass, Blood

 Right here, this act we all perform, is not the story of a true star.

 

It is not, either, the hyperspace of a new social ontology.

 

But is it, at least, greater than its usual themes and instruments?

 

         In her poem, Media: the New

         Sorceress, Diane Wakowski

         explains performance as: “something

         every Hollywood thane might tell you

         is pretty obvious.”  We become

         roles and we play with them,

         we become word-routines that speak

         through all of us. And the roles and

         their routines mutate, hover, and

         wait, like a virus waits

         for better leverage.

 

But this transaction between audience and performer, between supplicant and sacrifice:  Is it that strict?  

Is it that tightly wrapped?

 

         Or is it more hesitant? Even virginal?

         But with teeth, too, maybe?

         Is it merely instrumental?

         Does it defend or subvert the faith?

         Does this act inhabit a skinned-place,

         raw-wet and quivering?  Waiting

         like a wolf with golden fangs

         and wide, spooky eyes?

         Alone, in full view?  

 

         

         But again, is it ever even enough? Does mutual

         use account for mute complicity, enough?  

         Or does it really hang and exhume and hang

         again that old-old dead Ceausescu of a tongue

         sleeping with its lies in the garden?

 

         Non-matrixed body artists crawl like

         questions through it. Drag the secret meaning of

         night through it.  Like documents of glass or

         snails trails of glistening thread: of blood,

         “cleaving and burning.” Bringing it through

         public solitudes, tumbling out the other end

         into private multiplicities.  

         But through what?

         And is it ever through enough?

         And, for whom could it ever be enough,

         and why?

 

We could call it burrowing, or sounding, or following a wicked spoor, blind, by smell, alone, “when we don’t call it ghosting.”

 

But questions, questions, questions still kiss the ashram like bullets, back in the day.

 

Give memory even half a chance and it will try to forget that being is, being breathed.  Yeah, like lost it all again, in the ghosting.

 

     “And whose hand is this that has never died?”

© 2017, John Sullivan

Poetics Performance

Brechtian Knots Performing a Poetics of Constructed Memory

My relationship with performance provides a complex series of braided knots as I reflect on it and try to untangle its influences in my life and creative work. While the make-believe of child’s play and the various attempts to “show” myself to adults as a child certainly root this tangle, my first recollection of a formal role goes back to Kindergarten.

In some drama acted by 5 year-olds, I had a short spoken part. The performance was scheduled during the class hours, at a time when most families where I lived had only one parent working (the father, of course). I recollect tears and devastation when my mother, a teacher herself, explained to me the morning of the performance that she would not be there. She had asked a neighbor lady, who watched me after the half-day class, to come instead. I was not happy.

The ending was Hollywood (or at least Hallmark), however—when I was on the stage, ready to read my lines, I saw my mother in a seat, not the neighbor. Apparently her principal had offered to take her class so she could come. How stereotypical is that ending?

Commissar Strolovitch

My next memory really begins the tale I want to tell, though, one of politics and drama. In 1966–1967, I was in sixth grade, and it was the Cold War era. Our class play, chosen no-doubt by our good teacher, was pure anti-Soviet propaganda. My role? Commissar Strolovitch, of the Supreme Soviet Union. I was, of course, the bad guy. The plot unfolded a simple line of propaganda—students in the Soviet Union could not choose their own destinies, the State dictated them. And, horror of horrors, this was done on the basis of an exam.

Near the end of the play, I stomped on stage in military rigor, wearing an old Civil Air Patrol coat and leather riding boots, saluted, and declared that the hero of the play had failed the test and would go to work on a farm, or something like that. Maybe it was a farm. Someone else, who wanted to work on a farm or whatever it was (my memory is not precise on this) would go to university. After all, this is what the exam results determined. No choice for the poor individuals caught up in this Communist trap.

The students wore old Boy Scout shirts and red kerchiefs, young Communists all. Now, I see the irony of the fact that the Civil Air Patrol and the Boy Scouts were U.S. proto-military youth groups whose apparel were being used to critique the proto-militaristic U.S.S.R.

During dress rehearsal, or maybe it was even the performance in front of our parents (scheduled in the evening, both of my parents attended), the back wall of the “classroom,” painted brown paper held between some boards, fell backwards. Our teacher declared (in my reconstruction, but something like this): “How realistic. They Communists build so poorly, their buildings literally fall apart around them.” We all laughed. Those Commies.

I grew up in an almost-all white suburb of Chicago. I had not yet heard of Cabrini-Green, the most notorious (but not the only) Chicago public housing project. The Projects of Chicago, LA, New York, and other cities, were notorious for poor construction, inadequate public services and maintenance, and breeding grounds for despair and violence. I doubt that my sixth grade teacher new much about them at the time, other than perhaps that white people didn’t live or go to them, if that much.

These realities of U.S. life were across racial lines, and at this time, only two years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act, still largely ignored. The Watts Rebellion (also called the Watts Riots) of 1965 were considered a “Negro problem.” The Detroit Rebellion (also referred to as Riots) lay in the summer ahead, as did those in Newark, New York, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Tampa—159 U.S. cities, total in the “long hot summer” of 1967 (according to Wikipedia). Other uprisings by the “uppity Negros” also lay ahead, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the spring of 1968.

At the time I also had not yet, of course, heard Noam Chomsky speak or read his writing on such things as mass media or how governments tend to point to other governments and say—hey, those guys do this and that which is really nasty to its citizens and the world, but not us, we’re different. Of course, he says it more elegantly and I’m oversimplifying from global impressions, but his point is that if a government says all of the “bad” governments use these strategies for staying in power, likely that government does it, too.

I will return to this political theme in the story, but first, a bit of Shakespeare and The Bible, followed by a ballet.

Lord of the Court

My next formal performance was actually in a theatre auditorium, albeit in my high school. I was an extra, one of the lords in Theseus’ court. I wore a tuxedo for the first time. I walked around and spoke quietly to others, but without lines—we just populated the court behind the actual characters of the story, as needed. I was white, privileged, and even in my essentially supernumerary position, I got to wear a tuxedo. After all, I lived in white (upper) middle class suburbia. Upper is parenthesized, because my family was middle class, hence we lived in the development houses, not the nicer houses in the older part of town where executives who commuted to Chicago lived. Still, I benefitted from a good education and got to wear that tux in a high school described (because of its architecture) as “the castle on the hill,” and its football team called “The Hilltoppers.”

Shortly after this time, I started playing guitar and listening to folk music, sixties music (hey, it was 1969), singer song-writers, and, influentially, protest music. Actually, I had been listening to the music for years, as all three of my older brothers played guitar (we all still play) and brought home records and copies of Sing Out! I was still beginning to play guitar.

So it should be no surprise that my early attempts to play in local “coffeehouses” geared to youth (and run in such places as church basements) proved less than successful. Someone threw peanuts at me one night. Another night, possibly unrelated to my playing, a black-leather jacketed wannabe motorcycle gang member tried to kick me in the chest, but I stepped back just in time so that he only grazed me. (I actually think it was because I was a “hippie” and he thought he should attack me for it).

I still play music, but people now occasionally ask me to do it, and no one throws peanuts. Or tries to kick me. Well, not usually, anyway.

Spotlighting Job

Job suffered, in the Archibald Macleish play, J.B., as a result of a bet between Zuss (Zeus) and Nickles (Old Nick) playing God and Satan in a circus tent. History, Science, and Religion come to offer conflicting comfort to J.B. after Zuss / God destroys his life. Unlike the Biblical story, J.B. rejects both God and Satan and finds comfort in human companionship. This time, I took a role back stage, setting up lights and running the light board—dramatizing the performing actors below (the board was up above the stage). I was still in high school, but had by now moved to a middle class suburb of Minneapolis. It was a good school, too. I mostly remember wanting to date another student who was also working on lights. And a great cast party after opening night.

Scheherhezade

As a boy, I had a Bowdlerized copy of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Much was missing, including, at least in my recollection of it, the framing story of Scheherhezade and the reason she was telling the stories. It just had the stories, watered down. In my first year out of high school, I learned of the much spicier frame for those stories of a Sultan, his unfaithful favorite wife (did he really have a harem?), and his distrust of all future lovers to the point of killing them after their first night of marriage, so they couldn’t cheat on him.

Scheherhezade tells him a story on their wedding night, and he asks for another. She starts, but stops just when it gets interesting (the original cliff hanger?), falling asleep. He spares her—she continues to tell her stories, interrupting them by falling asleep at a crucial point. He continues to spare her, for 1,001 nights, then realizes he doesn’t want to kill her.

I had another supernumerary role—a soldier in the Nijinsky ballet for Rimsky-Korsakov (Russians, both), Scheherhezade. There was a harem orgy, with the Golden Slave and the favorite wife of the Shah. It was all a trap of course, as the Shah had told his wives he was going on a hunting trip, when in fact he was trying to prove to his advisor (brother?) that his wives were faithful. They weren’t, hence the orgy.

In something of a return to my sixth grade role of Commissar Strolovitch, I came on stage marching like a soldier in the midst of this orgy, at the climactic moment, as it were—an orgasm of military presence. The director wanted us to appear almost like wooden soldiers, so I did. I even got to be the lead soldier, killing the Golden Slave. I also continued with backstage work, this time with sets and canvas that is stretched, tacked to the floor, and coated with rosin, for the dancers.

This was at a professional auditorium, for a semi-professional ballet company, and it was reviewed in the local newspapers. The review that I remember loved the ballet, except for the soldiers, who were too wooden. As I was wooden in response to the director’s wishes, I figured, “good boy, you did what you were supposed to do.” That’s part of the story of my privilege. I get to excuse criticism if I was following orders.

The whole framework of the story, of the sexism, masters, slaves, women owned and their live threatened by men—this only came to my consciousness later. This despite growing up in an abusive and violent home. It wasn’t until I started working with runaways, a few years later, then in crisis intervention and suicide prevention, for about a decade, before I started to recognize how much men’s violence—itself a performance of toxic masculinity—impacted women’s lives.

The “exotic erotic other” (Edward Said‘s term, which I did not at the time know—like the words of Chomsky or the troubling erasure of U.S. realities from a propagandistic education before it) of the Middle Eastern foreigner and its Colonial view, as projected by the ballet, seemed to me to be entertainment, merely the art of dance, at the time.

Some theory

I began to study theatre more seriously in the Spring term of that same year, although perhaps my chronology becomes suspicious at this point, as my memory can’t recall which year I was actually in Scheherhezade, only which year I started to study theatre in university. Actually, I studied the ballet Petruschka in my first-term Humanities course, and I think that may have coincided with performing in Scheherhezade. Or, perhaps, the ballet came the next year.

In the Spring of my first year, though, I enrolled in a study abroad program offered by my university, in London. The courses I was eligible to take, as a first-year student, were Shakespeare’s plays. The professor was a drama professor from the English Department of my university.

The courses I was not allowed to take, but benefited from anyway, were in contemporary British drama. All of the students could attend the plays at the Young Vic Theatre. We saw John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, Harold Pinter’s Old Times, and others by these and other (white, male) playwrights. A lot of Osborne showed at the Young Vic, as I recall. I don’t blame the professor for the lack of diversity of the playwrights—the course was contemporary British drama, and it was only a few years into the 1970s, and he arranged group tickets at the Young Vic, a “hotbed” of contemporary British drama at the time. What was not white and male likely wasn’t very visible.

However, the playwrights did open my eyes to other ways of seeing plays. And the professor interested me enough to continue studying with him for several courses in drama, after we returned to our home campus. In the course of those studies, I learned about Bertolt Brecht and Luigi Pirandello, and somehow without realizing it, started becoming post-modern. Brecht influenced my thinking about performance, drama, and literature a lot. I risk oversimplification, but I point in particular to notions of disrupting the smooth viewing experience of “getting lost” in the play, so that the audience “finds” that they are witnessing a production, a constructed reality, in a world of social and political realities. Brecht resisted escapism and entertainment. He early on introduced “multi-media” to do some of this disruption, as well.

Since these introductions, I have gone further—in performance (studying improvisational music and performance with well-known musicians, for example), in theory (in this account, Genet, French Feminism, post-modern novels, literary theory, language poetry, and more remain in the future). Still, this part that I have conveyed of the knotted memories, reflections, paths of my relationship to what I call performance remains a formative base of my poetics.

In my poetry, I try to disrupt the reader, to get the reader to take a skeptical stance toward the text, the constructions, my own flawed perception as the builder of the text, to find social and political inconvenient truths—all while still exploring language and sound as music (dissonant and consonant) to entice the reader to move forward, play, and dance with the words and possibilities of meaning, even if imprecise or even false.

Conclusions, such as they are

Through this Brechtian lens I have offered here: a fallen backdrop, Boy Scout and Civil Air Patrol uniforms, riding boots, Cabrini-Green, the 1960s racial rebellions by African-Americans; a tuxedo-clad supernumerary lord in a Greek myth’s court; suffering on the basis of a bet in a circus tent (bet is also the second letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet, or alphabet, in the Greek); and a Middle-Eastern orgy story where the threatening (golden) male slave is killed by yours truly—a white, American, Jewish poet, living in Israel—and itself frames and motivates a woman’s need to offer exciting tales to her husband in his, not their, bed, just to stay alive.

All of this might be taken as a cracked and broken metaphor for the destructiveness of what we now call toxic masculinity. Or, as the psychologist Alfred Adler is supposed to have said (or written on the blackboard) after his lectures—then again, the case might be completely different.

In the end, this text itself is a performance of my activist poetics. Beware of how it constructs others, but even more so, beware of how it constructs me. Zeus (Zuss) is no hero. I am (not) a performer. This text is (not) performance, thus performs an illusion / delusion / lesion (that is, rupture).

My (better) poems perform disruptive communication (I claim) that cannot always be understood or interpreted (I explain). In reality (“What is reality? Brouhaha…“), the poems may work against interpretation, also the title of an influential book from my past that, like much that shapes this essay, comes later than the performances discussed in it. My better performances pull the audience in and then shakes water all over them, like a wet dog, hoping to wake myself up or dry the audience off. I have yet to really achieve such a performance, I simply imagine it to happen. However, the audience gets wet (or wetter) nevertheless, covered in imaginary spray. And I have yet to dry off.

  ©Michael Dickel
August 2017

Michael Rothenberg and Mitko Gogov

 


Morning News


Michael Rothenberg

Hold me back!

Lord,

wherever
you are,

Michael Rothenberg photo
Michael Rothenberg
@2015 Michael Dickel

if you are,
give me

the will
to keep

my mouth
shut.

 


The Forgotten Retort between Two Gazes


Mitkko Gogov
Translation from Macedonian by Aleksandar Mitovski

And so we role-play clockmaker and time
Both with hammers aimed at mutiny’s head
And a clock is a bigger bastard than both man and everlasting sun
As we forget burnt words and human dust

Ugly tongues and nasty minds
They drag the lent of the soul

The inner voice doesn’t (ever) go out,
Like angels’ dander or hell’s gasoline it just booms
Skip the small lightning bolts
Twist the lowest mountains
The force of forever would, like a mother to her son,
Bind
And barely ever
Alienate
In the rood of our heads
Like snails
We hide our true home
Not realizing that the slime of our soul
Leaves traces of disquiet in our sleep

We keep the stars in our hands,
Why is it when we throw them
They strike like heavenly boulders?

Stones have learned to resound
Yet our dulled hearing needs to wake up!

Both fire and abyss alike
Are eternal
Just like our pensive, darling souls
Just like a shard in marbles, when our bell breaks
We are of piercing glass, yet
Troubled as the soul remembers
But knows not to reciprocate

We’re birds that have decided to build their own cage,
We sing of the freedom we’ve created
But the space in which we act is
Barely as large as our wingspan is

Be the river that desires to break through the cold
And the ice of the mountain whose home is winter

We all want to see the whole
We all want to be a part of someone’s whole
We want to add to the whole, bid for it,
Increase it, make it rich

Or
Cripple it without realizing

As we don’t grasp we’re nothing but cutouts
A square on a Rubik’s cubepersevering, searching for its match
On the other side of the cube
We’re seemingly moving in a circle
Rolling all over the globe like a stolen bobbin of yarn
From grandma’s old chest.

We leave our people like
Forgotten church bells in our soul
Though we’d like their thoughts to echo
But you’d only hear the blood of your words
And angels pacing on the cobblestone road
Leaving without making a sound,
With a touch ingrained in us like a scar from child’s play
Like a mother’s hand holding a teaspoon of soup
Like a father’s lesson of how to chop kindling
Without losing a finger

We cut and we carve, but the truth can’t be carved,
Because, if we do, it will carve us back
And bury us six feet under
Even though we never brewed enough coffee
Even though we never leaped over enough bonfires
Even though we lied when we said that spirits came but we summoned witches
And the fairies choose our shadows as their mates
No, our shadows, like us, would rather hide in verses
And battle quietly for their hidden lives.

We’d rather be snow: white, clean, untarnished,
But you can’t keep snow in a jar, it won’t sit still,
Neither will love
Trapped, lonely, not shown, framed.

Love floats alone in a frame, like a cross-stitch
Of a woman spinning yarn as her wool is coming to an end.

Let’s make our minds ascent in a global fire
And resurrect the enchanted souls.

A forgotten retort between two gases
(therefore)

Please leave me
Leave my
Predicaments be

It’s not the time in which
The soil on its own and
By its own volition
Did turn over
And roll over

We all move,
Twist, roll over,
As we live we do not remember
Or notice,
While we’re dead
‘we do not eavesdrop
As others gossip about us’
And
Probably all spine issues are gone.

Leave the world be, darling,

It is not a part of you
Can’t you see in your naiveté, how,
Through your breath of lunacy they pass you by
They skip right over you
They won’t even cough anymore?
Leave the trams, darling,
In them fewer wishes are travelling these days

Mitko Gogov photo
Mitko Gogov
©2015 Michael Dickel

Towards you,
Inside you,
Next to you,
No more hands reaching out
No more raised voices

—we drown in our own outcry

We hope that hope as our last refuge
Will pay our debts
Will turn off the light
And in the end

Just like us all
Will leave
And go

To hell.

 


Michael Rothenberg has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 37 years but recently moved to Tallahassee. He is a poet, painter, songwriter, and editor of Big Bridge Press and Big Bridge, a webzine of poetry and everything else. In 2011 he and Terri Carrion co-founded the global poetry movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

His songs have appeared in Hollywood Pictures’ Shadowhunter and Black Day, Blue Night, and most recently, TriStar Pictures’ Outside Ozona. Other songs have been recorded on CDs including: Bob Malone‘s The Darkest Part of The Night (Caught Up in Christmas) and Bob Malone (Raydaddy’s Blues), Difficult Woman by Renee Geyer, Global Blues Deficit by Cody Palance, The Woodys by The Woodys, and Schell Game by Johnny Lee Schell.

His poetry books and broadsides are archived at the University of Francisco, and are held in the Special Collection libraries of Brown University, Claremont Colleges, University of Kansas, the New York Public Library, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and UC-Santa Cruz.


Mitko Gogov lives in Macedonia, where he writes poetry, short stories, essays and journalism. He writes haiku, senriu, renga which he publishes occasionally in the micro blogosphere twitter, but once published in London by Yoko Ono as well. His work so far has been present and translated in several anthologies, collections and journals for literature and art in India, Pakistan, Philippines, USA, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Check Republic, Germany, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Bulgaria … He’s current with his first collection “Ice Water” published in 2011. in Serbia, and in 2014 issued in Macedonia, in the edition “Fires” for the publishing house “Antolog”, supported by the Ministry of culture.

As conceptual artist with several exhibitions, installations, performances, scenery, short movies and multimedia projects he participated in a few international group exhibitions and projects in Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, France, Norway and Italy.

He is President of the Association for Cultural Development and Protection of Cultural Heritage “Kontext – Strumica” and organizer of the international movement and festival “100 Thousand poets for change” in Macedonia, Strumica. He is also the CEO & founder of the internet portal strumicaonline.net and one of the editors at the ezine for culture and literature in Macedonia, reper.net.mk. He organizes many other cultural and art events, collaborating with youth, art, film and theater festivals.

As youth trainer he provides different creativity workshops, such as: forum theater, multimedia, design, stick art, street art, graffiti, use of organic and recycled materials in contemporary art, handmade and social aspects as PEER & informal education, EVS, youth participation etc.


This post originally appeared on
Fragmentarily/ Metaphor(e) /Play.


Whispers on an April Morning Breeze

battle-of-lexington-1775-granger
Battle of Lexington, 1775

The standoff had not gone on for long, just after the sun began coming up over the meeting house, the far steeples of Boston and the ocean between us and who we wanted to be.

But the Regulars didn’t care if it was day or night. They could kill us with their eyes closed, if their commander, or we, let them.

A few hours before, most all of us were in the Buckman Publick House, drinking ale and rum, some smoking pipes. The rest of us, mostly lads like me, got our first real tastes of adult courage off the drink, the smoke and the rhetoric of our elders that night.

“Gentlemen, let there be no great fear of the regulars should they enter our town,” said Captain Parker, his own red coat hanging from the back of a chair. “We shall stand our ground and show them our resolve to hold onto what is rightly ours as lawful citizens of His Majesty,” he whispered and then coughed.

The Captain has the consumption, I’m told by Mother, his cousin, so all the smoke in the room from the hearth and the men’s pipes harmed his breathing quite sorely. That and his harsh coughs practically choked the great man, making him difficult to hear. So I edged up close to him. That seemed to make me feel braver. He’d fought for the Crown in the late war against the French and knew well the tactics and propensities of the Redcoat soldier. If he didn’t sound like he would die by next harvest, I would have had a run at Gage’s whole bloody army by myself.

At sunrise, Thaddeus Bowman, the last scout the Captain had sent out, come bursting into the tavern.

“They’re here, they’re here,” he said in a voice nearly as choked as Captain Parker’s, though not from the consumption. “They’re right behind me, Sir, and this time they are coming in force. Maybe three, four hundred of ‘em,” I heard him tell the Captain. I grabbed my Papa’s old fowler and headed for the door.

About half of us unknotted ourselves from the doorway and ran out into the front yard of the tavern. Everything had an eerie glow to it, ourselves included, from the combined moon’s and sun’s lights shining upon us. I took this as an omen of what lay ahead for us this day and said to my cousin Amos, “The Lord is with us, cuz. He most surely is. We have right on our side and will not be bullied from our own field by redcoated tavern scum.”

The fact that our whole company had spent the night in a tavern, many tasting its wares, and were blinking in the new day’s smoldering light, suddenly arose upon me and I’m sure my face took on a wholly different glow, the hue of a boiled lobster.

All eighty of us men and boys who had been in the tavern began to form ranks on the village common. It was a damned ragged line compared to the ones of the approaching Regulars. They looked like they had been formed buy some great carpenter’s square. We, while most resolute, took on the form of a snake-rail fence.

Over by the road, I could see my grandfather and sister out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and wave a greeting, but our sergeant, William Munro, gave me a strike from his musket barrel and whispered hot blasphemy and spit in my red ear. But now Grandfather and Deliverance could see where I stood.

Captain Parker walked down our column and looked like Grandfather when he had to dispatch poor old Benedict, his sorrel, when the gelding’s time had come. This did knock all those mugs of my previous courage from my head past my heart and from there to my feet.

“Men, we shall stand our ground, but not provoke the Regulars. Most of our militias’ powder and supplies at Concord have already been safely hidden away,” Captain Parker said. “We’ve all seen the Regulars on such fishing expeditions before. Once they find nothing, they will march back to Boston and we can get back to our lives until the next time.”

Sergeant Munro stalked up and down our lines out there on the Common, truing us up into a more respectable looking force.

“We’re not here to block their advance to Concord, lads,” he said. “We’re just going to show them we shall not be cowed by their brutish arrogance. And to insure we do that to our best abilities, I want you, boy, to move to the rear of our lines. Or better yet, across the road to your family. You are at heart a coward. You have no character and don’t deserve to stand with these honorable men.”

Mister Munro never did have much truck with me. Not since he caught me talking to his daughter, Abigail, behind the Meeting House without an adult family member within arm’s length. He pushed me backwards with the butt of his musket, but I just lined up behind Prince, the Estabrooks’ towering Negro, where he stood in the back row.

Now that Sergeant Munro had squared us up, I could peer through the gaps between men and see the Redcoats approach, their leader riding a fine black.

The sun had climbed high enough for us to see the Regulars advancing on the road to Concord now. They marched as one, dully, with little life to their strides and less to those faces we could make out. They looked for all the world like they were marching in their sleep, their shoes and gaiters caked with drying mud. The only liveliness to this red mass on the road to Concord were their drumbeats, the clinking metal of their equipment and the glint of dawn light on their buttons and weapons.

I felt a chill beyond the normal cold of an April morning and shivered as I stood with Papa’s fowler in my hands. I’d loaded it yesterday with birdshot and a ball, reckoning, if need be, my aim was poor with the rifle ball, I’d at least get a piece of one of the Regulars like he was a pheasant. Instinctively, I pulled the hammer to half-cock. My knees shook and I knew not if it was a shiver from that chill or from something I didn’t wish to admit. Perhaps Munro was right after all. Maybe I was a coward.

But I held my ground. I would not let Munro or the Redcoats run me off. No more.

Just as the wind shifted into our faces, Captain Parker raised his short sword and his rasp wafted over us, saying something like, ”Stand your ground, men. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” Or so Amos told me later.

I heard another click.

A murmur went through the men ahead of me. Out on the road, the column’s advance guard, rather than taking the left fork to Concord, turned to right and then toward us. I could hear the shouted orders run down their column. I saw the big black horse of their commander turn from the road, leading even more Regulars to the left, close enough for me to throw a rock and hit one. They now formed a solid wall of red before our motley line of farmers and tradesmen.

The officer on the black then rode forward, waving his sword, and called out for us disperse. On the breeze I heard him shout, “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels!”

More orders were yelled down the lines of Regulars. Men within our company began to look at one another, talking all at once. The line looked like it was a row of rye waving in that breeze in our faces.

I could see our Captain Parker say something. I could barely hear his voice, it was now so faint. He lowered his sword and pointed it to the ground. Many in the front line began to back away from the regulars, others stood in alert position as if waiting for someone to say something like an order, show them what to do beside stand as statues.

At the shout of “Poise firelocks,” the Redcoats brought their muskets, bayonets shining in threat at their muzzles, to a position upright in front of them. Most of our men stood stock still.

Next across from us we heard, “Cock firelocks,” and saw the mounted officer shouting at his men and waving his sword, as angry at them as at us. Our line held as Captain Parker shouted in his consumptive whisper.

The breeze died and suddenly the whole world went quiet as the grave. Neither side appeared like it was going to move and no one wanted to stay. Sergeant Munro had left his position at the left end of our first rank. He walked back from the killing ground between the lines and came trotting toward the road with a fearful look as he stared right past me. I, the coward who couldn’t stand like a man to request permission to speak with his daughter. I, the boy who he wished was standing on the other side of the Boston Road.

I took a deep breath and let it out. This impasse between us all would end today.

I touched off my fowler over his head and watched Munro drop to the ground as if he was a baby cowering from a thunderstorm. Or he thought himself dead. Almost instantly there came a roar of a different kind. Red coated men advanced like lions, growling and howling like wild beasts, some firing their muskets. All of them thrusting forward their bayonets.

Some of our men fell like empty grain sacks where they stood, huge holes in their heads and bodies. Others spun like tops, choking on blood and prayers.

We ran for the trees, over rock walls and newly blossoming shrubs. More fell around me. Behind me all I could see was a cloud of sulfurous smoke with glimpses of shadow men, some in what appeared to be pink coats, and flashes of shiny metal within. But I could hear the screams of men so unluckily slow as to taste the steel of Sheffield, and not on their tongues.

Ahead lie the road to Concord, along which I last hunted turkey. That day, April 19, 1775, I hunted my fellow man. That night, I wept, my head upon Mother’s lap, and then gathered my things and marched toward Boston.

No one ever again thought me a coward, even though I don’t believe I took another full breath for the next six years. Not at Breed’s, Quebec, Valcour, Saratoga nor any other of the horrible places I never spoke of to Abigail Munro, who became my wife and the mother of our eight children.

They never met their grandfather, but know he was there with me the day the War for Independence began. That was the day his war ended and I began ours.

A short story based upon what’s considered the first bit of face-to-face armed resistance that ultimately lead to the independence of the thirteen colonies from the rule of the British Empire. In this case, it was a young man’s resistance to the strict and judgmental father of his sweetheart that led to The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.

© 2017, Joseph Hesch