letters, gunshots, another dream, and more | Lonnie Monka

I’ve been sending letters to various
areas controlled by the islamic
          state

explaining how peaceful & loving ways of life are possible
that to kill in the name of God is mistaken
& that a little dialogue could do wonders

I sent poems describing a future world without war
& inspiring quotes from political & religious leaders

then
          one day
                    I received a reply:
“to the dreamer who mistakes a nightmare for paradise”
          it began
“it is beyond us to know if by God you mean Allah
          yet let us assure you
a thirsty man lost in the desert may find a pool of pure water
          revive himself
& then run off to share his hydrating discovery
          until the pool is depleted
such is your state
          you call out to God
to control the rain
          & to replenish the empty form
which memories & stories claim was filled
          with purity
we
          by the power of Allah
will move from pool to pool

decimating fraudulent temples erected not to worship
          but to control the rain
until the whole world submits to Allah
          & our expansion ceases
leaving only a pure motion

dams will not be erected
          as people flow across the land
no different than water
          across the earth

you speak of love & peace
          but
you only want us to pay taxes
          to erect more static artifices

& please
          from now on
use extra postage
as we grow
          our operations carry more overhead”

Photograph
Michael Dickel ©2022

gunshots in the distance

          in distinct intervals
marked by a sloppy unison
          of soldiers at the firing range
the odd out-of-sync shots
          blossom into a single roaring echo
as I lay in a bush-filled field
          surrounded by weeds of varying heights

perched in a weed’s canopy

          of white flowers
a white spider
          waits

black flies & red beetles
          scrummage through the bed of sweets
climbing beside & even over
          the still white spider

its body mounted
          by little legs
while two longer white legs
          extend half bent in the air

till certain sized flies pass
          its face
triggering those long thin legs
          to swoop down
striking prey dragged
          into a hungry face

sometimes when released
          those bodies fall motionless
& sometimes they begin
          mid-air to fly

Falling spider, invisible thread
Digital Art from Photograph
Michael Dickel ©2022

another dream

          of two soldiers in a watchtower
                    talking through the night
will history judge us poorly?
          one asked
                    & his friend said
yes & no
          since history forgives the perpetrators
                    with a flare
for watching those who suffer most
          as those
                    who inherit evil

so they say

an M-16 in someone's hand asserts: kill or be killed
it only argues with adults—whereas children
they deafen all arguments into chatter

a stray dog doesn't know that it roams about as if it's not a target
a tree couldn't care less that it can sustain many bullet wounds
a wall must separate sides—no matter its thickness

it's fine if we're mistakenly standing on some graveyard
it's ok if you can't stop all people from fighting
it's nice to take care of a cat that you dislike

let all the varied kinds of privileged people tell you what's right
let thoughts of distant violence grow more distant
let yourself breathe—simple & stupid—grinning like a gorilla

it's alright if the news improves its powers of seduction
it's alright if one day the sun just burns out
it's alright if you desire—deviously—to litter a little

even if ambiguous firework-explosions startle you
if you move & speak according to what you believe is right
it's good if life & death dissolve into some unspeakable truth

veteran field

—for Mr. Visher
both before our lives and before our eyes
           upon every death before us we live
thoughtlessly leaping from this height to that
           we continue & learn also to love
to continue living as if stable
           upon whatever ground beneath our feet:
our subtle world produces fertile soil
           like this lush field where children play—knowing not
how they grow upon the dead body parts
           of some passing war & of all thought as war:

with ever-shifting translucent pillars
death supports all mortal experience

waning & waiting

bullets whiz
           past people’s ears
every day
           on city streets
I have shot
           the same gun
others have used
           for suicide

the stop signs have
           no gun holes here
the sun is blocked
           from flirting strands
of light—flickering
           with the rising
& the setting
           of lust-filled days:
maybe tomorrow
           I’ll find her
perhaps I will pull
           hard on her hair

every day
           I wake up
a blinded bird
           that craves to fly:
who can resist
           the savage pleasure
of pushing hard
against the air?

©2022 Lonnie Monka
All rights reserved


Lonnie Monka…

…founded Jerusalism, a non-profit organization to promote Israeli literature in English. He is a PhD student at Hebrew University, researching the intersection of modernist art and orality through a study of David Antin’s talk-poems, and he is currently an OWL Lab Fellow.



Posted in interNational Poetry Month, Poems/Poetry, poetry

just a thought & 2 more poems | Lonnie Monka

just a thought

a gazelle
            leading its herd
can only turn
            as sharply as it
can gallop fast
            enough not
to become trampled
                        —thoughtlessly

along sections of the coast

regardless of who paid to put them there
there are "Danger of Landslide" signs
embedded into the Mediterranean sand


signs that bystanders only take as seriously
as they wonder about the future...
the future—which only ever seems to be


projections of the past—& regardless
of all their writing these signs present
an illustration of a skull facing the horizon

surely someone needs to say the cliché:
a skull has no face—no skin—no nationality
a skull just depicts the peak of naked human history


& I would never have recognized that skull as mine
until happening upon one sign that had been uprooted
and covered by—surprise surprise—a landslide

violence & the pupil

pounding their hooves gazelle search for food
in the Negev's largest nature reserve
until in the sky erupts a distant rumble

the gazelle jerk their gaze upwards
as eyes fidget across a blue & white expanse
expressing a bellow in motion

then as a target on the central hilltop explodes
the violence of the world penetrates the pupil
& an inert luster of the orb reflects

an Israeli Air Force jet zooming ahead of its own voice
restricting firing practice damage to that one hilltop
where earth is freshly blackened with each new blow

each explosion shakes the gazelle's fear-bound bones
but never ignites that ever-expansive desire
urge upon urge to preserve & to be preserved

oh!—how I wish I were a child again
ruled by cravings to touch all objects in my gaze
unaware of the damaging effects of expressing interest

before internalizing Rabbis’ tales of my people
gathering before Mt. Sinai as newly freed slaves
unwilling to face a thundering voice of the divine

"go to the top of the mountain without us"
we plead & instruct our leaders
"pound those awful sounds into marks on stone"

©2022 Lonnie Monka
All rights reserved


Lonnie Monka…

…a Jerusalem-based poet, founded Jerusalism, a non-profit organization to promote Israeli literature in English. He is a PhD student at Hebrew University, researching the intersection of modernist art and orality through a study of David Antin’s talk-poems, and he is currently an OWL Lab Fellow.

Jerusalism


Quote from The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot

April in The BeZine Blog


Posted in General Interest

In Memoriam, Contributor Ester Karen Aida

In the Jewish tradition, our first words on hearing of the death of someone are usually Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet, Blessed is the True Judge. It reminds us that we may not know why, but our friend has been taken. We give up our questions to a higher power.

Today, I learned that a friend here in Jerusalem from the creative-activist communities, Ester Karen Aida, passed away. Her funeral will be this evening, as I write this. In 2018, I published some of her poems on my blog, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play. Karen, as I knew her, contributed to The BeZine starting in 2021, when I invited her to send her words and art to us. Her most recent contributions were in this summer’s Waging Peace issue—an important theme in her activist and creative work. Her writing and artwork added strength, beauty, and compassion to each issue in which it appeared.

Psalm 24
Ester Karen Aida ©2022

I first met Karen some years ago at a reading in an art gallery in Jerusalem, which had been organized by our mutual friend, Lonnie Monka. She was in a wheelchair, but active, engaged, and cheerful. We spoke, finding common ground in our creative work and activism. We both had trained in Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) techniques. And we became friends from that conversation.

We would see each other mostly at poetry events. We kept up in email and on Facebook. She was making progress with her ongoing health issues, from wheelchair to walker to cane. I gave her rides home from some of these events, after she moved to a neighborhood near mine. She supported peace in the region here with words and deeds, helped individuals in need, and encouraged NVC training. She also supported accompanying and traditional health practices (aka alternative) to work alongside of Western medicine.

Woman in a Field of Marigolds
Ester Karen Aida ©2022

She was a dynamic, compassionate, and strong woman. She leaves grieving family, friends, colleagues. I am still in a bit of shock at the news. Not long from now, I will get ready to attend her funeral, drive across Jerusalem, and join the mourners.

In our Jewish tradition, the family will sit Shiva for 7 days. It is customary to sit with these mourners and listen to their sorrow and their memories as they process the loss. The stories they tell preserve their memory in our hearts. May it be so for all who knew and loved Karen, that her memory be for a blessing.

Children’s Community Garden, Arnona, Jerusalem
(Pastel on brown paper grocery bag)
Ester Karen Aida @2022

Those who visit to comfort the mourners say, when we leave: Ha’makom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar avelei Tziyonvi’Yerushalayim, In this place may G-d console you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

—Michael, Jerusalem, 11 August 14:36


See Ester Karen Aida’s work in The BeZine.


Featured image at top of the post: Pines, Pencil on Paper, Ester Karen Aida ©2021


Words ©2022 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved