Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata. | Michael Dickel

                    These fragments I have shored against my ruins
                    Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
                    Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

				                    Shantih    shantih    shantih
The Wasteland, T. S. Eliot

Rubble of war hangs from wilted rebar,
a child’s trainer swinging from broken branches,
shredded bits of clothing flagged by the wind,
broken rock, handfuls of dustalarming Tarot
cards overturned in Gaza, Yemen, Afghanistan,

Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Myanmar, 
Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Syria, Chechnya, Crimea,
now all of Ukraine invaded. War, empty and desolate
as the sea, wave upon wave of never-ending beachheads—
a martial canon of cannons, missiles, bombs, machine-

-gun repetition rat-a-tat-tats punctuating a thumping bass
rhythm from dawn to dusk and all night long. In a quiet
moment ghostly shadows slide out from shelters,
from behind brick and debris of smoking burial mounds.
They shuffle through the desolation, remains of their proud

homeland, survivors moving to the defensive periphery
for a final stand—neither living nor dead, they had sought
spring hyacinths, not hellish fires. A patient enemy, death
always triumphs, the king of entropy—slimy-bellied rats,
bloody bodies, and bleached bones its reaped subjects.

The young, once living, now dead. The still living, dying.
At the edge of the wasteland three shacks crumble to dust
under the weight of hope and repeated failures of peace:
A shanty of quiet resignation, a shanty of determination,
a shanty of fear released, once lined up against ruin,

			                    dark lightning, and silent thunder.

This poem points to T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland and to Eliot’s further sources. Follow the links from Eliot quotes and allusions above to the original lines and to annotations: The Waste Land :: T. S. Eliot Original content from that site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).


Poem ©2022 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved


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


Fast-talking slow-walking | Michael Dickel

I need to write to outrun hungry demons, 
to build a new me to replace the old. 
I need to tear down stone walls of resistance, escape
anchor blocks dragging in sand of man-entropy,
gravity molding me in the murky bottom. 

Subliminal fractures reshape my structures
into a me I schemed to avoid—ruptures
of who I came to be ripping through calloused skin.
The demons chase this fast-talking slow-walking
man, eat the cheesiness of his nightstand.
My minds slip out of sight like aces sliding from a sleeve.

I need to piece together a paradox, a slipperiness,
masked confusion—one person out of many impossibilities.
One person with so many masks. One mask for so many personae.
I need to write me, to replace as soon as I can demons
outrunning my old-man’s soul. Building, building, building,
until I understand that humanity lies in the earth below
the bull’s bellow—so only my own tongue speaks, no other.
Fast-talkling slow-walking man…
Digital landscape from photographs
©2021 Michael Dickel

©2021 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved

to heal the world | Michael Dickel

I don’t much like reading any more
as I’ve read more than enough
explanations accusations rationalizations
incarnations of old disputations
empty words for empty stomachs
nothing to sink teeth into for many
while exorbitant feasts for a few
yes, I’m even tired of these words
writing reading listening while
wild fires forage famines feast
diseases prevail over
results of my every action
reactions to human infestation

		    rushing toward entropy

	crisis the turning
	teshuva the return to

		healing requires movement

			(re)direction turning inertia
				toward tikkun olam

teshuva — to return, usually used in the sense of returning to (the Jewish) faith, from Hosea 14:2–3: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled in your iniquity. Take words with yourselves and return to the Lord. Say, "You shall forgive all iniquity and teach us good, and let us render bulls our lips.”
———
tikkun olam — the healing (or repair) of the world (or creation), according to Kabbalah, this is our purpose as humans.


©2021 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved

Who is a Stranger? — Michael Dickel

According to Jewish tradition, there are 613 Commandments (Mitzvot) in the Torah (The Hebrew Scriptures / Five Books of Moses). I’ve been taught that the Rabbinic tradition holds that repetition in the Torah indicates importance, especially for Mitzvot. The famous Ten Utterances (Ten Commandments in the Christian tradition) occur twice, in slightly different form. Another Mitvah (Commandment) however, occurs as many as 36 times: to not mistreat and even to love the Stranger (Ger, in Hebrew).

Rabbi Eliezer explains that the Torah “warns against the wronging of a ger in thirty-six places; others say, in forty-six places” (Bava Metzia 59b cited by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks).

Why do I mix “not mistreat” with “love”? This this passage in Leviticus, among others in the Torah: 

“When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The stranger living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33–34).

Today, there are two types of ger—the ger toshav (foreign resident) and the ger tzedek (righteous convert). Some today interpret the mitzvah of loving the Stranger as a reference to converts because of this. This justifies discrimination and oppression of the Other, for example, refugees. However, this interpretation is illogical. For the passages say, “you were strangers in Egypt.” And this phrase usually appears with the admonition to love a stranger.

Jews were outsiders in Egypt and eventually enslaved as a perceived threat. They were not converts. Rabbi and Professor David Golinkin tells us: “The Bible is not familiar with a ger tzedek or righteous convert. In the Bible, a ger is a stranger or resident alien of non-Israelite origin living in Israel” (Erev Pesach: ”The Stranger Within Your Gates”). He later quotes another occurrence of this mitzvah from Exodus:

“‘You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Exodus 22:20) The rabbis interpreted this to mean that you may not oppress a ger toshav either verbally or monetarily (Maimonides, Hilkhot Mekhirah 14:15-16; Shulhan Arukh Hoshen Mishpat 228:2)” (Erev Pesach: ”The Stranger Within Your Gates”).


So, who is the Stranger?

An earlier passage a few verses up in Leviticus from what I quoted earlier gives a clue: “You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18). When compared to Leviticus 19:33 which says about the stranger to “Love him as yourself,” Rabbi Sacks does, the echo suggests to me that the Stranger is also our neighbor. Does this mean those who live in proximity, that is, our neighhborhood?

Some indeed argue resident alien, someone who is legally living with you. I have hear oral arguments that this is “the stranger within your gates” (Exodus 20:10). However, the passage from Exodus where I find this (also translate in the JPS Torah edition: “the stranger within your settlements”) refers not to loving the Stranger and does not mention “for you were strangers in Egypt.” It is the mitzvah not to work on the Sabbath, and includes those who live with you (also son, daughter, your slaves, your cattle…with the stranger listed last among those specified in addition to “you” who shall not labor).

The phrase that frequently accompanies the mitzvah of treating well and loving the stranger, “for you were strangers in Egypt,” provides a wider scope than the neighborhood—at least the dynasty of Egypt in size. And I would suggest that if we think of the whole earth as our current residence, and countries as neighborhoods, we could got further. Any stranger on earth—now less foreign from from another nation, but more stranger from another neighborhood, someone we don’t know well or at all. The “them” of “us and them.”

And this Other, all others, while we may still perceive an “us” and a “them,” the mitzvah here is to not mistreat, better, to treat well, and more than that, to love. How to love the stranger? As ourselves.


Empathy

How do we approach this revolutionary loving of the erstwhile threatening “them”? Perhaps we begin by finding common ground. The most grounding common principle for such a radical notion? That “they” are human beings desiring and deserving social connections of being treated well and loved, as are “we.” In ways small and large, we can seek to take steps to look at other human beings and see in them reflections of our own desiring and deserving of love. Thus, they become one of us.

And this is a principle of the godhead / creative force. As the Israelites are about to enter The Promised Land, Moses tells them that The Creator “shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving the stranger food and clothing. And you are to love those who are strangers, for you yourselves were strangers in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17–19). May we thus spiritually enter The Promised Land through loving our neighbor by finding common ground.

This is not an easy or quick task. Rachel Farbiarz explores the question of “you were strangers in Egypt.” We were not. And in the end, Moses (according to the narrative) outlives those who left Egypt. The Israelites he tells this to at the end of the journey in the wilderness were not those from the beginning of that journey. She tells us this:

“…helps us understand that empathy is work, that there is something awkward and uncomfortable about its habit. We must be schooled in its compulsory nature no less than 36 times, tutored in its essentialness through the heuristic of self-deception: ‘It was you who were a slave; it is you who knows the heart of a stranger.’ Moses’ elision [of the change in generations] thus helps us internalize that empathy is not always and already there, burrowed inside like a jack-in-the-box, awaiting an opening to spring forth. It is rather an iterative effort that demands rehearsal and repetition” (Treatment of the Stranger: Our existential relationship to our ancestors and how we learn empathy).

May peace prevail on earth.


©2021 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved


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Extinction Event — Michael Dickel

Winter Nights
Painting
Miroslava Panayatova ©2020
I’m going to sink into oblivion,
obviously linking this planet 
we’re living on to contagion
so many see raging in our lives.

The planet eyes a sad reprise
in an extinction surprise designed
to rid it of us—such a fuss to save
the ducks, dolphins, and newts.

Bring luck to what our environs once
meant, turning now to the battle cry:
Arise quills, venoms, and ills! Erase
the worldwide virus that is us!

©2021 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved


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A Gathering of Stones — Michael Dickel

A Gathering of Stones

I gather stones from ocean, sea, lake, river, stream, and the dry desert wadi; to protect my straw life from the storm winds of time they line the walls, shelves, walks, and a small corner rock garden. Snow buries them in winter, the outer ones, and the inner turn invisible beneath plaster and book dust as these stories and poems renovate the narrative, revise my living space into something that might hold up to erasures of climate, and my life into—something. Long after my DNA strands become a statistical probability chancing in some descendants’ groins; long after the house falls to dust, the garden to weeds, the shores of the oceans and seas recede, advance, the lakes come and go, the rivers dry and flood, the wadi erodes to flatlands; long after all of this; a few stones out of place here in a row, there in a pile, might attract some little notice, a bit of curiosity. This flint tool from Baaka.  This agate from Superior. Amethyst from Ontario. Lava from Hawaii. Mica from Pennsylvania. Polished smooth granite. In some way we will remember. Where did such stones come from? When?  How did they end up here? Why? What story do they tell? Who gathered them in? And who after all will stop to notice; in what climate will these stones be uncovered? Perhaps by a robotic rover returned from Mars…

A segment from Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z First High-Resolution Panorama
March 02, 2021 — Cropped and adjusted in Adobe® Photoshop® by Michael Dickel
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Poem ©2012–2021 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved


An earlier version of this poem appeared in Synchronized Chaos, November 2012.


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Posted in Book/Magazine Reviews, General Interest, Writing

Poetry Chef Michael Dickel brews a Mindblower, concocts ugly- allusions with beautiful- imagery on rough pleats of old political denims.

timeofthepoetrepublic

The resistance poet in Poetry Chef Michael Dickel wields his frying spoon with that amazing verve of a militant word-master and that astounding zeal of a chronicler cum griot cum protest poet. He fries and roasts the 6th January American political gaffe into a beautiful poetry gourmet ( fusion of visual arts , graphics and poetry) as perpetuated by the tyrant and autocratic regime of Donald Trump at Capitol Hill . Archaisms and political corruption that has since plunged the once all powerful America into the status of a Banana Republichovel , a war mongering nation and a military state on record as lecturing several countries across the globe on ethos of non-violent elections, freedom of expressions , human rights and democracy . Dr.Dickel uses powerful grim visual imagery , sorry historical allusions exposing the stark nudity of a system that have thrived on punishing other nations through perpetuation…

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Posted in Art, poem, Poems/Poetry

Five X Two, poem and digital art by Michael Dickel

Five X Two

Who blanks out one moment
sinks away from assault of light
covers provides thin shield—

but the night wraps me anonymously
protects me from dirty living-room windows
skins garlic in neglected kitchen corners.

What leaves biting gnats disturbs
perchance calm invisibility shines spots
interrogates shadows under the bed—

but the night emphasizes this
anonymously wiping glass clean
cooks up stews of sour lemons.

When whistles wastrel wind-
tunes wordlessly lifts dust grit
wastes faucet drips clock ticks—

but the night dampens eyes
anonymous echo in ears grief
wraps too many stricken.

Where sleep wrestles waking
nightmares slip into streaming
irreality shows cracked in paint—

but the night welcomes chaos
distrusts rhetoric hugs anonymous
crumbs like fine-grained death.

Why dwells here in this dark
so many tiny organic strands
unravels nucleotide secrets—

but the night reads novels
critiques plots of anonymous despair
writes poetry for morning trash.

 

©2020 Michael Dickel (Poetry and digital artwork). All rights reserved.


Michael Dickel’s writing and art appear in print and online. His poetry won the international Reuben Rose Poetry Award and has been translated into several languages. His most recent book, Nothing Remembers, came out in 2019 (Finishing Line Press) and received 3rd place for poetry in the Feathered Quill Book Awards–2020. He is Co-Managing Editor of The BeZine.


Earthquake and Devastation by Michael Dickel

The poem Earthquake and Devastation as graphic art, with a photo of flowers in the background.
Poem, photo, and art
©Michael Dickel

Earthquake and devastation

Shaken earth weeps
floods of ice in all lands,
attempts to cleanse itself.

We diseased cells have
metastasized, eaten
its forbidden flesh,
perforated its bones.

What it cannot shake
off it sweeps away
with wind and rain,
or burns off in fires.

Glaciers wear down
what remains. Everything
known is now extinct.

Only new forms will emerge,
scathed and transformed
by death, cancerous greed,
into fallen-Phoenix grace.

©Michael Dickel

An earlier version of this poem appeared in The BeZine, Summer 2018. It is part of a selected and new poems collection with the working title, Necropolis. It is presented here as a metaphor for the pandemic.

MICHAEL DICKEL, co-managing editor of The BeZine, has writing and art in print and online in many venues. His poetry has won the international Reuben Rose Poetry Award  and been translated into several languages. His latest collection of poetry Nothing Remembers, came out in 2019 from Finishing Line Press, and received 3rd place for poetry in the Feathered Quill Book Awards–2020. A poetry chap book, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism, came out in 2017; The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden, a flash fiction collection, came out in 2016. Previous books: War Surrounds Us (2014), Midwest / Mid-East (2012), and The World Behind It, Chaos… (2009). He co-edited Voices Israel Volume 36, was managing editor for arc-23 and -24, and is a past-chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English. With producer / director David Fisher, he received a U.S.A. National Endowment of Humanities documentary-film development grant. He currently is a lecturer at David Yellin Academic College of Education, Jerusalem, Israel.

Posted in General Interest

Moshe’s House in Space, flash fiction and photography by Michael Dickel, artwork by Moshe Dickel

Author’s note: Sometimes, our children tell us things that they see or know, and we don’t have faith in our children’s senses. This is speculative fiction about climate change that suggests the children might yet show us a way, even if it is too late for us. This flash fiction appeared in The BeZine July 15, 2016. A somewhat different version of it originally appeared on Fragments of Michael Dickel (now called Meta/ Phor(e) /Play).
Ark-2 Digital Art from photos and sidewalk chalk Ark-2
Digital Art from photos and sidewalk chalk (photographed)
©2014 Michael Dickel

Moshe’s House in Space

Before, no sand swept through, no water splashed—a beach at driving distance, yes, but a long, long walk away. Before the three-year old’s stories, which I only half listened to: he was born in clouds before dinosaurs were alive; he died; “But now,” he said, “I’m becoming alive again.”

I thought a story he told me one morning came from his dreams.

He knew a dinosaur, he told me, with bright blue feathers in the day. At night it turned wooly and gray, to keep warm. The dinosaur had a name, Pollaydowen.

I thought, what an amazing imagination my three-year old son has, what colorful dreams.

He had other stories, about his house in space and all of the animals that lived there with him, a farm he had at this house. He went on and on with details—listing every animal we saw at the zoo, on farm visits, in books, on videos, on the internet; listing all of the plants and flowers he had heard of; listing creatures great and small in his lakes and seas.

How did he know all of them?

He insisted we should visit his house in space.

Then changes came suddenly, not slowly, as even the most pessimistic predictions had held. One day, news report said the sea covered beaches even at the lowest tides. The next week, waves washed across roads. Houses washed away. Whole neighborhoods of people could barely evacuate before the surf swallowed the land and their belongings.

The water washed sand over everything. The ozone layer shredded. Paint bubbled and peeled on cars, houses, government buildings. Everything and everyone aged.

Soon, sand dunes blew across the road in front of our house. The house looked like fifty years of neglect had settled in on it over the past few weeks.

That last day, my wife and I heard my son speaking in his room. And we heard another voice.

We went in. A bright blue flash turned toward us.

“We have to go,” my three-year old calmly explained, “now.”

“These sands end time here, the last to flow through the hour-glass,” the blue lizard-creature, Pollaydowen, added.

As we left the house, we trekked through hills of sand.

We returned once, to see what had happened.

I left this note for you who might find it, scratched in the walls, just in case anyone remains. We have an ark.

Photo ©2014 Michael Dickel
Photo ©2014 Michael Dickel


 

Posted in Environment/Deep Ecology/Climate Change

En Gedi, a poem by Michael Dickel

En Gedi — Wadi David Photograph ©2015
En Gedi — Wadi David
Photograph ©2015

En Gedi

Even lizards hide from this scorched heat.
Tristram’s grackles pant in the shade of skeletal acacia.
Fan-tail ravens float on rising currents like vultures.

David hid from Saul in the strongholds of En Gedi;
along the wadi now named for him, waterfalls
drop warm water onto maidenhair ferns into tepid pools.

Any stippled shade provides shelter from the scathing sun
when hiding from midday heat or close pursuit:
Tristram and Iseult, David, seek shade, ferns, sparkling droplets.

We escape, fugitives from kings
into what little shade we find, wade
into green puddles of desert water,

for brief respite, solace,
a bright glimmer sliding down
an eroding rock face.


Michael Dickel read En Gedi at the Interfaith Eco Poetry Slam in Jerusalem on 30 June, 2016, sponsored by the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. Here is a video of him reading it.


En Gedi Digital Art / Poem ©2014-2016 Michael Dickel
En Gedi
Digital Art / Poem
©2012-2016 Michael Dickel


This poem originally appeared in Michael Dickel’s book, Midwest / Mid-East and is published here with the poet’s permission. It first appeared in The BeZine on July 15, 2016.


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).

Posted in Michael Dickel, Poets/Writers

Contributing Editor, Michael Dickel’s new collection, upcoming from Finishing Line Press



Congratulations, Michael. We’re so proud.

I’ve read Michael’s latest collection and will post a review, interview, and some sample poems shortly on The Poet by Day… Meanwhile NOW IS THE TIME TO PRE-ORDER Michael Dickel’s title, Nothing Remembers.
Jamie Dedes, Managing Editor, The BeZine


Advanced praise: 

.
“He raises the question of whether the past can be preserved in memory, or whether memory is most effective in the face of loss. Either way, what does the past leave us, who are we with or without the past, and if poetry can occasionally fill gaps in our present, what if anything can it give us of our past? Is poetry anything at all — or is it nothing at all, and is the nothing of poetry the best memorialization? Dickel’s sensory, sensual, musical lyric roves across wet and dry landscapes, food and drink, family and friends, darkness and light, sleep and wakefulness, dreams and reality. His words hover between his homes in the Mideast and the American Midwest, conveying the fragility of present and past, enacting a memory at high risk of loss, maintaining faith against staggering odds. Nothing Remembers is a dream of peace, the peace that may come if and when persons and peoples live in a present comfortable with close and distant memory.
–Hassan Melechy, author of Kerouac: Language, Poetics, and Territory (Bloomsbury) and A Modest Apocalypse (Eyewear)
.
Michael Dickel combines powerful imagery and poetic beauty with a reality beneath life’s skin, that will gently shake the reader into an awareness, refreshing and engaging. He will take you through his pages to a ‘resting state’ where possibilities in your mind will feel endless.
–Silva Merjanian, author of Life and Legends
.
Between knowing and dreaming, shattered screams, pulses, shadows and longing, Michael Dickel’s arresting fourth collection, Nothing Remembers, navigates an erotics of re-membrance renegotiating a Proustian ethos of things resonant, prescient, and the ghostly revenance of hope.
–Adeena Karasick, author of Salomé: Woman of Valor
.
“I know so many wildly talented writers. It is one of the great privileges in my life. Michael Dickel is one of them: he uses language like layers of color in a complex painting — you can access experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve just preordered his upcoming collection, Nothing Remembers, from Finishing Line Press; poetry lovers, this is worth having.”

–Ina Roy-Faderman, author of 56 Days of August: an anthology of postcard poems

Multiplying Media, four poems by Michael Dickel

19 August 2005
©2018 Michael Dickel

 

Skin Rug poem graphic
Skin Rug
©2018 Michael Dickel

 

Faint White Distance
©2009 Michael Dickel
from The World Behind It, Chaos…

 

Strange Fire
©2012 Michael Dickel

Headphones recommended for the full sound-sculpture effect.

 

 


Graphics, poems, and music ©Michael Dickel All Rights Reserved


[Click on an image to see it full size.]


Posted in General Interest, Poets/Writers

HEADS-UP POETS AND POETRY LOVERS in and around Hamilton Ontario: Save-the-Date, The BeZine Contributing Editor, Michael Dickel reading


 

MICHAEL DICKEL a poet, fiction writer, and photographer, has taught at various colleges and universities in Israel and the United States. Dickel’s writing, art, and photographs appear in print and online. His poetry has won international awards and been translated into several languages. His chapbook, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism came out from Locofo Chaps in 2017. Is a Rose Press released his most recent full-length book (flash fiction), The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden, in 2016. Previous books: War Surrounds Us, Midwest / Mid-East, and The World Behind It, Chaos… He co-edited Voices Israel Volume 36(2010). He was managing editor for arc-23 and arc-24. With producer / director David Fisher, he received an NEH grant to write a film script about Yiddish theatre. He is the former chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English. Meta/ Phor(e) /Play is Michael’s blogZine Michael on Social Media: Twitter | FaceBook Page | Instagram | Academia  Michael is also an a member of The BeZine core team.

Social Media As Empty Vessels | Michael Dickel

Selling Ourselves
on an Empty Medium


Michael Dickel

I advertise sometimes on social media. I’ve learned something about how it works. These are some thoughts about what social media really is about—perhaps a change of perspective, like the famous wine glass or kissing couple image, will help us to think about how the business of social media provides structure for the post-truth phenomenon.

To be clear, what I have to say is not new or exclusive to social media. Noam Chomsky has pointed out that “news” media (as all media) are not in the business of giving its audience (readers or viewers) the news (or entertainment or other “content”). The business model sells the audience to advertisers. Newspapers used to be sold for less than the cost of printing, and broadcast did not initially charge (cable and satellite changed that, but most news and much other media content comes in the basic plans, without premiums). And, famously, Marshall McLuhan told us “the medium is the message.”

News media at least also provide(d) content gathered, written, and delivered by journalists who (at least before “post-truth”) cared about ethics, truth, and fact, and who provided an important social service (if not perfect and often shaped or biased). The ads, are often seen as a “necessary evil”— commerce to provide this service. Still, ads remain(ed) the business model and, thus, subscriptions and ratings mattered.

Audience matters more than ever, because what social-media companies discovered is the medium is not just the message. It is everything.


Audience is the only content in social media, in a sense, and the medium (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) simply holds the audience. The audience busies itself with creating its own content and, well, being social. Hence, social media. These media should not be confused with content-media. While both sell audience to advertisers, content-media create or distribute others’ content to attract audiences. Social media create a medium for audiences to inhabit.

Therefore, social media are little more than empty frameworks—pure medium, with no content. The audiences are not only sold to advertisers, they now produce the content that keeps other audiences (and themselves) engaged.

This engagement is necessary in order for the social media companies, which provide the framework-medium, to sell the advertising to reach those audiences. And the medium—computers—provides detailed and accurate measure of the impact of the ads, which makes the advertiser’s purchase of audience more effective per dollar.

The medium, therefore, pushes engagement. Think of the increased availability of emojis / emoticons on the media, including Facebooks additions to the thumb on posts and, now, on post comments. More interactions that amount to increased engagement. Even those not posting have something to do and contribute to the process, and choosing an emoji instead of just clicking the thumb shows a higher level of engagement with that particular content.

So, what significantly differs with content-media, is that the content itself actually comes from the target audiences, who engage in it through an increasing number of channels (posting, comments / replies, likes, shares / replies, emoji, etc.). The social-media companies don’t produce content, just the frameworks—that is, the medium.

We, the users / audience, produce the content for social-media companies, give it away to them, and think we’re doing it to entertain ourselves and friends. However, more important to the business model, we’re also attracting and entertaining audience that the social-media companies can sell to advertisers—and make no mistake, we also are in that the audience for those advertisers.

Many of us, myself included, promote our own projects, work, businesses to these audiences with the “content” we produce. Many of us, myself included, also advertise on social media. So any one individual, such as myself, fills multiple roles within any one social medium. The social-media companies, however, control the medium and benefit from each and every role any individual plays. The more roles, the better for the companies.

(Granted, traditional media to “keep relevant” and stop audience loss, have increasingly incorporated engagement and aspects of content creation—from reader blogs to comments and replies online, so the distinction is less clear with contemporary news outlets than with traditional outlets of the past.)

We, as users / audience, engage— “curate,” “share,” “post,” “like” —all of which keeps the audience for the ads (ourselves and others) distracted from the marketing purpose of the media while providing the audience for the ads that the social-media companies sell (to us). This “engagement” also provides the framework with the information to target our interests so that it can present ads we are more likely to respond to with a “like,” “emoji,” “click,” or “conversion” (e.g., sale for the advertiser, purchase for you). And we participate willingly.

The algorithms the companies create don’t measure truth, although I should say they haven’t up until recently, when Facebook announced one to recognize “fake news.” The companies design the algorithms to measure and record engagement and conversions in relationship to interests and content. Content that attracts attention (and ad responses) rules the news feeds, timelines, recommend-for-you links, and thus rules the media waves.


They call it “Big Data,” all of the information that can be found out about us on the internet, much of it through social media and about our social-media engagement. And the Russians have taken this all quite seriously, using social media for political purposes.

Note that the social-media companies don’t directly sell conversions—the term for sales. The advertisers do track them, with help from the social-media companies and their software. They track these for the effectiveness of the ads and ad settings. Also, the more conversions, the more valuable an audience and the more successful the medium that holds that audience.

All of our content and engagement contribute to the “Big Data” out there. And the data provides a surprisingly, and scarily, detailed picture of who we are.

One researcher found a way to connect pages we like on Facebook with specific personality profiles with some reliability. The methods he used seem to have been used by a political consulting company to shape ad messages to fit those personality types and to target the ads to those specific audiences. They also used the data to choose which audiences to ignore as unlikely to respond.

Reportedly, the consulting firm worked with the Brexit and Trump campaigns, both of which succeeded when expected not to. Whether or not the work this company (reportedly) influenced the “surprise outcomes” remains a question for debate. However, the fact that these campaigns heavily used social media is another aspect of the medium and how important the audience it holds is (and such use is not only in ads, but for tweets and posts).

For reasons largely to do with evolutionary survival, we respond to fear, anger, and (literal and figurative) loudness. We pay attention to it because for most of our evolution, these types of social voices warned us, kept us safe, got our adrenalin going so we could put out fires, defend against dangers, or run away.

Therefore, it should not surprise us that LOUD lies, SHOUTED anger, SHRIEKS of fear (or ALL CAPS) get us going, our adrenalin roaring, and our tendency to quickly respond (with more action and less thought). This responsiveness could—just possibly—lead us also to more engagement, as a sort of “action.” We respond by clicking more little icons, typing another comment (reply), sharing (retweeting) more, and yes, probably also by clicking on ads more—a less direct response, but with adrenaline flow, we go.

Those famous (possibly Russian) trolls, however, keep the lies moving, the energy flowing. Why did social-media companies not “do something” about trolls before? And why are their responses (largely) minimal and ineffective now? Probably because they “influence”—the “audience” for ads probably “engage” more on social media and with the ads themselves when trolls keep the medium roiling. As the companies sell both exposure (showing the ad) and response (click), numbers alone are the main factor. However, the higher the response rate , the much more valuable the audience.

So the more engaged the audience and the more sales (of ads, by the users) the audience generates, the more the companies profiting from the medium don’t want to limit or lose that audience or anything / anyone who keeps it engaged.

Trump has mastered Twitter for getting people riled up—it doesn’t matter for or against, his Tweets get responses, articles, commentaries, editorials in response now that he’s President, symbolic head of the vast U.S. social network. Even if you or I reject the legitimacy of his presidency, he ranks as social-influencer-in-chief, or, in other words, troll-in-chief. And most of us have probably read one (likely more) of his tweets or at the very least, read about them.

Truth doesn’t matter in this medium. Only having an audience in it and how the audience responds to each other in it. The more engagement, the more the creators of the media can sell ads—ads fed into and made more effective in the medium according the data our engagement produces. The medium and its ability to hold an audience and promote engagement matter more than anything.


I don’t have evidence to support all of these ideas. These are thoughts I’ve been working through, and may eventually shape themselves into a long-term research and writing project. So don’t take these words as truth. They are not post-truth, either, though.

Think of them as speculation and hypothesis, a beginning of a process of trying to understand something about the media that contain us as its sole purpose to exist.

However, if it is the case that the liars, haters, shouters—the trolls and Trumps—do increase audience size and engagement (clicks and conversions), then we may be destined for a post-truth social media world until we choose not to respond and engage—that is, until as audience, we choose how to respond by not reacting, how to quiet the social around the trolls, liars, click-bait artists who (want to) roil it.


©2017 Michael Dickel

The cat didn’t lie | Michael Dickel

Apocalyptic Winter I Digital art from photos ©2016 Michael Dickel
Apocalyptic Winter I
Digital art from photos
©2016 Michael Dickel

 

Apocalyptic Winter

i
Murk clenches around the world—
solstice, yes; cruor, surely; necrosis,
possibly; apoptosis, likely. Trees pull

back, plants close for business,
even cockroaches go dormant,
or almost sleep through the long night.

Those few flowers on a windowsill
only admonish me in the name of the
painted flood that stained last summer.

ii
Dried herbs crumble, anamneses of the sun.
I stop, though, and talk to the feral cat
whose felicitations hiss out from iron bars

on top of a stone wall that divides civic
sidewalk from exclusive parking. I would
purr, unlike this ginger gamine cat,

if I had cause enough to lucubrate.
The thalassic truth of this spot sidesteps
my yearning to swim in the desert.

Apocalyptic Winter II Digital art from photos ©2016 Michael Dickel
Apocalyptic Winter II
Digital art from photos
©2016 Michael Dickel

iii
Absinthian coffee wakes something
harsh, chlorophylloid, but not for long, and my
bleak, burnt bones creep forth on a nameless road.

The moon climbs, someone wants me to offer
straightaway. A ray penetrates the darkness
and lifts the crux to spheres surmounting

dictionaries and thesauri that spill
obfuscations, tangle moods and modes
into articulated modifications of noumena.

iv
The cat didn’t lie, so neither will the eye.
Clouds hid the moon. An uncanny aura
spilled down from a lunar eclipse. The trees

gamboled, lifting their roots and dropping them,
a geographic gamble. Stories stumbled down
cliffs. Nothing changed in the seething

and nothing persisted unchanged, which
I don’t really apprehend. The tongue does not
construe such spectacles or words unconstrained.

Apocalyptic Winter III Digital art from photos ©2016 Michael Dickel
Apocalyptic Winter III
Digital art from photos
©2016 Michael Dickel


If you put the mouse cursor over the links and wait a moment, text will appear over (and appear to define) the linked words. This poem appeared originally on Meta/ Phor(e) /Play as Winter Poem. It has since been published in my chap book, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism (free PDF download). You can also purchase a print copy through locofo chaps.