leading its herd
can only turn
as sharply as it
can gallop fast
to become trampled
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"
…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.
Poems from Purpose, an unpublished poetry collection that calls attention to the horrors and beauties in this complex life…
The extremes of nature
shock city folk
unaccustomed to deluging rain,
weakend by mass comforts,
in dire disasters
The homeless sit
on crumbling sidewalks,
cardboard signs proclaiming need
from rain, snow,
by almost everyone
almost as needy,
abandoned by the 1%
no longer concerned with
the suffering of the people,
the state of the nation.
Since man first organized
into family units
one had to be above average
to advance in the clan, tribe,
early cities, city-states, nations,
all well established hierarchys
classified by rank, trade, wealth.
Thousands of years later
shortly after World War II,
returning U.S. soldiers
went to college on the G.I. Bill,
a free education
for seven million men
who jumped to middle class,
a social revolution
in human history.
Soldiers were usually discarded
when no longer needed,
for few had the skills
to make them desirable.
Then millions of graduates
went into the world
with valued professions
that produced wealth and comfort
only dreamed of in the past.
The legions of ex-warriors
unresentful of their treatment,
unlike many soldiers past,
took their places happily
as prosperous citizens
with little need to question
the practices of their rulers,
who successfully bought off
the makers of rebellions
blinded to the oppression
of oligarch exploiters
by the abundance
of goods and services.
…has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 34 poetry collections, 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 5 books of plays.
for friends or strangers we've lost the appeal of
a promise of years to come unaffected by
momentary surprises you tool around town
defying calls toward turmoil while most lie
immersed in shallow panicked breaths skin itch
tingles unattended it seems not to matter what
language greets at birth the side of any road
splits open scattering impotent seeds the drought
now so prevalent we must accustom ourself to
the limited volume of cessation five shot dead
including probable head of household and how
attracted authority figures are to the fatality of
knees on back of necks only race a permissible
excuse we watch as a parent walks the
neighborhood carrying their growing child and
responsibility living in an environment where
vehicles required in order to run even short trips
you were impressed learning how little they had
in savings still equaled your yearly salary while
several state governments lay claim upon all land
access still preoccupied with the genitals of
children no wonder we all feel a recoil under thin
layers of flesh you notice their nipples harden
whenever you finally decide to leave
that’s what can happen after spending months
framed in solitude when a crumb from sandwich
startles as it hits floor every physical pleasure
renounces presence how a page read
disappears as quietly as it was brought to mind
we team up with neighbors to solve a crisis of
monetary valuation when the you vanishes
along with any thought uttered to halt the
displacement what to think when the crowd
peopled by lost relatives friends peppered with
occasional strangers pass as well in the natural
putrefaction of oxygen deprived materiality two
birds flattened in alley a few days ago now all
but gone save for irregular damp spots
evaporating in the warm daylight they remain
confident to an extent not worrying about cloth
labels poking out from under the seams fevers
splayed separated by fluid shadows only
sometimes does a letter repeat conjoined rested
from anticipated coming fresh wounds or
perhaps in candor words form an unknown
source as if onward into a renewed terror
a pause between two stanzas a musical silence
flairs brightly back to surface ease under
diversionary noise we roam the four small rooms
as might be counted ignore bathing toilet room or
you might rather enjoy the open fields of a library
tying two into one larger room local artists walls
doctored for pleasure they answer the call of
anger jealousy impotence so more shot dead
another one wears mesh mask as if thus
illustrating their neighborly care earlier a young
child flinches when spoken to reflects our facial
reaction every morning when climbing out of bed
seeing mirrored shallow tics or might it be a
return to bearable odors of bleach disinfectant
who can possibly imagine what lies hidden that
compels such stubborn rampant busy dashes
and apostrophes we just realized they'd joined in
giving birth a name three or four years ago prior
to the now ever present opportunity to face rarely
unexpected death sentence you remind life has
always been a losing hand of cards check and
recalibrate the timing of regional locations
somewhere as a walking pathway inarticulate
refusal dizzy within new gnawing hunger intuition
misguiding directionality seek dictionary advice
their attempt at forestalling the deceit of sensual
fantasy again improbable pause then leap into
new noise habitation served up on plastic
swimwear coal carrying train cars
monologic pendulum within invented diversity
over compensates the small group of seven or
fewer in the warmth of shaded looks hidden
under ignorant familiar colors when hair sparks
envy or our dress surprises misremember
height as being greater now gaze down upon
fake dreams spread lotion on over washed hands
form as kindness lacquer speckled cracking low
humidity and softly sore nipple from earlier
stimulation the addendum approaches from the
north or east building for revitalization implosion
fold within dry lawn and wilted flowers you
pretend to hear the footsteps of a spider only to
look up discover it dangling webbed to ceiling the
end grows customary losing spread over the last
fourteen months we interrupt to wash dishes
silverware pour hot water over floorboards one
still wallows in defeated romance commonality
peppers the street with skid marks tomorrow
inoculate from present foreboding separating
allergic figures of speech awaiting the cliché of
some other shoe dropping watch your age when
nearby important adults transfix upon an over
staying for sale signage as personal loss we
wager outweighs others
to slow down when you feel already atrophied
not only by the isolation but rising rent the loss
of unemployment checks even food stamps of
little good turned down regularly they recover
from heart attack have migrated from wheeled
walker to single metal cane at that age when
even nostalgia fails to temper despair almost
seems the most regularly used word on this
cloudy windy rain whispering day a love fest with
your cat sitting sharing internet chores they take
an extra day off for recovery from anguish
needles and ink endorphins we remain so
overwhelmed much yet remains to be done
details of a poorly written description empty even
of driving popular narratives finish coffee return
to the slumbering apartment watch old cop show
pretend it's a televised day off instead of the
continued replay of bad news channel incinerate
repetitious tattered worn out dreams our beard
still grows whether liked or not the child wounds
three early morning school day what to make of
this drive to destroy maybe simple species defect
had you more quickly read the marking slivers
doubt might not have curled around the sound of
pen on paper a dark sound of interrupting texts
sent by unknown others you could care less
about busy close contact rendering likenesses
Strive to change the world
in such a way that there's
no further need to be a dissident.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry as Insurgent Art
Rising up from deep within
the very core of my being
the essence of who I am
underneath my public image
is the need to find myself
someone to admire.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti spoke the words
the world needed to hear
at that exact moment.
Best of the Beats
because he promoted the rest
Paragon of enlightenment
inspirer of a new way of being
artistic role model.
Ferlinghetti would have loathed
such titles based on what
little I know about him.
He would have frowned
if not downright sneered
at such fanboy foppery.
In the same way
many reading or hearing this could be offended
by words like humanist, socialist,
countercultural, malcontent, protestor,
activist, freethinker, nonconformist.
In the Coney Island of My Mind
—or, more accurately, Exhibition Place—
I get to play with words
turn image into meaning and back again
with enough musicality to form a poetry
of concise language and complex thought
imagine these words
making this world a better place
at least for a moment
and believe if I say them with clarity
and integrity for long enough
you may just listen to me.
I have lost my voice.
The only word I have ever felt beating
in my heart, echoing through my mind
has been taken from me.
The other prisoners
hiss and whisper the words
the broken-hearted cannot say out loud
and leave me in solitary silence.
But I know why.
They don't understand
the burden I am bound to carry
and must keep hidden deep inside.
This burden keeps me alive.
It gives me passion and purpose
and is the only thing I have
which is real.
If this word trapped in my throat
found daylight at the tip of my tongue
I would sing and shout, laugh and cry
and my sentence would be complete.
If I could see her again
make love to her slowly and gently
if I could say her name once more
then I would be free.
Middle-Aged White Men Are Ruining the World
The Saturday bus ride to Morningside is so much better
than my weekday drudgery along Sheppard
up whichever connecting route presents itself
to get me east on Finch to my workplace.
Everybody is in a better mood, more courteous
more concerned about others around them.
They are on their way to fun excursions, or shopping
to meet their needs, as well as those of whom they love.
The Morningside bus ride south is even better. The bus takes
longer to arrive, but the driver wants to chat and be part
of the community, part of your day. Everyone makes room
for baby carriages and people with canes and each other.
But not LAST Saturday.
A guy about my age got on the Morningside bus with his two sons.
Two stops later, a kind enough looking guy, clearly down
on his luck, maybe hadn’t eaten in a while, entreats
the driver to let him on the bus without paying.
The guy about my age turns to his sons, shakes his head,
saying, “The driver let him on the bus for free.”
The two sons were at that age where their view
of the entire universe was filtered through their father.
What an entitled, arrogant, self-righteous, ignorant…
What kind of legacy are we leaving behind?
What kind of world are we leaving for the children?
What else can we teach them other than right or wrong?
I wondered how he would feel in the unlikely event
either he or one of his sons were in that predicament.
the world tries
to tell me
I am something
I am not
and I fight back
and I lose
so I try
to be what they say
they want me to be
and I succeed on their terms
for a moment
and then the moment passes
so I try
to be myself again
and I fail
and then I try
and I fail
but the failure
seems to be
the shit I must get through
so I can
finally grow up
so I laugh
not a maniacal laugh
merely a buffer
against the underlying darkness
to overwhelm me
try to clean myself up
this is the day
a little more
…first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, was released by Lyricalmyrical Press in 2013, and charted on the Toronto Poetry Map. Other publication credits include: Blue Collar Review; The Toronto Quarterly; Spadina Literary Review; Sharing Spaces; Tamaracks; and Tending the Fire. His first full collection, The Other Life, is newly released by Mosaic Press.
I have recently had the pleasure to begin a correspondence with the founding-editor of Coalesce, a new online journal, one that I think would be of interest to The BeZine’s readers and contributors. So I invited that editor, Erich Keyser, to share with us about Coalesce and his journey that led to it.
Connecting Through Our Stories
COALESCE is a community where people can come together by sharing their personal human story through creative nonfiction, poetry, and photo essays. We all have a personal story to tell. The way we were raised, the hardship we’ve faced, the people we’ve met, and the lessons we’ve learned. The experiences that have shaped us, good and bad, painful and joyful, challenging and rewarding. But how often do we get to share part of our story openly, feeling truly heard and understood? COALESCE is a place to be unequivocally listened to and heard, and hopefully to activate our empathy and initiate a spark of compassion and greater understanding. We never know what someone has been through. Sometimes, we aren’t even fully aware of how our own traumas and experiences have impacted us and then influence the way we see and treat others.
With our current fast-paced culture of immediacy and business, when time is money, and political perspectives equate to perceived threat, it’s hard to slow down and listen. Misinformation, misjudgments, and misunderstanding lead to fear, which prevent us from connecting with others. A global pandemic forced us to stop and listen for a brief moment in time: we could hear the birds in the city, dolphins returned to canals of Venice, people went for walks outside, had to sit with their own feelings and thoughts in their heads (scary!). Yet, there seemed to be a rush to get back to “normal” – to traffic-jammed commutes, to quick greetings of “how’s it going?” without stopping to listen for the reply. While in ways this pandemic brought us together, it also sharpened the divides and exacerbated the anxieties in our society. I think that now, even more than before, it is important for us to listen to each other.
COALESCE began about a year and a half ago when I was in the depths of a state of significant loneliness, fear, and depression. I was in self isolated quarantine in Guelph, Ontario after recently visiting my family in Pennsylvania for a short holiday trip. I was in the middle of contemplating leaving an objectively great job with steady pay and meaningful enough work. But the long hours at a desk and fast-paced business style were damaging my body and draining my soul. I was wrestling with my dad’s recent cognitive decline, which he was brushing off to old age, and that we later found out to be a tumor, which was, thankfully, successfully removed. Certain cognitive functions however won’t return – most likely due to early stages of dementia. I was missing my family and friends. And I was trying to hold together a relationship at the time, which was inevitably not going to work. I was missing and craving community and creativity, and began dreaming up all kinds of ideas, which were the beginnings of what COALESCE Community eventually became.
I grew up in a very small, very white, very conservative town. It wasn’t until I started meeting people with different lived experiences and diverse perspectives, that I genuinely started questioning my own assumptions about others and the world. I got my B.S. in Biology and Religious Studies at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, and essential to the Ursinus experience is a course called CIE (the Common Intellectual Experience). This required first-year seminar introduces students to much more than college level reading and writing. It broadens their academic, intellectual, and emotional horizons, engaging with books, poems, music, and plays across disciplines, worldviews, cultures, and time, and poses some of the most fundamental questions of the undergraduate experience (and arguably, our experience as human beings): What does it mean to be human? How should we live together? How do we come to know the world? What should matter to me? What will I do? I was lucky to have the late Rev. Charles Rice as my CIE professor, who was the epitome of compassion and love. He was a no-bullshit kind of man, who deeply cared for his students and their growth, and sought to know them on a deeper level. In short, he took time to listen to them and their personal human stories, cultivating greater understanding, compassion, and love which contributed to him being a champion for students and a pillar of the college and surrounding community.
This course, these questions, and Rev. Rice forever shaped me and how I oriented to the world. They guided my subsequent experiences at Ursinus, studying abroad in Tanzania, and at graduate school in Canada. They continue to inform much of how I approach my life decisions. During graduate school, and afterwards in a professional capacity, I had the privilege to work with several First Nations and Native American Tribes across Canada and the United States on a variety of environmental and conservation initiatives. Being able to bear witness to the powerful and beautiful songs, language, stories, ceremonies, and relationships that many of these people and Elders shared with each other and the land – culture and relationships which were almost destroyed through settler colonialism and residential schools – created a deeper understanding inside myself of the ways in which we are all connected. The ways in which we exist in relationship to one another and the world around us. The ways in which we all have spirit and can only thrive when we care for and nurture that spirit.
It’s easy to avoid an angry co-worker, to ignore someone experiencing homelessness on the street, to get upset with a friend or partner for something they said or did that was hurtful. It’s easy to dismiss someone with a different political or social perspective as a waste of time or unable to understand. But all these reactions lead to and perpetuate misunderstanding, fear, hostility, anger, cynicism, or apathy and indifference. When we take the time to sit with someone, get to know them on a deeper more intimate level, hear their story, what they’ve been through that has shaped them, it’s impossible to not develop a greater understanding of who they are, where they came from, and what they’re going through. Listening to understand is an intentional practice. The late Thich Nhat Hanh summed it up with profound simplicity: “Understanding and Love are not two separate things, but just one. To develop understanding, you have to practice looking at all living beings with the eyes of compassion. When you understand, you cannot help but love. And when you love, you naturally act in a way that can relieve the suffering of people.”
At COALESCE we want to empower people to share their story. Stories are at the center of our human experience which bring us together. Authentic and honest sharing and deep listening can help us connect with one another, cultivate greater empathy, understanding, and compassion. We currently publish a collection of human stories seasonally, one for every solstice and equinox. We try to stay connected to our contributors, follow what they’re doing, celebrate their successes and share them with the world. We are starting virtually, and in ways this is a beautiful gift as our community can reach and connect with a larger audience. The long-term vision is for COALESCE to grow into a collaborative creative community space: to hold story-telling and creative workshops, serve as a co-working space, host retreats centered on creative inquiry and expression, partner with educational institutions and other community organizations and businesses to hold space for student galleries, community talks, and so much more. Realistically, the door for ideas and people is wide open. At the center of it all is sharing our stories. For all of us. To speak our truth. To be vulnerable. To be heard. To connect. To understand. To grow closer. To heal. To love better. To see each other and the world with eyes of compassion.
…lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the Traditional Territory of the Lenape Nation). His studies in Geography, Biology, and Religion have taken him across the United States to Tanzania and Canada. Erich has several years of experience working alongside Indigenous Nations in Canada and the United States on a variety of environmental and conservation projects. He is curious about human relationships with each other and the natural world, and believes in the power of deep listening and connecting through personal stories. He is currently an Adjunct Instructor at his alma mater, Ursinus College, and finds joy in playing and composing music, writing, rock climbing, hiking, mushroom coffee, and quality time with his partner and loved ones. Erich is the founder of COALESCE.
Even with all of the tensions and warnings, Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, shocked the world. This violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty could easily expand to a broader war. This puts progressives, as I think myself to be, in position of wondering how do we wage peace? Is there a path to peace?
As I write this, I don’t know.
Whatever the path to peace may be, the path for social justice would not allow for accepting Russia’s war on Ukraine. However, I also am aware that Western Imperialism has acted just as viciously in its own interests, and that the US and the West continue to promote wars in their interests.
Perhaps the #HackersAgainstPutin group could do infrastructure damage to stop the war? Anonymous claimed credit for knocking down Russian government websites. Would this be enough? And could this escalate to cyber warfare that would harm or even kill civilians if infrastructure fails in combatant countries?
Could a world-wide strike be the path, opposed to all war and demanding peace? Is such a thing possible even? How do we follow Gandhi’s path of non-violence and quickly grow it to a global scale? I can’t imagine that it could be done in time to help the people in Ukraine.
How do we protect peace and simultaneously prevent further expansion through military force?
And who to stand behind for justice? It is not as though the U.S. does not use military force, directly and indirectly. The shadows of Vietnam, Irag, Libya, and Afghanistan loom over this battle. Can we trust the US and NATO to do the right thing?
CUNY Professor Peter Beinart offers an apt quote from 1943 to frame his argument that this time, we need to support the US, even progressives who rightly attack the US for its hypocrisy and war-mongering:
In 1943, the Hungarian-born journalist Arthur Koestler wrote: “In this war we are fighting against a total lie in the name of a half-truth.” That’s a good motto for American progressives to adopt in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
CUNY Professor Peter Beinart, “Russia speaks total lies. That doesn’t diminish America’s half-truths” in The Guardian
Beinart acknowledges the lies of the U.S.: Saying the US stands with Ukraine because America is committed to democracy and the “rules-based international order” is at best a half-truth. The US helps dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates commit war crimes in Yemen, employs economic sanctions that deny people from Iran to Venezuela to Syria life-saving medicines, rips up international agreements like the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accords, and threatens the international criminal court if it investigates the US or Israel.
But this hypocrisy wouldn’t have fazed Koestler, because it’s nothing new. In 1943, the alliance that fought Hitler was led by a British prime minister who championed imperialism, an American president who presided over racial apartheid, and Joseph Stalin. Koestler’s point wasn’t that the US or Britain, let alone the USSR, were virtuous in general. It was that they were virtuous relative to Nazi Germany in the specific circumstances of the second world war, and that these sinful governments were the only ones with the geopolitical heft to stop a totalitarian takeover of Europe.
These extended quotes give the overall argument. Beinart continues to develop it with a focus on the invasion of Ukraine. He points out that there are times when Russia had been on the relatively virtuous side and the US not, with examples. And times when the US has been relatively virtuous, and Russia not. In the end, for this case, we have to think clearly and make a choice.
As Beinart writes: “But Koestler’s point was that progressives can puncture America’s pretensions to universal virtue while still recognizing that it is sometimes one of the few instruments available to combat evil.”
While I do not support much of what the U.S. does, in this situation, I agree with Beinart that it is, relative to Putin’s invasion, the more virtuous side to support.
However, I still really want to find a non-violent path to peace for all. I recognize that, today, this seems an impossibly distant goal. It probably won’t be reached in my lifetime. Sadly, it has been made more distant, seemingly less possible, with this invasion.
My heart, thoughts, and good will goes out to the peoples of both Russia and Ukraine who are caught between the anvil and the hammer. May peace return.
I don’t know what will happen in Ukraine during the next two weeks, but as editor, I have decided to have a special section in The BeZine’s Spring issue, one devoted to peace in Ukraine. Give us your thoughts, share your poetry, send your art.
The Spring issue comes out on or shortly after 15 March.
In a shocking move that immediately unearthed fears many thought permanently buried from the Cold War of the previous century, Putin ordered Russian nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch, ratcheting up tensions with Europe and the United States over the conflict that is dangerously poised to expand beyond the former frontiers of the defunct U.S.S.R.
The Russian president told his defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in “special regime of combat duty.”
He said that leading NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” toward Russia in addition to stiff economic sanctions and cutting leading Russian banks from the SWIFT banking system.
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE TO HOLD TALKS
After rejecting Putin’s offer to meet in the Belarusian city of Homel on the grounds that their common neighbor was facilitating the Russia assault, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreed to send a Ukrainian delegation to meet with Russian counterparts at an unspecified time and location on the Belarusian border.
The announcement comes hours after Russia announced that its delegation had flown to Belarus to await talks. Ukrainian officials initially rejected the move, saying any talks should take place elsewhere than Belarus, a country that has supported Putin directly by allowing Russia to use its territory as a staging ground.
Zelenskyy, who has refused to abandon Kyiv, named Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as alternative venues for talks, before accepting the Belarus border.
The Kremlin added later that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had offered to help broker an end to fighting in a call with Putin. It didn’t say whether the Russian leader accepted.
The International Forum for Literature and Culture of Peace is pleased to announce its Peace Poetry Contest 2022 (in English or Spanish). You will be able to register your poem for this competition from the 15th February to the 15th July 2022. The winners of the contest will be announced on September 2022, during the celebration of the International Day of Peace.
In 2018 Jamie Dedes, our founding editor of blessed memory, planned to nominate writers for our issues to the Pushcart Prize. For reasons of her declining health, and by late 2018 my own emerging health issues that turned out to be lymphoma, we did not manage to make those nominations. Or, if Jamie did, I have not found an indication of it and don’t recall it. Three years later, after Jamie’s passing and my own treatment and recuperation from lymphoma, not to mention the (ongoing) pandemic…we have what I believe are our first Pushcart nominations.
We found the selection process difficult, because so many of the contributions to The BeZine this year have been powerful, strong writing. We can only nominate six. We feel honored to have had so many good choices to select from, and with respect for the many not named above, we are honored to present the six pieces listed above as our Pushcart Prize nominees. The BeZine wishes all of the writers well in the Pushcart Press selection process.
Next year, we will do this again.
On behalf of the rest of the editorial team, who supported and participated in the selection process:
John Anstie, Associate Editor Corina Ravenscraft, Art Editor Chrysty Hendrick, Copy Editor
In Hebrew, the same word is used for song and poem. This song is a poem, or this poem is a song, in any language. Manouk, a student of mine at David Yellin Academic College of Education in Jerusalem, shared this with me. As we continue poetry month(s) into May, we at The BeZine want to share its message with you, our readers.
This past week has been one of loss and sorrow here in Israel, with the death of 45 people in a crushing crowd during a religious celebration last Thursday night into the early hours of Friday morning. Lag B’Omer, the holiday, celebrates freedom and resistance to tyranny. The religious aspects go deeper, with Mystical Connections to an ancient rabbi believed to have handed down the Zohar, a principle text of Kabbalah.
This song is dedicated by its writer to Yonatan Zaken, who died too young. The BeZine dedicates it also to the 45 young and old Israelis who died last week, and to those we know and love we have lost in this past year.
—Michael Dickel, editor
There is a place
Where loved ones go
And never come back,
Where time is not counted.
Play in the dust of clouds.
And i am here empty handed…
It's been a long time now,
I've seen the contours
Of your face.
You have been brave.
They say you're better off now…
I look up high.
You promised me
You would be the brightest of all.
I know you will always be
Dancing in a field
Of memories so free.
No, I won't forget,
You remain a part of me.
הנקרא גן עדן
שלשם האהובים שלנו הולכים
ולעולם לא חוזרים
מקום בו הזמן לא נספר
נסיעות קסומות וכינורות
מתנגנים בעננים של אבק
ואני כאן בידיים ריקות
עבר המון זמן
ראיתי את צורת פניך
והם אמרו שיותר טוב לך עכשיו
אני מסתכלת למעלה גבוה
הבטחת לי שתהיה הכוכב המואר ביותר
אני יודעת שתמיד תהיה
של זכרונות חופשיים
לא, אני לא אשכח
אתה חלק ממני
of your life after the fact as all
stories are we find those
thoughts enjambed racing
toward intolerance pages
unnumbered mixing tea bags
in hot water the repeated
inaccurate refrain they find a
small hope suddenly crystalizing
on artificial sweetener with snow
forecast in inches over night our
muscles begin to atrophy a kind
act among hundreds of other
assortments never worry about
prepositions repeating even
when swallowing hard a day
dream awakens unexpected
hunger you feel the press of
their attraction weighing down
opportunity events from a past
muddle through too many filters
until only pure illusion gathers
among the quiet introverted the
collection resonates internally
with few avenues of escape
then they the lies abundant built
upon those acceptable which
means leaving more than half
alive out our denial and refusal
the medicinal median you gave
in four days ago and more than
hearts break little fuss to make
out of no longer having to wait
for this event while others play
overhead on imaginary tight
ropes to choke the life out
pretending choice personal so
block out the porous windows
brick closed the two doors
escape prevented no longer an
advocate for certainty even when
in its midst blankets quartered
around the filleted body last night
a repetitious dream just before
waking a circle of colors blended
gray you will be missed had
already been solvent for years
there hope is hard to come by
so many alone in beds meant
for brief visits we want to
scream but instead live in our
head accede to the believed
in and deeply held reality not
as imagined or experienced
but folded under our skirts
and dresses those boots yet
to be waterproofed wet hands
glove covered in snow you
welcome the new adventure
never subverted by their kind
eyes and character flaws in
another score two sing out of
key join in uncomfortable
liaisons bodies lined weight
less prayerful savants gleaning
unnatural release belief held
only in what they are told
without question to read
the expiration date was missing
so you licked tentative the day
turning into evening amid the
constant choking we carefully
build out of their words to fortify
the fear embraced in isolation
refuse to answer phone voice
mail or text block all numbers
free ourself from pretense of
common clear pathway your
heart skips beat back aches the
body always up to this moment
our family knew nothing of our
propensity for dresses and
tubular vegetables pliable
though functional made up
swirls in their empty imagination
the silence is never deafening
rather an uproar of places things
and voices their volume once
again pliable the days resort
shuffle into new brackets of
darkness and light savings
yes once again over many
nights their twenty four hour
lip service wind awakens the
solitary walkers who shrug
off the litany of complaints
sounds used to hear ourself
at what expense those others
whose practice learned doing
the same while sources
evade detection cheat in the
rubble that remains of an
earlier rousing party of some
kind and the nonexistent
masks clog the plumbing
around town make for bad air
quality sneezes feel good
even when aimed at inside
elbow at least for another few
nights pretend you haven't
lost us altogether make this
look more like what it pretends
to be wash hands again repeat
a pleasure of those who have
the time and where with all
endings rapid fire up and down
the streets trees flutter their
communal dance of sharing
you enter into their enclosed
safety open windows through
out the apartment time how
long it takes for frost to form on
various edges those things
once so valuable now aflame
in frigid light we go in and out
without effort keep forestalling
reflection through computer
screen name begin to vanish
flies unseasonable dying on
horizontal flat lines little reason
left for italic moments of capitals
your state of mind ground down
only to worthless replace the c
with an x to disappear into what
can never be easily followed
passing by the noon bell an
hour ahead gray birds in the
starkly black black and white
domain of conjoined conflict
lies building upon lies push
you back to bed and the wail
of those usual broken love
songs while lyrically diverse
the message the same their
bodies magical hidden as we
will be by mirrored glass judged
inappropriate you have never
been prescient but understand
the absence hours compel out
of any context save wonder
rereading those memories to
ensure erasure the failure when
using language with a known
assumed listener reader in mind
scrambles forms of alliterative
translation forms of abstinence
don't worry the operation went
smoothly although what's
missing remains tactile faulty
having no one to keep us
company the days languish
late autumn grayness around
the base of the two new trees
leaves burrow for warmth a
smell of bread toasting a time
ago shots of brandy and
laughter talking power outages
and strange surroundings when
young you kept hidden beneath
surfaces a sense of safety
which was all along absent
gathering groups of memorized
thoughtless inarticulate truths
leaving out a consonant or
vowel feels as if we've pulled
away from each other unnoticed
by anyone builds to a crescendo
where opposites join force
restive in ourself never a melodic
introverted caffeine synthesized
dusk lock the off switch
Particularly speaking to this “Covid moment,” Eicha (איכה) comprises 5 videopoems which takes as its jumping off point, the Biblical Eicha, The Book of Lamentations, which laments the destruction of Jerusalem and through reflection, deflection, refraction and the fracturing of language, homophonically re-situates the original text to the horrors and hope of the present moment. Tracking through “the city” as a desolate weeping widow overcome with misery, and moving through desolation, ruin, prayer, and recovery, it explores ways that in rupture, there is rapture.
As transpoesis it acts not only (in General Semanticist terms) as a “time binder” but through a luminous, voluminous threading of light, it highlights how darkness is a form of light, how text itself is, in essence, black light on white light, and thus opens up new ways of seeing and the cyclic nature of meaning and being.
Text written and performed by Karasick and comprises the first section of her forthcoming book, Ærotomania: The Book of Lumenations. The music is composed and performed by world renowned Grammy Award winning composer, trumpet player and Klezmer giant, Frank London. Eicha I includes Vispo by Jim Andrews and Daniel f. Bradley with Titles by Italian filmmaker Igor Imhoff. Eicha II and III, music by Frank London and video by Igor Imhoff. Eicha IV and V are still under construction and will be launched for Tisha B’Av.
Text written and performed by Adeena Karasick Music Composed and performed by Frank London
Michael Dickel: Your theoretical frame for this work takes us from The Book of Lamentations to General Semantics developed in the 20th C. to the present moment of pandemic. What intrigues me about this is something I have thought about for some time. Before I heard of Alfred Korzybski, I had begun to think that cultural products—specifically but not only visual arts, music / dance, and writing—formed a sort of socio-cultural DNA. The “stories” or “meanings” they convey shape socio-cultural formations much as DNA shapes life forms, but outside of the body of course. And as such, they are apparently uniquely human. This is how I understand Korzybski’s “time-binding.”
In this framework-metaphor-analogy, would you agree that “reflection, deflection, refraction and the fracturing of language” could resemble RNA / DNA dividing and recombining? Perhaps I’m asking if your work introduces and “recombines” the DNA of light (luminosity, lumen) into the sorrow of loss and darkness (lamentation)? Or is the case completely different?
Adeena Karasick: So many interesting questions, Michael. First, if we think about “time binding as a kind of recognizing of pattern recognition—how cycles emerge in conjunction with the zeitgeist, aesthetic and political and social orders of the day and bound by semantic environments and spacetime contingencies to a past which is ever re-articulated in an ever contemporaneous present; as Korzybski might say, by abstracting nutrients, growing subsystems, which over time re-orient the narrative, language, “meaning” — in this way it is in a sense a recombination (or in Abulafian terms, a permutation and recombination), restaged into something new.
So, yes between the layering, the looming of the lament and the lumen i’m interested in illuminating the way the present re-presented through an ever-shifting past pinned to a future that is ever-fracturing; how darkness and light are always already embedded in one another – and we see this through our very rituals. For example, on Tish B’Av, when we read the Book of Lamentations which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem, it’s followed by the kinnot, the liturgical dirges that lament the loss of the 1st Temple, the 2nd Temple, reminded of all the other major calamities, the murder of the Ten Martyrs, medieval massacres, the Holocaust. Everything gets bound in these cycles of language of time of repetition and reproduction a simulacric spiraling that bleeds into the prescience of this very moment. A moment that itself (due in part to the weight of cultural memory) fractured and re-reflected, deflected, where limerence lamentation and lumenation emanate: When life gives you laments make limnade ; )
MD: A liminal moment. Your discussion of darkness being a form of light, or the light in the dark, reminds me of Carl Jüng and also of Robert Bly’s A Little Book of the Human Shadow. Both of course metaphorically could be seen as responses to the concept of yetzer hara (יצר הרע). However, the quantum optician Arthur Zajonc perhaps more literally addresses this light in the dark idea in his book, Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind.
Zajonc points out that the night on Earth is not an absence of light. The sun’s light is still in the sky, as can be seen by its reflection from the moon. He describes a demonstration he uses to show this of a box that has a vacuum inside—no dust, nothing. The inside is all painted flat black that is totally non-reflecting. There is an eyehole on one side to look into. There is also a light that shines from a side 90-degrees to that. And a mirror or flat object inside that is black on the back but can be rotated. The box looks “dark,” that is pitch-black, until the object is revolved and reflects the light. Then it is clear there was light in the box all along.
It seems that what you are doing is showing us that the dark / night / shadow always contains light. That darkness or shadow provide the contrast and form to reflected light. And that the light we see, as Zajonc points out, is only the reflected light. Even the sky reflects dust to become blue.
With this other, different framework-metaphor-analogy, does this seem a reasonable way to understand your hybrid title, “Lumenations”, which of course plays homophonically with illuminations…?
AK: So important particularly in these troubled times to shift the perspective, change the channel, shift the diorama, “peepholes, eyestreams” and recognize the light in the darkness; to revel in the white space, between the letters, the long silences, the emptiness, the shudders / shutters, suspensions and remember that as in the Zohar, the darkness contains the light. Or the absence contains the presence – thinking about maybe Heidegger’s translation of Heraclitus preserved by Hippolytus (which i quote in another section of The Book of Lumenations), that even in the presencing of all things present, itself remains concealed from being present, “not as presence presently absent or an absence absently present but as the absent present that continually withdraws in the spectacle of its present absence”[i] Acknowledging how it’s so important to complicate these dichotomies, uncover its fabrication, and analyze the violence this initiates and sustains.
And like the flash of primordial letters clothed in the nothingness of being enshrouded in the disquiet of dissembling – letters, like desire itself, embodies all that is to come; comes and keeps coming in an ever-arriving future. So yes, it’s both a reflection defection, deflection, confection ; ) playing with ways all is simulacric and thereby produces a kind of co-sanguinity mirroring how like in the 2nd C. Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation), primordial creation is ever re-created through the articulation of each letter – which contains all the future within it[ii]
MD: Now, how does all of this fit in your thinking with the Time of Coronavirus / “Covid moment” we find ourselves living in?
AK: Well, we’re living in dark times. And in many ways like the word COVID itself which homophonically can be transliterated in Hebrew as Kavod כבוד, which (as you know), means glory, honor and respect; ie when we congratulate someone we say Kol HaKavod, ‘all the honour’ (Good job!), or close a letter with the word V’Kavod (‘with respect’) Yet — ironically, COVID kaved is also “heavy. And throughout Exodus, the presence of God in the tabernacle is symbolised by the word ‘Kavod’ ((which is also represented by a cloud!)) So, like The Book of Lamentations itself which is mired in darkness, heaviness and cloudiness – a masking of the light, like you mentioned earlier, with reference to Zajonc, it’s so important especially now to recalibrate how we see, what we see; displace our usual systems of spectrality. Through this homophonic translation, this transpoeisis, it displaces a sense of language belonging to a particular moment but marked by chasms, folds, paradoxes, turbulence and desire, highlights the Other in language, coveting and foregrounding its caveats.
[i]. Elliot R. Wolfson, Heidegger and Kabbalah: Hidden Gnosis and the Path of Poiesis, Indiana University Press, 2019, p.5.
[ii]. See Sefer Yetzirah, 2:2. Wesier Edition, Trans. Aryeh Kaplan, San Francisco, 1997.
(( wrote this after an extended blog conversation with another talented poet friend of mine about the limits of the written word and language. As good/succinct/clear as a writer strives to be, there always exists the possibility of misunderstanding, and that can be very frustrating! She inspired it (Thanks again, E!), and rather than use an image for this one, I think it's more appropriate to let the words do the talking this time...)
Thick as the speed of clotted thoughts,This language suffices;A cumbersome tool.Experience sought (and bought)The sacrificesThat made wiser menFrom ignorant fools.Words escape.You. Me.They cannot be caught,Yet aren’t quite free,For every one comes attached to a thought,And for every action,It was birthed in naught butElectrical energy --Brain waves of….what?Symbols understood, with meaning,But none can accurately catch the dreaming,Teeming shores of what it means to live.Sensation lingers in the mind’s mouth,Tasting phrases.Sifting variations of description,Through this medium’s sieve.It still lacksThe richness of the moment’s impact.In fact,It’s amazing communication takes place.Limited as we are,By our lackOf (understanding)The rigidity of moving backAnd forth,ThroughTimeandSpace.Seeking to capture a feeling,A sight,To explain human nature --Thus, stealing it, right?We take from experience,And categorize.We label our labors,And ceaselessly prize the “Hows“,And “Whys”,But Language,The bridge of the written word…*sighs*Though inadequate,Sometimes succeeds,And we’re “heard”.
I utter in clandestine code
Nasi lemak, mee rebus, mee siam
Paratha, mee pok, char kway teow,
Biryani, nasi padang, rojak, char siew pao,
Roti john, mee soto, popiah, putu piring
Embedded in my genetic soul
Ravenous for the familiarity of
a satiating sustenance
a childhood defined
a hungry rebellion usurped
a displaced gluttonous immigrant
lost in a gumbo of new worlds
a legacy of bewilderment
longingly relishing fuel
that coursed through my veins
I prattle my mindless mantra
Durian, satay, ice kacang, kaya, teh tarik
Ketupat, laksa, lontong, dosai, agar agar
Putu piring, wonton mee, chili crab
Bak kut teh, chendol, gado gado
sometimes it's arduous
in this white world
sometimes I stand out
in the forest of humanity
sometimes I fade
in the landscape of dirt and mud
sometimes I become invisible
in the shroud of possibilities
sometimes I crave to be
a shade of nothing
sometimes I yearn to be
Then you see me
For who I am
In that blind understanding
makes intricate connections
by our equal residency
on this universal concourse
and we all
You create images
with words you’ve carefully chosen
& modeled into verse
But in your droning monotone
they fall lifeless
before my ears my mind
Breathe the fire you felt
when you wrote that poem
Let the words escape from your mouth
the way they escaped from your imagination
Let me hear the laughter the groans
the serenity the anger
Your words sputter out in a constant stream
before reaching my Spirit
The idea ….
Take the poetry out of the coffeehouses & classrooms
Take the voice to the streets
Small groups 3 or 4 voices united
Guerrilla strikes poetry readings
Hit with the power of poems
& disappear, then
into the mundane life
police station waiting rooms
wherever people are
sludging through the mud
of rutted life
Strike with the word
On a ball court
in Barrio Edén
we set chairs around
we are laying
creating a different space
from the bar on the corner
blaring tropical rhythms,
from the traffic going
some place else
this Saturday night
Families & neighbors
take a seat, their hungering
souls, hungering minds
feasting on the songs & stories,
poetry & mime—the visions
we serve at this
a now & then breeze
softly wiping away our
sweat, softly swaying palms
to our rhythms
in this different space
Wandering troubadour Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in over 250 journals on six continents; and 14 collections of poetry – including On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Escape to the Sea (Origami Poems Project, 2021). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She travels through Latin America with her faithful companion Rocinante (that is, her knapsack), listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth.