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
What do you feel
when a rock of ages
tumbles into the the sea
when something you relied on
sat upon, learned from and
leaned on for good counsel
that you needed to be
reassured and feel secured
and rooted in your trials, to be
there regardless, even if you were
somewhere else entirely ... or not
a rock that’s been there for always
this life just entered the realms
of leavened legend and lore
knocking at the gates of Neverland.
What can you say
when someone asks you
“how do you feel?” about such a
controversial, yet conversational
challenging, yet charming
pragmatic, yet princely
daring and duke-it-out
yet dutiful and dashing
outspoken, yet outgoing
much loved, yet likeable rogue.
Why didn’t you expect it? Why
did it suddenly become
the least wanted wish
after all this time, taken
for granted, yet forgotten
in the background, yet difficult
to ignore. What else would we
impossibly say ... or want?
What do you do
when time freezes
into glacial slo-mo
a clip from an epic film
a moment when child-like
an innocent hope of
one more time, again
please, please, please
let’s go to sea once more
reflect, respect, deflect
the inevitable change
What did we learn
in the aftermath, if you spent
an incalculable time, not wasted
in the shadows, but replete with
so much energy, so much given
simply feted pre-modern man
as modern as tomorrow
as modest as any soul, with
a zest for knowledge, that
when least expected, rocked
the best brains, with a power
to convene the greatest minds
of Gods and Engineers, who
would change the World,
where it mattered not who
you are, as much as what
truly interests and moves you
to take what privilege you have
and use it to serve, continually
to learn so much, care so much
about advancing the causes
conserving of species of ... even
one less seemingly insignificant
precious life on Earth.
Written in the immediate aftermath of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, Consort of Queen Elizabeth II.
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.
“With this beginning, the unknown concealed one created
the palace. This palace is called אלוהים (Elohim), God.
The secret is: בראשית ברא אלוהים (Bereshit bara Elohim),
With beginning, _______created God (Genesis 1:1).”
— Zohar (I:15a)
“…She knows that her beloved is searching for her;
so what does she do? She opens the portal to her
hidden room [in the palace] slightly and reveals
her face for a moment, and then hides it again.”
— Zohar (II.99a)
Somewhere, a whirring fan
in an open window spins
possibilities into threads.
I heard a rumor that the
Oleander flowers shed
their pink and white grace
for poisonous reason.
A car slinks down traces
of a melted tar road.
You like to stand by the window,
and want him to see you there,
behind a curtain. He doesn’t
know you or you him. He walks
the span of street, infrequently
catching a glimpse of blue
eyes, a reflection in cracks
of the cotton-hued skies.
The crow calls from a tree.
Another day, green parrots
screech louder than the
traffic flees. The heat lays
like a corpse upon our city.
Bougainvillea bracts spot
gardens with false hope,
colorful arrays of forgotten
pain turned to sweet honey.
He forgets you, though you
never meet. And you, also,
the desire for a stranger's
glad glance. Someone wants
this to be autobiography, a
short recollection of moments
actually lived. That person never
dreamed, does not exist anymore.
And I never existed because I
don’t stop dreaming. Poetry, like
a god, provides code for an image,
keying it to suggest a revelation-lode
from your past. You want it to be
my past. Parrots screech.
A crow calls. A beautiful Other
by the window waits. This all
happens to you while I write
these scenes tangled in dreams,
whirring fans—the poem unable
to light any form, your reading,
this page; unable to discover more
than bare wisps of meaning in the
vibrations of words—your song longing
for someone in the infinite void. Wanting
a mortal to read you into this, to see you
alive, you seek a new beginning—genesis.
Note: Zohar refers to The Book of Splendor, one of the main texts of Kabbalah. Translations are from Daniel Matt’s work.
“A significant portion of the earth’s population will soon recognize, if they haven’t already done so, that humanity is now faced with a stark choice: Evolve or die.” Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
Eternity flows deftly through these pandemic* days enfolding in her stream the many with whom we contemplated Knowledge and Mortality
Looking back, we ponder amazed at love among our relations and friends ……….a love that blossoms still, as fragrant, as gentle ……….as a dewy rose among thorns and thistles
We thrash and crawl and climb ………puzzling over the sea and fire that stalks us Our hearts are cupped in one another’s hands, ……….talking drums, they communicate across ……….time and space Our measured moments grave lines ……….in real and phantom fears, ……….they fly, they hover, storm clouds above us
In words of jade, our softest speech is elegiac Our tears merge into raging rivers Our smiles mask our grief and yearning Our laughter is love grown wild and reckless
We see one another in a thousand shapes and dreams ……….and in nameless faces Our sighs ride the ebb tides of Eternity …..Another moment: …..and even the sun will die …..but our lotus song will echo on …. ……….We have lived! We have loved!
* pandemic days: COVID-19, environmental degradation, hunger and starvation, poverty and lack of healthcare, nuclear proliferation. Will we succumb or evolve to conquer? Either way, nothing can take away the love we’ve given and received or the life we’ve had.
Once, a long time ago,
People sat together
Talking in soft voices
That only they could hear
Heads almost touching.
People held hands
While walking along
Held each other so close
They could feel each other’s bodies
Underneath their clothes.
Sometimes they kissed
Tasting each other’s mouths.
They pleasured each other.
There were the accidental touches
On crowded trains or buses or planes
That you each savored privately
Arms brushing against arms,
Hand touching hand
While passing a cup of coffee
A head heavy with sleep
Leaning against you
Long hair spilling across your shoulder.
These were the times before Corona
That we lived for,
That we couldn’t imagine
Having to do without,
That we thought would go on forever.
“This virus is teaching us that from now on living wages, guaranteed health-care for all, unemployment and labor rights are not far left issues, but issues of right versus wrong, life versus death.” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, American Protestant minister and political activist. Rev. Barber is the author of several recommended books. His Amazon page is HERE.
The dreams can drive you crazy sometimes
The ones that envision a just world, one
Where equity is the backbone of endurance
A vineyard of bliss, so to speak, a garden of joy
Relative to the greed times of unworthy living
In a penthouse with a golden toilet, while
Others sleep on cardboard outside, urinating
In the streets, begging for lunch and walking
Barefoot in the snow, betrayed from day one
By the false ideal of rugged independence,
Of monied might is alright, of resource hording
By the richest and unconscionable trafficking of
Children for the unhinged pleasures of the elite Oh my God, how did this happen? and who
Might have thought that the munitions factory
Of a deadly virus would bring us nose to nose?
How COVID-19 recognizes no bank account or
Prestigious position, just drops its noxious tidbits
Indiscrimanently, into lungs of princes, prime ministers
Those sleeping rough on city streets, its travels
Enhanced by an uneven distribution of access
To water, healthcare, space, living wages,
Paid time off, the rudiments of a civilized life
Girded by compassionate societies, lessons
Learned, we await implementation, and
Dare we move beyond yearning to hope
Originally published by Brave Voices and as The Poet by Day Wednesday Writing Prompt
“How are you?”
Here’s a hackneyed platitude
sidelined like sticky bottles of
condiments at the edges of
booths in greasy spoons – way back in February,
when they were
throwaway words in the time of
meet-ups and Tinder, when
free physicality flowed
like turbid streams
coursing from their sources.
Yet during the drought,
the bromide won’t abandon its
as our touches and taps
and caresses and kisses are
evicted by locks and walls and
worry and six feet-
or two meters –
“How are you?”
A phrase as familiar
as crammed cafés
or yell-laden yellow schoolbuses
or sweaty discotheques,
a question of concern,
softens the strange
hole of isolation.
ADRIAN SLONAKER crisscrosses North America as a language professional, Pushcart Prize, and Best of the Net nominee. Adrian is fond of opals, owls and fire noodles. Adrian’s work has been published in WINK: Writers in the Know, Ez.P.Zine, Page & Spine and others.
Right now, every word is a tile on the roof of the house
I’ll build tomorrow.
It’s cold outside.
It’s not the slap of the march wind or a punch of hail
From last month. This is a blow beneath the beltless. Nature is
A boxer who knows only the word
Phillip sends photographs of coffins from Milan.
What a waste to sacrifice the red-brown
Of mahogany and bury it in the ground. I glance
At the last drops left in the martini bottle,
And remember the first kiosk of that drink in that very Milan.
In case someone has forgotten, it all begins with vermouth and eighteen percent of
Pure alcohol soaked with herbs. So let’s drink to their memory. Rosso,
Bianco, or extra-dry.
Salah calls from Paris and reminds me that the evil wind is blowing as well in the city
We were born. Baghdadi Corona with arabesques. He composes a curse
That it was the last piaster missing from the dinar in the stock exchange of Iraq.
And in Ramat Gan I would like to make a paintbrush gallop
The way Bashir Abu Rabia fills his horses
With paint of eternal colors.
I want Kyuzo from “The Seven Samurai“
To save us.
To come and grasp his sword once more
Like a child who clenches his last candy in his pocket
To remind the cellophane that it must hide that candy
From the teeth of the world.
Tomorrow the tiles from the first line will be a metaphoric roof
Of a coffee house for instance.
There we will understand, at last, that stirring milk
in the bottom of the cup can create
a new world.
Karen Alkalay-Gut’s latest books, due to be published next month, are the dual language Surviving Her Story: Poems of the Holocaust (Courevour Press), translated to French by Sabine Huynh, and A Word in Edgewise (Simple Conundrums Press). She lives in Tel Aviv with her husband and an outdoor alley cat.
See her two pandemic poems on The BeZine Blog here.
Another day, another death,
another night, another sin
committed not regretted, nor repented,
routine pulled in pain, in beating
the grain for hours, sweat poured,
didn’t wash the hurt,
the baby cried, hungry, on the back
exhausted by jerky rhythmic jolts
then, the world came to a halt-
no cries sounded as bodies fell
listless without breath, awe and fear?
blood sacrifice, so near?
Take cover, take cover, unseen
strafing , women children men, free
of shades, cash or kind, Flee! Flee!
Death defies borders, barbed wires
make no sense, bullets batons guns
Emptiness prevails on land, animals
watch caged humans, no honks for way
on roads. Yesterday what we loved to
touch, that very thing we fear, but will
life be the same again? Will there be
The sun still shines, the moon in silver
smiles, rivers run for miles, ranges guard
birds twitter, trees remain calm and green,
fruit is plenty, clouds float in the sky, I—
alone, sigh, and cry—I hear my heart say
Now you know, why?
‘Because You would not stop for the World
It kindly stopped for you.’
Boomeranged, the skean slashed, unseen like phosgene on
the terrene, unforeseen unseen, it ripped smothered innocent
breathers, hundreds at once, to thousands in seconds.
Ominous signs forewarned, scary ghostly widespread happening
suspended in the blue expanses a cloudy white sinister skull trailing
horrifically, manifested across boundless, beyond measure,
unknown, space disturbed, restless undines sensed strange miracles in
ocean fathoms-staggering, half-clad, barefooted, marginalized living
bodies, swayed in dizzy drunken states,
dozing, drowning in Shebeen, for uncounted times, now fully wayward,
drifting, stepping, sinking in dunes, sliding aimlessly, what hopes
for humanity when denes destroyed by humanity itself?
Habitats erased mercilessly and clear silver streams
filled with propylene. No Hippochrine in soul and spirit awakens here,
silence the tambourines, smoke not the dudeen,
Sunk to Lethe lust and greed, oblivious of love kindness and good deeds
why to animal level have humans fallen? Believing not The One Unseen?
Now fearing this—though invisible?
The world in speed, metamorphosed by tiny Covid-19—enforcing equity—
knows not rank nor caste, nor color nor creed, nor walls nor wires of any
country, nor age nor gender nor family.
Humanity now on a single plane, no one to lose or gain, death is ordained
for rich or poor, dark or fair, all belong here, shrouds no pockets have, just
Covid-19—with fear you conquer but one strong weapon will win over you,
Humans have faith and prayer, good deeds and Hope—
Hope is their strength—with Hope the pandemic will surely end.
“Kleitos, a likeable young man, about twenty-three years old with a first-class education, a rare knowledge of Greek is seriously ill. He caught the fever that reaped a harvest this year in Alexandria.” Kleitos’ Illness, Constantine P. Cavafy
Bronchi- and alveoli-seeking respiratory droplets
Float on the air, a nightmare of guided munitions
Always a reckoning when such assassins are loosed,
And now the vineyard of joy is dead and gated, the
Elders are on lockdown, prisoners of COVID-19,
Of a government that moves too slowly, and this
Virus that moves with speed, children sent home
From school, the workers forced from their jobs, a
Run on TP, tissues and hand sanitizers, breezes
Caressing the face, now just a memory like love
And blisses, handshakes and bracing bear-hugs
Like social networking of the off-line variety
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 Awardand 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.