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Poems from Purpose, an unpublished poetry collection that calls attention to the horrors and beauties in this complex life…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.
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.