Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween in the United States 2018

The only picture scary enough is this one -  a New Yorker cover from a previous year:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Someday you'll wish upon a star...



painting by IT Arts



This rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by the Hawaiian singer IZ Kamakawiwo'ole always makes me cry.  Partly it's because he combines it with Louie Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." Partly it's because the first time I heard it was in the closing credits of the movie "Philadelphia"  where Tom Hanks plays a lawyer who has AIDS.

Whatever it is, the poignancy gets me every time. Don't know whether the link to YouTube works, but here it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z26BvHOD_sg



Art by Nikki Smith

Monday, October 29, 2018

Because Torah is a Tree of Life



painting by Etz Chaim



A Prayer for the Dead
of Tree of Life Congregation

 by Rabbi Naomi Levy

We are devastated, God,...
Our hearts are breaking
In this time of shock and mourning.
The loss is overwhelming.
Send comfort and strength, God,
To grieving family members.
Send healing to the injured,
Send strength and wisdom
to their doctors and nurses.
Bless the courageous police officers who risked their lives
To protect innocent lives.

Shield us from despair, God,
Ease our pain.
Let our fears give way to hope.
Lead us to join together as a nation
To put an end to anti-Semitism,
An end to hatred,
An end to gun violence.
Teach us, God, to honor the souls we have lost
By raising our hands
and voices together
In the cause of peace.
Because Torah is a Tree of Life
And all its paths are peaceful.
Work through us, God.
Turn our helplessness into action.
Teach us to believe that we can
rise up from this tragedy
And banish the hate
that is tearing our world apart.
We must never be indifferent
to the plight of any who suffer.
We must learn to care,
To open our hearts
and open our hands.
Innocent blood is calling out to us.
God of the brokenhearted,
God of the living, God of the dead,
Gather the souls of the victims
Into Your eternal shelter.
Let them find peace
in Your presence, God.
Their lives have ended
But their lights
can never be extinguished.
May they shine on us always
And illuminate our way.

 Amen.

 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

What's left to break when our hearts are broken?


 
Powerful and grief-filled lyrics; a song by Michael David Rosenberg
 
Lyrics
 
Do you remember how this first begun?
Teeth were white and our skin was young
Eyes as bright as the Spanish Sun
We had nothing we could hide
Now my dear we are two golden leaves
Clinging desperately to winter trees
Got up here like a pair of thieves
While the sirens blare outside
What's left to say when every word's been spoken?
What's left to see when our eyes won't open?
What's left to do when we've lost all hope and
What's left to break when our hearts are broken?

But sometimes
 
Do you remember how this started out?
So full of hope and now we're filled with doubt
A dirty joke we used to laugh about
But it's not funny anymore
I fear I choke unless I spit it out
Still smell of smoke, although the fire's gone out
Can't live with you, but I die without
So what's left to say when every word's been spoken?
What's left to see when our eyes won't open?
What's left to do when we've lost all hope and
What's left to break when our hearts are broken?

But sometimes
 
So what's left to say when every word's been spoken?
What's left to see when our eyes won't open?
What's left to do when we've lost all hope and
What's left to break when our hearts are broken?

But sometimes
 
 
 
Songwriters: Michael David Rosenberg
Golden Leaves lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Saturday, October 27, 2018

My Country Tis of Thy People You're Dying




a song by Buffy Sainte-Marie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTqV1pnQoos


She wrote this song in 1966.  It's about the destruction of the Native American tribes,  However, today, when I learn that 8 Jewish people have been killed in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, which caps off a week of pipe bombs being sent to opponents of Trump,  I feel this song is appropriate to read/hear today:

Lyrics
 
Now that your big eyes have finally opened
Now that you're wondering how must they feel
Meaning them that you've chased across America's movie screens
Now that you're wondering "how can it be real?"
That the ones you've called colourful, noble and proud
In your school propaganda
They starve in their splendor?
You've asked for my comment I simply will render
 
My country 'tis of thy people you're dying.
 
Now that the longhouses breed superstition
You force us to send our toddlers away
To your schools where they're taught to despise their traditions.
Forbid them their languages, then further say
That American history really began
When Columbus set sail out of Europe, then stress
That the nation of leeches that conquered this land
Are the biggest and bravest and boldest and best.
And yet where in your history books is the tale
Of the genocide basic to this country's birth,
Of the preachers who lied, how the Bill of Rights failed,
How a nation of patriots returned to their earth?
And where will it tell of the Liberty Bell
As it rang with a thud
O'er Kinzua mud
And of brave Uncle Sam in Alaska this year?
 
My country 'tis of thy people you're dying
 
Hear how the bargain was made for the West:
With her shivering children in zero degrees,
Blankets for your land, so the treaties attest,
Oh well, blankets for land is a bargain indeed,
And the blankets were those Uncle Sam had collected
From smallpox-diseased dying soldiers that day.
And the tribes were wiped out and the history books censored,
A hundred years of your statesmen have felt it's better this way.
And yet a few of the conquered have somehow survived,
Their blood runs the redder though genes have paled.
From the Grand Canyon's caverns to craven sad hills
The wounded, the losers, the robbed sing their tale.
From Los Angeles County to upstate New York
The white nation fattens while others grow lean;
Oh the tricked and evicted they know what I mean.
 
My country 'tis of thy people you're dying.
 
The past it just crumbled, the future just threatens;
Our life blood shut up in your chemical tanks.
And now here you come, bill of sale in your hands
And surprise in your eyes that we're lacking in thanks
For the blessings of civilization you've brought us,
The lessons you've taught us, the ruin you've wrought us
Oh see what our trust in America's brought us.
 
My country 'tis of thy people you're dying.
 
Now that the pride of the sires receives charity,
Now that we're harmless and safe behind laws,
Now that my life's to be known as yourheritage,
Now that even the graves have been robbed,
Now that our own chosen way is a novelty
Hands on our hearts we salute you your victory,
Choke on your blue white and scarlet hypocrisy
Pitying the blindness that you've never seen
That the eagles of war whose wings lent you glory
They were never no more than carrion crows,
Pushed the wrens from their nest, stole their eggs, changed their story;
The mockingbird sings it, it's all that he knows.

"Ah what can I do?" say a powerless few
With a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye
Can't you see that their poverty's profiting you.
 
My country 'tis of thy people you're dying.
 
 
Songwriters: Buffy Sainte Marie
My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Universal Music Publishing Group
 
 
 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Enough




Grand Illusion - cartoon by Barry Blitt
 


A great poem by David Rothman, about the same subject as yesterday's post:

There has to be a better way than this:

The frantic pace obscuring what time means,

The endless sense that something is amiss,

The numbing cold upon the flickering screens.

There has to be a better way to live,

Where rage and outrage tire of their striptease,

Where we realize that to get we have to give,

Where opponents are not enemies.

We'd better find a way to cool it down.

We'd better learn to have more conversations.

We need to learn that we're a common noun,

Admit some calculus of variations.

Otherwise, well, you think this is rough?

I've never heard a fire say "Enough."

 

David Rothman



The Big Short   -cartoon by Barry Blitt

Thursday, October 25, 2018

He is Not My President

This cartoon by Barry Blitt certainly expressed my feelings in November of 2016. It still does.
 
I did not vote for Donald Trump.  I voted for Hilary, even though I didn’t like her much.
I was depressed when Trump won, but I thought:  well, he knows nothing about running a government, so probably the Congress will tell him what to do, and he will be just a figurehead.
I was so wrong.
He is running Congress , with that Republican majority. And all those Republicans who scorned him are now kissing his a_ _.  The latest is Lyndsay Graham, who has done a complete turnaround.  His friend John McCain must be turning over in his grave.
Trump has been supposedly campaigning for Republican candidates all across the country. Really , it seems to me that all his rallies are ways to get his own ego stroked.  And since his win with the confirmation of Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, he has become even more arrogant. Since that win, his rhetoric has become more overtly hate-filled; he incites his “base” to violence. And now someone of his followers has mailed pipe bombs to ten of his political opponents.  And Trump says it’s not his fault!
He is using taxpayer money to fund his flights around the country to stir up hatred and violence.  I think someone  ( Congress? ) should stop him from holding these rallies. But who has the authority, now that the system of checks and balances has been so damaged?
I find myself waking up in the middle of night worrying about our country.
When I was in Paris last March, one day I took a train trip to Rouen.  My shabby French was failing me, and I got a Frenchman, one of the train mechanics, to lead me to the correct gate.  On the way to the gate, we had a conversation in a French so elementary that I could understand and respond.  He asked me what I thought of our (America’s) present president.  I said, “Il n’est pas ma president!” 
That still holds.
 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Season of Grandeur and Lies





Another October poem, this one by Stephen Dunn


The Season of Grandeur and Lies

 By Stephen Dunn

 

I've had no more deathly thoughts in fall

than in any other season, and doubt

 that dark encroachment some claim to feel

 as they watch leaves turn and trees yield

 to reveal their austere, skeletal beauty.

 Maybe Keats did, but that's because

 he was actually dying, everyday coughing up

 phlegm, which, for all we know, may have

 reminded him of autumn's colors.

 Great poets, though, aren't committed

 to whatever just dawns on them or appears.

 "To Autumn" is so good it makes me want

 to stay alive. If ever he considered "phlegm"

 to describe, say, a rain-soaked golden leaf,

 his better self must have vetoed it,

 knew what to allow in, what to suppress.

 After all, he had "mellow fruitfulness"

 to live up to, all that language rich and right.

 It's so easy to falsify what one sees,

 then how one feels. These poets who would

 have us thinking of our fathers as we walk

 among apples recently fallen and bruised--

 they don't mean to lie. They just slide too far

 into the seductions of saying this is like that.

 If I found myself among apples scattered

 on the ground, I'd likely wonder who didn't

 pick them, and why. Yet even if death were

 to cross my mind, I think I'd just let it cross.

 What's ripe so often lingers before it falls.

 I prefer to be taken by surprise.

 

 

 
 

Monday, October 22, 2018

I celebrated the standstill of time

The Last October Moon     painting  by Greg Cartmell




Another October poem, this one by Czeslaw Milosz:

"In the great silence of my favorite month,
October (the red of maples, the bronze of oaks,
A clear-yellow leaf here and there on birches),
I celebrated the standstill of time.

The vast country of the dead had its beginning everywhere:
At the turn of a tree-lined alley, across park lawns.
But I did not have to enter, I was not called yet.

Motorboats pulled up on the river bank, paths in pine needles.
It was getting dark early, no lights on the other side.

I was going to attend the ball of ghosts and witches.
A delegation would appear there in masks and wigs,
And dance, unrecognized, in the chorus of the living."





-   Czeslaw Milosz, All Hallow's Eve
    Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan  


 


day poorer yet,

from restless sleep I wake
early now to note

how the pale disk of moon
caves to its own defeat,

cold as yesterday’s fish
left over in the pan,

or miserly as a sliver
of dried soap in a dish.

Oh for a sparkling froth
of cloud, a little heat

from the sun! I shiver
at the window where I plant

one perfect moon-round breath,
as I liked to do as a girl

against the filthy glass
of the yellow school bus

laboring up the hill,
not thinking what I meant

but passionate, as if
I were kissing my own life.

 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

I'm on a search






Have been in a sporadic email correspondence with someone I haven't seen or heard from in 50 years.

We only knew each other for two years back then, but he has appeared in dreams of mine many times.   It was a platonic relationship, but deeply meaningful to me.  It could not have been any way but what it was.

I know I wrote a poem that had something to do with it, but I can't find it.  The closest I can come is my poem " Were You There?"   which I wrote about 25 years ago... but when I looked at it as it appears in my 2007 volume Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky, the phrase I am looking for is not there.

So I've been searching through the back pages of the many journals I've kept, but still can't find it.
Sigh.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Tongue of Flame






Here's an Autumn poem by Grace Paley:
Autumn by Grace Paley
 
1
 
What is sometimes called a   
   tongue of flame
or an arm extended burning   
   is only the long
red and orange branch of   
   a green maple
in early September   reaching
   into the greenest field
out of the green woods   at the
   edge of which the birch trees   
appear a little tattered   tired
   of sustaining delicacy
all through the hot summer   re-
   minding everyone (in   
our family) of a Russian
   song   a story
by Chekhov   or my father
 
 
2
 
What is sometimes called a   
   tongue of flame
or an arm extended   burning
   is only the long
red and orange branch of
   a green maple
in early September   reaching   
   into the greenest field
out of the green woods   at the   
   edge of which the birch trees
appear a little tattered   tired
   of sustaining delicacy
all through the hot summer   re-
   minding everyone (in   
our family) of a Russian
   song   a story by
Chekhov or my father on
   his own lawn   standing   
beside his own wood in
   the United States of   
America   saying (in Russian)
   this birch is a lovely
tree   but among the others
   somehow superficial
 
 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

I live a small life




Here's a wonderfully unsettling poem by Lucia Perillo:


Say This

I live a small life, barely bigger than a speck,
barely more than a blip on the radar sweep
though it is not nothing, as the garter snake
climbs the rock rose shrub and the squirrel creeps
on bramble thorns.  Not nothing to the crows
who heckle from the crowns of the last light's trees
winterstripped of green, except for the holes
that ivy winds each hour round. See, the world is busy
and the world is quick, barely time for a spider
to suck the juice from a hawk moth's head
so it can use the moth as a spindle that it wraps in fiber
while the moth constricts until it's thin as a stick
you might think was nothing, a random bit
caught in a web coming loose from the window frame, in wind.



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lessons of Darkness






As the days grow shorter, and the dark hours lengthen, I don't feel everything he expresses, but I sure do feel some of it.

Here's a sad poem by Clive James:


Leçons De Ténèbres  ( Lessons of Darkness)

 By Clive James

 

But are they lessons, all these things I learn

 Through being so far gone in my decline?

 The wages of experience I earn

 Would service well a younger life than mine.

 I should have been more kind. It is my fate

 To find this out, but find it out too late.

 

The mirror holds the ruins of my face

 Roughly together, thus reminding me

 I should have played it straight in every case,

 Not just when forced to. Far too casually

 I broke faith when it suited me, and here

 I am alone, and now the end is near.

 

All of my life I put my labour first.

 I made my mark, but left no time between

 The things achieved, so, at my heedless worst,

 With no life, there was nothing I could mean.

 But now I have slowed down. I breathe the air

 As if there were not much more of it there

 

And write these poems, which are funeral songs

 That have been taught to me by vanished time:

 Not only to enumerate my wrongs

 But to pay homage to the late sublime

 That comes with seeing how the years have brought

 A fitting end, if not the one I sought.

 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Moon-Breath



Another wonderful October poem, this one by Mary Jo Salter:


Moon-Breath     by Mary Jo Salter

 

Dark mornings staying dark

 longer, another autumn

 

come, and the body one

 day poorer yet,

 

from restless sleep I wake

 early now to note

 

how the pale disk of moon

 caves to its own defeat,

 

cold as yesterday’s fish

 left over in the pan,

 

or miserly as a sliver

 of dried soap in a dish.

 

Oh for a sparkling froth

 of cloud, a little heat

 

from the sun! I shiver

 at the window where I plant

 

one perfect moon-round breath,

 as I liked to do as a girl

 

against the filthy glass

 of the yellow school bus

 

laboring up the hill,

 not thinking what I meant

 

but passionate, as if

 I were kissing my own life.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Reading Kate Atkinson



Several years ago, I read and loved her novel  Life After Life. 



Very recently, I finished reading her first book, Behind the Scenes at the Museum.



Now, I am in the early pages of  A God in Ruins.



She's a beautiful writer.  She's also witty and bitingly honest in her portrayal of her characters.

She's very quotable, too.    This, for instance:

 

“Moments left, Teddy thought. A handful of heartbeats. That was what life was. A heartbeat followed by a heartbeat. A breath followed by a breath. One moment followed by another moment and then there was a last moment. Life was as fragile as a bird’s heartbeat, fleeting as the bluebells in the wood. It didn’t matter, he realized, he didn’t mind, he was going where millions had gone before and where millions would follow after. He shared his fate with the many. And now. This moment. This moment was infinite. He was part of the infinite. The tree and the rock and the water. The rising of the sun and the running of the deer. Now. ”
Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins



I hope to have more to say about her work.