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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category



Tolerance

Aug28

by: Aaron Ableman on August 28th, 2017 | No Comments »

I was 12 and free

but I got sucker punched by a neo-nazi

who didn’t even let me

get my boxing gloves on before getting

all Rocky Marciano on me…

All his friends laughed

while I held a near broken jaw trashed,

crying dry tears and yelling in silence

like my favorite tragi-comedian, Charlie Chaplin.

Luckily, I lived next to a library

and as I was walking home that fated day

I found myself searching for answers

in the compassion of books.

As fate would have it

 

I found the Dalai Lama, Yeshua Ben Yoseph, Joan of Ark, Maya Angelou,

Abraham Heschel, Zora Neal Hurston, Pablo Neruda, Anne Frank, Nelson

Mandela… and so many of those who have overcome the craziest enemy with power of love

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Review of Preludes and Fugues by Emmanuel Moses, Transl. Marilyn Hacker

Mar6

by: Paige Foreman on March 6th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

“Who built the church where the whole world huddles?”

The cathedral’s heavy wooden doors were wide open, inviting the world inside for the Washington Bach Consort’s free noontime organ and cantata performance. I crossed the threshold and was surrounded by van Gogh stained glass. Swirls of twilight purples and blues surrounded outlines of dark, quiet church towns and sunlight streaming through yellow glass illuminated figures of Christ. The outline of a labyrinth twisted beneath my feet as I walked down the aisle and sat in the front pew.

People in pews, stained glass windows, pipe organ.At noon, the cathedral’s great pipe organ roared to life with music. Bach’s Fugue in F major shook the very foundations of the church, and I thought of the organ as an actual heart beating life into the church through contrapuntal veins. A fugue builds up like a storm cloud as a musical theme is examined in different voices that eventually all intertwine with each other towards the end, almost losing control of itself.

The crowd applauded at the end of the fugue and J. Reilly Lewis, the director of the Bach Consort and a master organist, stepped out to conduct the cantata. He was a warm, charismatic man with silver hair and a great sense of humor. Lewis was my own music teacher’s mentor and I was told that I absolutely had to see him conduct. Lewis was a brilliant interpreter of Bach and his orchestra used authentic Baroque instruments.

One month later, my music teacher was flying back to Washington, D.C. for Lewis’ funeral. I saw the last noontime concert Lewis ever conducted at before he died of a heart attack. He had vanished beyond what Emmanuel Moses calls, “the impassable threshold,” in his Preludes and Fugues poetry collection translated by Marilyn Hacker.


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Crossing

Feb2

by: Rabbi Michael Rothbaum on February 2nd, 2017 | 2 Comments »

The word/in Hebrew
for/Hebrew is Ivri
Boundary/crosser//border/crosser

Border crossers/cross borders
That’s what/they do
That’s/their job

Crossers gonna/cross

Hebrew/Jews have been crossing
borders ever/since there have
been/Hebrews

From Abraham and/Sarah
He and her/up from Ur to
Haran to/Canaan to/Egypt
Back/to Canaan.

And ever/since
Ever since/Babylon
Cross/ing borders
Constantinople/Córdoba/Cairo/
Vilna/Minsk/Pinsk
The Rhine/The Seine/Sana/Seville/
Ellis Island/Long Island/
Long Beach/Miami Beach

We/cross

And as it is/the time
as it has/been time
to cross/borders

Before we/cross
the/border from
freedom/to Pharaoh
fashionable/fascism

refuse/the fear
refuse to/obey
order out the/nightmares
the knocks in/the night
that wake the/babies
sew your/soul into
the lining of your/coat
smuggle the children/out
under a heavy/wool blanket
of passion and/principle

know your/limits
and the/borders you
won’t cross/for
any/leader
any/order
any/any.

If you’re a Hebrew/Jew
you already know/what this hour means.
Your ancestors saw/it and
they buried it in/your body
for a time/such as now.

They call/to/you.

Cross the/border
cross/the aisle
break/the bonds
of/party
and/panic
and/anxious
depression/make
a manic/run for it
don’t turn/around
or see who’s/behind you
the hour/is late
and the Master/of the
House/is pressing.

You carry in your/hand
an Executive/Order
Written by the/Eternal
and stamped by/your ancestors

The word/in Hebrew
for/Hebrew is Ivri
Cross the/border
Show them the/order
Carry/it out
Before/it
//expires//

 

Rabbi Mike Rothbaum serves as Bay Area Co-Chair for Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and lives with his husband, Anthony Russell, in Oakland. His writing and speaking has been featured in Tikkun, the Huffington Post, The Forward, KQED radio, CNN, and Zeek.

“Fighting in the Captain’s Tower”: In Defense of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

Oct21

by: Rodger Kamenetz on October 21st, 2016 | 5 Comments »

When I was 15, in the spring of 1965,I found myself marching on the old Baltimore Washington Highway with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. We were on our way to Washington, D.C., to protest the murder of Reverend James Reeb in Selma.

To keep myself occupied for the long miles, I recited “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” out loud, a poem I greatly admired and had committed to memory.

Now I don’t know why at 15 I found this love song so compelling. Maybe I took pleasure in knowing Prufrock was even wimpier with women than I was. I could mock his waspy tea party social life, his gentlemanly repression. It’s odd considering that a Jew-hater wrote it, but Eliot’s poem made me proud to be down to earth, frank, and Jewish.

That’s why I liked the “Love Song” – but I also loved it. I loved the music and the drama, the precision of the imagery, the magic of the rhythms, and the overall architectonics. I never realized before how a poem could be not just a lyrical statement, but an entire world. The raw modernity of the diction was refreshing: “like a patient etherized upon a table” sounded new to me compared to the poems I’d read in school. I liked the mix of high and low culture: “sawdust restaurants with oyster shells” and “In the room the women come and go/talking of Michelangelo.” But especially the ending as the meter returns to iambic bedrock and bursts into song:

We have lingered by the chambers of the sea

By sea girls wreathed in seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us and we drown

Eliot met me at the beginning of my lifelong love affair with poetry, and the mermaids (or were they sirens?) were inviting me from the flats of suburban life into the ocean of the archetypal.

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The Box: Solitary Confinement Takes Center Stage

Aug9

by: Sarah Asch on August 9th, 2016 | Comments Off

The Box , a play directed by Michael John Garcés and written by Sarah Shourd.

A white supremacist with a swastika tattooed above his left eye addresses the audience: “People without hope are fucking dangerous.”

One of six characters in The Box, a play that debuted at Z Space theater in San Francisco in July, Jake Juchau (played by Clive Worsley) presents one image of life in long-term solitary confinement. The play was written by Sarah Shourd, an American journalist who spent 410 days in solitary in Iran after being accused of espionage, and then returned to the U.S. and began conducting research about the domestic uses of solitary confinement.

“Years of research went into this play,” Shourd notes in the playbill. “I traveled to visit prisoners in solitary confinement in 13 facilities across the country.” Shourd also explains that the six prisoners in her play are fictional combinations of the real life stories she gathered. “The characters in The Box won’t allow us to sit comfortably in our own skins,” Shourd writes. “They force us to ask questions: Why are we torturing people in lieu of rehabilitation? What are we going to do about the violence plaguing our society? How does change happen? How do we connect our own suffering to something larger?”


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The Master of the Good Name

Jul20

by: Rodger Kamenetz on July 20th, 2016 | Comments Off

 

The Master of the Good Name

who only lived for prayer,

trembled by the holy ark

because a Name so pure

was more than a body could bear.

 

The Master of the Good Name

saw each word in his prayer

as another Noah’s Ark,

of wings, wild cries and tusks

that he entered in his fear.


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Poem on the Murders

Jul12

by: Anita Barrows on July 12th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

Phliando Castile was an African-American Nutrition Services Department supervisor at a Montessori School in suburban Minnesota. He was shot dead by police on July 6 after being stopped for a broken tail light. His girlfriend, Diamond Lavish Reynolds, immediately began narrating his murder on her phone (sent out via Facebook) as she sat beside him while he was dying in the car. Her four year old daughter, also in the car, witnessed everything.

This is for you, Diamond Lavish Reynolds,

before your name disappears among so many

others, before your voice

is forgotten, before you wake up

one morning, still just 24, your child

beside you, and find only the goneness

on the other side of the bed.This is for you

on the morning you wake and wonder

what you are going to do now

with your life, how you are going to talk

to the four-year-old child who saw the cop

fire the gun at Philando, the child you called

your “angel,” your first consolation.

This is for you when the news has stopped talking

about what happened, when the news has passed on

to other deaths.This is for you

in this country of guns, of cruelty, of dismissal;

for you, Diamond

Lavish Reynolds, on some humid morning

in August, as you push the blankets

away, your child

curled in sleep, so small,

and walk into the bathroom and look for the first

time in weeks carefully

at your face in the mirror, ask yourself how

you are going to live

now with only this absence,

one of your eyes consumed with grief, the other

with outrage.How can we hold this

with you, how can we make your tears not

another deleted narrative?

Anita Barrows is a poet, translator, and psychologist in Berkeley, California. She is a professor at The Wright Institute and maintains a private practice.

Lift It

Jul11

by: Rabbi Michael Rothbaum on July 11th, 2016 | Comments Off

If God is all-Powerful
Can he make a rock so large he himself
Cannot lift it
Cannot move it
Made up of the stone shavings of
The names
Carved out of the rock
Huddled in a pile
On the ground
The names so large
He himself cannot lift them
From the hearts
Of the bereaved
The empty spaces
Left in the rock
He himself couldn’t lift
There but not
There
The black blood that is
There but not
There

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Winter Noon

Jul6

by: Umberto Saba, translated from the Italian by Paula Bohince on July 6th, 2016 | Comments Off

Winter Noon

At that moment when I was happy

(God forgive me the word so vast,

so tremendous), who drove almost to tears

my brief joy? You will say, some

beautiful creature passing

who smiled. No, a balloon instead,

a stray blue balloon

in the blue air, and my native

sky as never before, clear and cold,

noon winter resplendent

sky with some white clouds

and the windows of the houses, sun blazing,

tenuous smoke from one or two chimneys,

the divine in every

thing, globe by the incautious hand

of a child escaped. He cried

in the crowd, his pain

his great pain in Stock

Exchange Square, where I sat in a café

admiring through the glass with shining

eyes the climb or fall of its goodness.

 

(Translated from the Italian by Paula Bohince)

__

Mezzogiorno d’inverno

In quel momento ch’ero già felice

(Dio mi perdoni la parola grande

e tremenda) chi quasi al pianto spinse

mia breve gioia? Voi direte: “Certa

bella creatura che di là passava,

e ti sorrise”. Un palloncino invece,

un turchino vagante palloncino

nell’azzurro dell’aria, ed il nativo

cielo non mai come nel chiaro e freddo

mezzogiorno d’inverno risplendente.

Cielo con qualche nuvoletta bianca,

e i vetri delle case al sol fiammanti,

e il fumo tenue d’uno due camini,

e su tutte le cose, le divine

cose, quel globo dalla mano incauta

d’un fanciullo sfuggito (egli piangeva

certo in mezzo alla folla il suo dolore,

il suo grande dolore) tra il Palazzo

della Borsa e il Caffé dove seduto

oltre i vetri ammiravo io con lucenti

occhi or salire or scendere il suo bene.

 

 

 

 

Umberto Saba (1883-1957) was born as Umberto Poli in Trieste and became one of the most important figures in Italian Twentieth Century poetry. He also wrote prose and served as a soldier in World War I. He died in Gorizia, Italy.

Paula Bohince is the author of three poetry collections, including Swallows and Waves (Sarabande, Jan. 2016). Her translations from the Italian have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Agni, PN Review, and the Journal of Italian Translation. She lives in Pennsylvania.

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Our Dreams

May3

by: Ilan Stavans on May 3rd, 2016 | Comments Off

A new poem from scholar and author Ilan Stavans:

Our Dreams

Every night, as we close our eyes,

we are free

and the world starts anew.

 

In the realm of dreams,

there is no past,

everything happens at once,

night is day,

people are ghosts,

we are happy

and the world is ours.

 

Every night, as we close our eyes,

we are out of Egypt,

lead by Moses

onto the Promised Land

 

In the realm of dreams,

the lamb sits next to the lion,

the land is plentiful,

the air is clean,

and the water fresh.

 

And then our eyes reopen.

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