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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category



On a Day Like Today

Oct31

by: Bruce Silverman on October 31st, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Image of hands holding candles at vigil

Image from vigil in Pittsburgh courtesy of Governor Tom Wolf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are feeling the first
glint of shock that our
ancestors felt the day they
were expelled from Spain.

Now our restive hands
are sensing the first drops
of pelting rain that fell on
loved ones who boarded an
unspeakable train.

We remember those who wore
yellow stars and perhaps those
times are not so far away.

Maybe soon on a day like today
we will see crescent moons on
the sleeves of those who have
no place to pray.

Glance upwards at the angry
sky casting an ominous pall
over the frightened heads of
brown-skinned children who
are pleading: why?

The latest version of “it can’t
happen here” is no longer
news from a distant
shore; it’s here at our door.

My hope is that you and I will
awaken and be vigilant on
behalf of all that we hold to
be dear,

And my prayer is that our tired
eyes can see and our broken
hearts can hear.

__

Trained as a transpersonal psychotherapist and musician, Bruce Silverman  has been in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1984. He has been on the faculty of a number of institutions of higher learning, including Holy Names University, Naropa University, and Wisdom University, since its inception in 2005. He teaches World Drumming, Embodied Dream Work, Group Facilitation and Ritual Practice. He is the founder and director of The Orpheus Healing Arts Institute in Berkeley, California, and regularly presents his music and poetry at the services of both Chochmat Halev and The Torah of Awakening.  

Two Poems

Oct30

by: Neil Silberblatt on October 30th, 2018 | 4 Comments »

One person lighting the candle of another in darkness

Image from vigil in Pittsburgh courtesy of Governor Wolf

Such Things

“The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions a statistic.”
         Statement by Joseph Stalin to U.S. Ambassador William Averell Harriman

By now,
as experienced as we are,
we should have developed a liturgy
for such things.

By now,
we should have learned
to be more frugal,
more economical,
lest our cries overtax His ears.

Like the express lane
at Stop & Shop -
a dozen Jews killed in a single synagogue
counts as a single item
which can be swiped with
a single prayer.

A Kaddish for Kishinev.
A novena for Novgorod.
One pater noster to cover the whole entire
slaughtered family.

But, like those entering this world,
those leaving insist on doing so
one bloody scream
at a time
and each must be tallied
and accounted for.

 

Rending

If – in accordance with tradition -
I rent my garments with each
slaughter, each pogrom, each shooting,
for each victim piled high
like those mountains of glasses
which will never again see.

If – like Job – I tore at my clothes
with each loss.

By the end, I would be standing
naked before you.

And then, perhaps, you might finally notice
that – like you – I am human.

__

Neil Silberblatt whose work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies – is the author of So Far, So Good (2012), and Present Tense (2013), and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  His most recent book, Past Imperfect (Nixes Mate Books, 2018), has been nominated for the Mass. Book Award in Poetry. Neil is the founder/director of Voices of Poetry – which has organized and presented a series of poetry events (featuring acclaimed poets) at various venues in NY, NJ, CT and MA.

Review of Steve Herrmann’s Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times

Aug1

by: Reverend Dr. Matthew Fox on August 1st, 2018 | 1 Comment »

This exciting and important book is filled with verve and insight that only Dickinson can awaken. With the help of Carl Jung and the inspiration of his own deep work, including his penetrating insights on Walt Whitman’s launching of an American movement of Spiritual Democracy, Herrmann sheds brilliant light on the spiritual genius of Emily Dickinson. Rightly does the author call Dickinson a “medicine woman for our challenging times,” for even today – 130 years after her death – she still brings forth wisdom and insight to challenge patriarchy. The book is filled with insights triggered by James, Jung, Whitman, Emerson, Everson, Jeffers, Melville, Humboldt, and the author’s own well-traveled soul. Herrmann’s acute exegesis of many poems that sometimes seem opaque is sensible and eye-opening.

Herrmann argues that the crux of Dickinson’s struggle was her wrestling with the archetype of vocation. It was her vocation as a poet that charged her with awe and ecstasy as when she wrote: “Take all away from me, but leave me Ecstasy,/ And I am richer than all my fellow Men–/ Ill it becometh me to dwell so wealthily/ When at my very Door are those possessing more,/ In abject poverty – ” (#1640) Yet she had to sacrifice her career as a public poet in her lifetime because she was excluded for the most part from the male-dominated world of publishing. Herrmann believes that Dickinson underwent a “crucifixion of her ego on the cross of her poetic vocation.” After suffering a breakdown she revealed how she rose not as a wounded bird but riding “the Ether into the air or sky as shamans do.”


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Nothing to Say until Now

Jan25

by: Mandy Fessenden Brauer on January 25th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

(Remembrances of a man about his boarding school days)

 

There was nothing to say about it

because who was to care? I wasn’t

the most loveable of offspring nor

one of the most talented, funniest

or outstanding, no doubt just

the sort of boy to be molested

when others were sleeping, or

at least pretending to.

 

I chose never to tell my parents.

They were too consumed with their

own problems anyway and didn’t

care what I did or where, so long

as I didn’t bother them with it,

my mother with her rotgut gin and

my father drowning himself in yoga

and meditation that he picked up

from a wild eyed guru in India.

 

So when the teacher approached

my uncomfortable bed I didn’t even

have enough sense to be concerned.

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I wonder if Mary––

Dec12

by: Stephanie Van Hook on December 12th, 2017 | 5 Comments »

“The Virgin’s name was Mary.” Luke 1:27

“And the angel said unto her, Fear Not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God.” Luke 1:30

 

 

If we could bring her back

For just a morning,

For a cup of coffee, a cranberry scone,

And the day’s headlines,

To really talk with us,

 

If she would have said

#metoo?

 

She’d remember things

Differently than we were taught

To believe.

 

She’d start off blaming

Herself.

Drunk as she was

On God’s wine that night–

Hearing how He favoured her

“Amongst all women,”

The scent of white lilies, and

Shining with the honey-sweet smile

And soft face

Of an angel.

 

“No, thank you,” or

“I don’t even know you,” or

“I’m in love with someone else.”

She could only accept Him–

All-powerful as He was, and she,

A frightened adolescent, in some ways,

Still a child, alone

In her room that stormy March eve.

She could not push Him off

Or His intentions away.

Predestined, as she was.

Chosen before the World was created,

So they said.

 

Who said that?

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Tolerance

Aug28

by: Aaron Ableman on August 28th, 2017 | Comments Off

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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