IMG_7361The novel Clio’s Mobile Home is a facet of my creative work. Several characters in my novel write poems; I am serious about writing poetry. I also work on short shorts, and short stories. They are all modes of thinking about identity, transcendence and beauty in contemporary life. Art keeps us aloft, but it is more than decoration. Its force can be astounding. The artist becomes an instrument, and art lives to tell the tale.

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Google Says: Don’t Say Happy Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Morning birds loose a litany of reasons 
to be alive, to be young and tune their own chords

having memorized the sounds of their parents, 
blowing an adolescent horn
squawking anointed sound.

In this trumpeting of summer, the young death thing.
Under the tangle of green, remembrance 
the uniformed un-done, un-manned, un-ed.

In the wake of death, so much birth. So much birth
In the wakes. Vigiliance. A wake. Awake.

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The Insect-Poets

In all the extravagant noise about cicadas – co-emergence of different “broods” numbering in the trillions, Brood XIX and Brood XIII named like two massive gangs — does anyone hear poetry?  It could be a giant poetry slam – sound coming from tree crowns, branches, bark, ground as unseen creatures exalt at the top of their lungs.  What we hear is the plangent song, the voice of desire and urgency between deep underground and return.  No surprise, then, that Plato told a story of cicadas turning into poets; later, the creature became a doomed romantic type, its month of life marked by consummate singing, love, starvation and death.

But pay attention to the voicing. Poet Alice Oswald says the Greek mind listened hard and heard the “thin piping quality that is common to old men speaking.”  In a CBC radio interview in 2016, Oswald continues, “I have interest of the cicada as being the insect that poets turn into, if you going on speaking and speaking and speaking, you become nothing but a voice.  A high continuous voice.”  

Trillions of poets living underground for 13 to 17 years, co-emerging, trying urgently to convey their one untranslatable song. Imagine!

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Whirl within a Girl within a Whirl

Flowers seem to blossom
one from another

the border of another’s petals
a blur, that enclosing wall

open to continuity like
the eggs of my daughters

magically there, born
in their ovaries when they were

still inside me, barely formed,
as I cupped them within my mom,

wave within a wave, seed in seed,
life in life.

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L’Eau and Behold

One of Passover’s big themes is water.  The Sea in the Desert sets the stage for crossing the sea, coming through narrow straits, through a “birth canal” towards your own life, passing from received ideas towards self-awareness and freedom, singing in the liminal spaces; singing. 

“L’Eau and Behold,” a long sequenced poem that I wrote in the fall, is also about obstructions, blockages, and the joy when water flows and liberates us from stuck places.  I was thrilled when La Piccioletta Barca short-listed it for its poetry contest. The contest’s theme was “Amorphous,” quite fitting as freedom is an undefined field of opportunities. The poem has been published on their website:

Please take a look!

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Passover & the Bright Light of Realism

Chag Sameach, Happy Passover!

Some thoughts: American optimism has had its appeal to Jews, especially after endless struggles in the old country – but helium in that balloon has the wheeze of exhaustion. We are now returned to realism, to our relatives and wisdom teachers which look hard at us. Refusing to sugarcoat, the tradition says about us, “eh.” Great promise, just off the mark.

Which include Wittgenstein: we are back to the rough ground. We go through the mud. Mud and desert; desert and mud. Spring mud, deep mud, detritus of history, mud on our face. Humiliation of being slaves mud, retribution mud. We were strangers in a strange land mud; of squaring who we are now mud. We can’t come to freedom without feeling the hardness beneath us; we can’t come out shining without the bone-deep knowledge of suffering, squaring, struggling.

Freedom comes in all kinds of wrappings. Epiphanies that burn through time, “a once-and-for-all thing, opaque and revelatory, ceaselessly burning.” (C.D. Wright) In stepping out of historic time into mythic “I was there I know” time. Seeing that freedom, like being, is a ceaseless process, invented and re-invented with every stroke and gesture of composition. Against the hard ground we stand a chance; solidifying against apathy, softening for empathy. The poetry that is shot through our tradition, like all great poetry, comes from looking long and hard, into the abyss, the stars and the human heart. Reality looked hard at is light-bearing. Not for the faint of heart – but with true reward. Chag Sameach!

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“What Me, Cruel?”

April stares back at us and asks: 
What me, cruel?

Because mournful windows
rattle in my winds

and pots tip over, green 
with rust or lichen?

Because hairs on your bare legs
shiver like crocus?

She finds us in her glassy eye
and springs: 

You are morose, but life revives 
on my terms (her smile impervious)

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The Heavy Click

Because the couch didn’t mean anything to him –
the guy I knew in my 20s who hightailed it
every time a girl moved her couch to his place. 

Because he was foul-mouthed and funny, 
it stuck; I high-tailed it also, living
on my wits, always freelance, perpetual traveler.

Surprise!  The couches now add up, 
and all that indifference– things lost every day – 
turns inside me – 

clicking of a tongue in the strike plate 
of a door frame 

over-miked in the movie of our lives 

mother’s house, door closed, don’t look back. 
Don’t trust my nonchalance. The hard poem is yet to come. 

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In-Betweens of Mud Season

Change of season: vital transition:
Material transfusion: new juice. 

How does the introvert welcome that? 
Mixed.  Don’t make me give up
heavy curtains pulled to nurture
my wild interior!  My own twigs being burned
for my inner heat and observation.

Observe what comes up
from winter’s meditation. 
Attention to what comes up:
ground seethes: undigested.  
Knuckles and roots.  Women’s bony
fingers scraping for their rings;
from the mud everything breathes.

What bones rise alongside tulip shoots;
what shame to resolve; what liquid transitions, 
connective tissue, whatever rises, as gunk 
or random stuff — all holds clues.  

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The Dirty Socks Part of March

We’ve entered the dirty socks part of March, the dingy linen stained grunge metal time when winter’s rough hide pokes up in earth’s skin.  It’s the shoulder season – not white shoulder, not tanned shoulder – the prickly wan unexercised but already slapped into a strapless dress season.  

You can see it in the raw mud and thawing wood planks, the expanding pot holes. The cheeks and legs of twiggy yards are in bad need of a shave.  They have been caught off-guard – they are still thinking winter, and no one told them it is time to emerge!  

In a way, it’s fabulous…there is physics of sorts in the works.  A physicist on the radio explained that not every part of an organism gets news of change at the same time.  There’s an information delay.  The head of a slinky knows it is falling and begins to collapse after a hand has released it.  But the lower rings defy gravity, hovering and remaining in suspension for a fraction of a second.

So the information delay about spring…my plants, in the final stretch of indoor captivity, seem to be giving up, dropping their leaves, and one after another, my fingernails are breaking.  Yes, daylight lasts much longer.  But they haven’t gotten the memo yet!  

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Passion of the Slighted Chapbook

Once we become aware of something, we start to see it everywhere. The long-ignored thing, which existed but meant little to us, asserts itself with a vengeance, a passion of the slighted and overlooked.  

Thus my relationship with chapbooks, small book-objects, often handmade, that slide in your pocket, call to you whimsically because they’re cheap and they can.  

A panel at AWP literary conference sparked my appetite, reminding me of my days when I preferred indie records to corporate labels.  Last week when I uttered the words aloud – “How can I get into this world?” – it seems the chapbooks heard me and said, let’s give the chick a ride.  I sparkled to wonderful names such as Carrion Bloom, Eulalia, Small Orange, Sibling Rivalry, Ethelzine and my favorite name, Rinky Dinky.  

Immediately afterwards, I fell into a Webinar about the role of Jewish artists in Dada and Surrealism.  Jean Khalfa, professor at Cambridge, gave a wonderful lecture about outsider artists whose contributions and agitations were central to European modern movements.  In the First World War era, Romanian artists Samuel Rosenstock (Tristan Tzara) and Marcel Janco mocked and disrupted traditional art in small editions, disposable ephemera, etc., With ferocious wit and steely eye, they made Dada an underground force that shocked those stuck in a single language – “a minority wakes up a majority language.”  Isidore Goldstein (Isidore Isou), Moïse (Maurice) Lemaître, Benjamin Wechsler (Benjamin Fondane), and Salman Locker (Gherasim Luca) followed later, in the ‘40s, restlessly inventing vocabularies in the trenches of Surrealism, Surautomatism (Luca), existentialism (Fondane), Lettrism/Situationism (Isou). The work of these artist/thinkers has been rediscovered, visited with scholarly and public verve – I encourage anyone to go beyond this truncated listing to discover more.  

Finally– Paul Celan.  A little vellum popped up from Small Orange Press that recreates the world of Pierre Joris’ translation of “Todesfuge/Deathfugue,” Celan’s most famous poem.  (The recommendation came from Aviya Kushner’s “Being and Timelessness” substack.) Yet another example of a cultural migrant who was fierce about the recomposition of language (in this case German), leaving dominant linguistic forces in the wake.  

One quote floats from the lecture: “The totality of what is to be known allows anyone to create anything.” It’s scrawled in my notebook, separated from its “author,” a watchword of creative faith.

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