Tag Archives: poetry

islands in the raging sea

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with violence erupting
from deranged, festering, unthinking minds…
thirsty for action in the Hollywood style
so like the action thrillers that perked them up
as they stared listlessly
at the silver screen… in the theater
or the computer screen alternative
to their meaningless existence.
rivers of blood and forbidden sex
as an antidote to boredom and insignificance
wishing for a moment of glory before sacrifice
empty moon faces lost in space
spastic hyper active bodies
distended from shallow minds
the Arab spring, they called it, a few years ago
you can find it on facebook, I’ve heard…

can it be…
that we, on our island of serenity
may still enjoy some peace of mind
in the light, filtered through fall leaves
chickens picking at grains of vegetation
in the gravel…
and the cats, leisurely in their presence
taking pleasure in life itself,
cleaning themselves from time to time
awake, aware, but calm
in the patches of sunshine between
the approaching rain clouds

islands in the raging sea
in the midst of the storm

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Heaven’s Roots

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boats in the harbor

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sometimes in a line, or side by side
we give the semblance of order, the hint of pride
in early summer when the weather is fine
and new paint is added, and rot cut away
lines are repaired and wood is well varnished
there are flashes of pride, and adventure before us
and the water needs only, to keep us afloat
as songs from the radio fill the air with romance
leisurely, after the work of sanding and cutting,
when relaxing on a deck chair in the long afternoon,
there might be a beer or two, or a tug at the bottle,
a wisp of smoke in the air for relaxation
as if there was nothing to do
rubbing shoulders all the while with reliance

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out here, don’t you know, we’re an adjunct of the city
we’re the homes of those who can get away
instead of green gardens and seasonal flowers
we’ve got the sea as our backyard, to bring joy to the day.
the power company provides our electric connection
the cell phone rings with cheery calls from friends
apparently well connected, all our needs supplied
dinners may be served in scenic surroundings
or eaten in privacy while we’re seated inside

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there’s some of us here, who’ll never go out to sea
they’ll find consolation in the sights and the smells,
the purr of the motors, the songs of the wind…
the groans of the swell, the roars of the waves
the wimpers of the wood, the salt in the air
and the security of being moored to the wharf
just a step from the land, tethered as always
out of harms way

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but those of us who’ll venture out…
setting sail with intention to return
but well aware that there’s no fair retreat
knowing in the depth of our souls
that life starts with the first centimeter
of release from the moorings
as we slip away from the fetters
and the garbage of idleness
putting our faith on the body of the water,
the solitude of the deep blue sea

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our trust in the stars above
even when they remain unperceived
behind clouds in the black of night.
they are there as they were
yesterday and a thousand years ago
the presence of the sea too, is constant and won’t be tamed
arm wrestling playfully, then she’ll shake, rattle and roll
till even the most practiced sailor will heave
and clench the rail with all his might
no flattery will subdue her, no love will overcome…
alone on the water, we’ll navigate our course
no promise, no assurance, no insurance will deliver us
as we rely on judgment and experience night and day

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metal will buckle and planks will decay
paint will bubble over unforgiving rust
a single mistake may never be forgiven
and a blink in the night, might never be forgotten.
there are fewer fish in the sea, and they remain unseen
and the moods that seemed casual at first
could be later acknowledged with a scream

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good times for sure, the highs intoxicate
but happiness, you know isn’t forever after
no maps or charts to guarantee the temper of mood
or the luck of a voyage between here and the horizon
the personality of the sea knows no surety
the crew relies on one another, the captain on god
and when the captain sails alone
his face etched with resolution…
is one of his eyes waiting for a nod?

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you land lovers above
have the choice, just as we do here
whether to stick with the crowd,
in an ever lasting hug
or live this life the best that you can
on your own, despite the fear

all photos from the Jaffa harbor

end of a long day

Oh, there were resolutions
to keep a low profile
to pace myself
to take it easy,
because nothing is so important
anyway
but yesterday
there was an inertia
that got out of hand
like a rolling thunder
and good people
whom I couldn’t say no to…
then, by the end of the day
I was simply worn out…
And found myself gazing
down the street
just like this cat here
at the edge of the day
in the light of the sun
going down

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cat gazing down the street

Never Ending Meeting

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Written in Hebrew by Nathan Alterman 1938
Free translation by ShimonZ 2015

I was taken by storm while singing to you
those stone walls stood in vain;
my passion is yours, your garden is mine
dizzy, without hands, how could I open doors

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Let the sin and the judgments languish in books
while suddenly and forever my eyes are shocked
through the warring streets and raspberry sunsets
and too, you’ve bound me in bunches

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Don’t ask for the bashful to approach
alone in your country I’ll go
I ask for nothing
my prayer is that you’ll take from me

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From the ends of my sorrow
in the black of night
on the long, empty, asphalt streets
my god has sent me to offer the little children
raisins and almonds to console my poverty

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How good that your hand still grabs our hearts
have no pity on us when we’re too tired to go on
don’t let us crawl for refuge to a dark lonely room
leaving the stars that still shine outside

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There the moon is shining; sends us a smiling kiss
and the damp heavens thunder and grumble
the sycamore dropped me a branch it could spare
and I’ll grab it up for my support

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And I know that while the drum keeps beating
to the pace of the city and the issues at hand
I’ll drop one day with my head bashed in
and find our smile… between the parked cars

poetry and bull shit

My dear friends, last week I wrote a poem… and got some comments on the blog and a lot of mails. Didn’t really know how to reply to them all. In the past, I have written posts, and turned comments off. And then I would get mails, asking why I had turned the comments off. That people wanted to respond to what I wrote. And you know, I really do enjoy the comments. So this time, I left the comments on, even though I knew that it would be very hard to respond. In fact the week has gone by, and I haven’t responded. So I decided to take this opportunity to explain my situation.

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There are so many levels of communication. Sometimes we tell what’s happening in our life. I know there are bloggers who share their most intimate feelings, aspirations, and anxieties on their blogs. Often these people choose to protect themselves with anonymity. They adopt a pseudonym, and use a picture of a flower or a fish as their icon on their blog. Sometimes I don’t even know if they are a man or a woman, young or old. I’ve often felt a discomfort when reading such a blog. I felt a need to know where the voice was coming from. And so, on this blog I use my own name, and that is my real picture at the top of the page. But then, when relating to very personal matters, I can’t help but think of the subjective nature of personal material. And I wonder about the many different ways one could look at the same experience.

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On one hand, I want to be accurate about what I present on the blog. And on the other, I am aware that because the story is so personal, what I’m saying is highly subjective… and if it were viewed by another human being they might see things very differently. Moreover, some things are so complicated. Stories have previous incarnations… they’re woven like a Persian rug, with threads from numerous pictures interwoven and emerging again and again as the images change. On occasion, I choose to tell my story as a parable, and other times, I turn to poetry.

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Some people asked, is this true? Is it literal or figurative? Are you moving? Did you have such and such a relationship? So let me tell you how I see poetry. For me, poetry is as true as it gets. It is cutting past the skin. It is getting to the heart of the matter. It is a cutting away of the explanations and justifications, and the apologies. It is laying the soul bare. It is piercing through the fog and the mist and the manners to get at the essence. And once the soul has been exposed, each of us has to understand it as best he or she can, from our own experiences in this life. There is no point in explanations, because everything has been said. I know that in academic circles, a poem is sometimes taken apart to better understand it. If you were to do that, it’d be okay… it would be you’re way of getting to the heart of it. But I couldn’t take part in such an exercise. I wrote you a poem, my dear friends, to tell you where I was at. What more could I possibly say.

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But in our tradition, there are certain exceptions to the rules. For instance, we refrain from using the explicit name of our god. But for the purpose of learning or teaching, we are permitted to say the name. So I’ve decided to tell you a bit about last week’s poem… and to tell you a bit about bull shit too. All for the sake of the learning.

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After living for 40 years in the same apartment… a condominium… my very dearest friends have convinced me that it would be in my interest to move to another apartment, where according to them, I would be more comfortable. It never occurred to me to move. It would be a move to the next neighborhood over from where I’ve lived all these years; into a newer and better built building… near a nice shopping center. There is a list of all of the advantages and it goes on and on. One night, after listening to some powerful convincing, and actually visiting the proposed apartment, I agreed. But then, returning to my trusty old home, I looked at the walls, at the old furniture, at the books that cover almost all of my walls, the ghosts of old memories started coming back to me from forty years of living in the same place. And that’s what I put into the poem. Of course, I could have written a book. But that wouldn’t have fit on the blog.

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Meantime, while my friends are taking care of the arrangements, and packing up my belongings, and cleaning the accumulated dust, and putting my many possessions in order, my dear friend Janne, has provided me with a room in her home, in a small village, a very short distance from Jerusalem. The pictures on this post were taken where I am presently residing till the dust settles, and I’ll actually move to my new home. Believe me, it’s a very emotional experience. But life has been good to me. And my life right now is very good too. Aside from the very gracious hospitality of Janne, I’m also enjoying the companionship of Georgia the cat, who’s appeared on these pages recently, and Charlie the cat, and Bonnie the bitch, all of whom amuse me and help me pass the time in what otherwise might be sheer hell.

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And now, about bull shit. This is an expression I learned when visiting in America. It was a common expression, used often when there were doubts about the veracity of something said. I was reminded of the expression when I got a few mails asking me if what I’d posted last week was true.

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From what I understand, some years back, in the western part of the USA, they used to sell these 50 pound bags of bovine feces as manure for the cultivation of agricultural products, vegetables and flowers. On the bag there was an impressive picture of a healthy bull, snorting and pounding the ground with his front hooves. The picture was supposed to convince the farmer buying the product, of the effectiveness and the power of the manure in the bag. But since farmers were skeptical about advertising even in those days, and knew that there were more cows in the meadow than there were bulls, they used to refer to this product, with a smile, saying ‘bull shit’.

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But the story is not so simple. It turns out, especially these days, that there is a substantial difference between the dung of bulls and steers when compared to milk cows. Cows are fed more roughage and grasses, because a lot of grain cuts into milk production, whereas the diet of bulls and steers consists of a base ration of hay and corn. If raised for meat, they often get a protein supplement as well as salt, limestone and dicalcium phosphate. So maybe, at least nowadays, there’s no reason to scoff at bull shit. For as we know, what comes out is influenced by what went in.

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I love your comments, my friends, and I hope you enjoyed this explanation. As I mentioned before, the pictures here are of my present environment. I hope that soon I will be home again… even if that home will be a bit different from the one I’ve been used to for the last forty years.

40 years stone hard

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We walked the alley way from the post office to the boulevard
had some papers in our hands, some vegetables, and a few bulbs
straight from the lottery to the fort…
I’d never have guessed I was innocent then…
having seen spilt blood, and dreams dashed, and hopes splashed
having crossed oceans, seen souls lost at sea…
with pictures of the war tattooed on the backs of my eyelids…
still biting my lip as we lay on the sands at the shore…
the taste of vomit in our mouths having rocked and rolled
on treacherous waves in a nutshell built for two
wasn’t it clear then… and perfect… that I had made it out with you
and with all of life behind me… still starting out from scratch
so confident, we were inspired… it was on the natch
like a ball as fast as fate itself, shot from hell and headed for home…
blue skies above, we were sure footed… and our aim was true…
and yes I said it then… cause I really, really, really, loved you

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the passion was still there when we reached our wedding bed
despite all the fears and frustrations… and the children to be fed
shouts and screams, suds and splintered glass on the floor
as we danced between the splinters
secured wooden window frames with a plastic latch…
there were still dreams then… in the waking hours of the morn…
and there was love overflowing, taken for granted… taken out the door
you followed me to the bus stop, and we said goodbye afresh
till night followed work, and dark followed light,
head to head about money, ceremony, and circumstance…
arguing respect and fighting ‘bout freedom,
about navigating by the map and keeping our heads above water
we came together, and we came apart… and back again
we wore out our shoes, we wore out our hearts
we withstood our aches, we outlasted plans
and the dripping faucets, and the hours too late,
and what had to be said, and the weariness in bed
don’t these walls echo those days and nights unexplained
the fury of lonesome togetherness and misery unknown
redeemed by an unexpected kiss, by your hand on my breast
in this home that held us together through storms and summer days
how could I possible bid farewell to these walls…

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these stone walls that held our lives together
that held our mistakes, our wide eyed innocence, and our sins…
our tuna salad on cracker thins…
the old typewriters and the film cameras, wooden tables and lamps
the music of years gone by… still floating through the air
and the words read from newspapers on Saturday afternoons
drifting off to sleep, dulled by written explanations to the heart of bliss
how do we pack our moving crates with this…?
I swore I’d never leave these walls alive
never knowing what it’d feel like after 40 years
it’s a good day to die, I said as I walked in
is there anything to say as I walk out
anything that tells the story as well as those two words
that sit like a crown at the head of my blog,
you know, ‘home’ and ‘about’.