Friday, December 29, 2006

  1. A Poem in Two Mood Swings


    I am the daughter who came after
    those who went to heaven
    through the opening of a chimney at Auschwitz
    or the lucky ones who sailed through a harbor
    waving the torch of their hearts
    at a statue
    never mentioning
    the two grandparents who remained

    as life skipped a generation
    and gravel filled my mouth
    with uncomfortable silence.

    I pick out stones now
    and place them on graves
    no, throw them at the pits of Hell.
    Here's one, two, three, four...

    a volley of stones
    transporting me back
    to when I ran
    in fields
    with my cousin, my sister, my uncle
    looking for any hole
    where we could bury ourselves
    and never come out


    My parents spoke Hungarian,
    not Yiddish.

    They ate stuffed cabbage,
    not lox and bagels.

    On Yom Kippur
    my sister's friends
    came over the house
    to stuff themselves.

    We were a refuge
    from being Jewish.

    All my teachers
    in the New York City school system
    were Jewish.

    When my father was growing up in Hungary
    he use to protect the smaller boys
    from getting beat up.

    My father was a Communist
    who sent my older sister out
    to buy the Daily World.

    Politics made people argue
    or disappear underground.
    Everything was hidden.

    When my father was dying from cancer
    my mother didn't want him to know what was wrong
    because she was afraid he wouldn't fight it.

    On his deathbed
    he told us to never forget we were Jewish.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

When Bush Came to Shove
I was listening
to election results
on the couch
the cat's tail is tick-tocking
against the backdrop of my hair
a day after we'd turned tables
sent the bluecoats
back to the White House,
two days since I'd come down with a cold
stretched out beneath a fleece throw

smell car exhaust fumes drivers
tuned to their own 6 o'clock evening news
the kettle's on the stove
other life forms
wait 200 billion years
to get the picture.
I'm in the kitchen.
Tsk. Tsk. The past is not over yet.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I stand before you,
a woman with my roots exposed
to their silver baseline.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Anselm Kiefer

show at MOMA SF

"All stories of heaven begin on earth"

"Each of these buildings has a history created by its own fiction...That fiction is part of the debris of human history."

"Our stories always begin in the forest."

Robert Fludd
wheat paste
gelatin print
Ha-Ha Club
Subduction zone
I stand here with my roots exposed before you

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mayor-Elect Ron Dellums speaking at Oakland Task Rorce Meeting October 25

"In order to achieve consensus, there has to be a dialogue."

"I have an unwavering belief in the principle of democracy."

"This is not about Ron Dellums, but it's about this community coming together."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reincarnated Lenny Bruce Speaks of The Jewish Problem

“… Israel calls in public speeches and schoolbooks the Arab citizens of Israel a demographic nightmare and the enemy from within. As for the Palestinian refugees living under occupation, they are defined in Israeli History schoolbooks as a 'problem to be solved’. Not long ago the Jews were a problem to be solved.”

--Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Lecturer in Language Education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem anda member of Palestinian and Israeli Bereaved Families for Peace.

Before there was a Jewish Problem
there was a Jewish Question.
Maybe they were the same thing.

No one wanted the Jews to live in their country.
People hated them.
Why? Because they were different.

They wore yarmulkes,
striped shawls, and smelled of fish.
Fishy! Yech!

They spoke a different language,
and lived in filthy ghettos.

After years of being squashed
until their blood coated stones
along every road leading somewhere,

but not to the pub except
for the occasional schnopps on Shabbos,
no, they didn't traipse to the beer garden

where the National Socialists,
or Nazis as they later came to be called,
decided to solve the problem.

The Jewish Problem, was not as so many had said,
religious. It was racial, which gave the Nazis
a legal basis for everything. This was so brilliant.

Jews were now excluded from six branches of industry.
Properties were de-Jewdified.

Jews were prohibited from attending concerts, films, and theaters.
Jews were prohibited from attending German schools.
Jews were prohibited from bearing firearms.

You know what’s next.
We’ve all heard about the six million
who died in the ovens, and how the world

didn't want to know about anything
until it was too late, which is about when
the Jewish Question became the Jewish Problem.

Where do you stick the Jews
who survived the Holocaust?
You out there in the audience.
Where the fuck d'you put them?

There was a search party.
Everyone looked around.
Uganda was too far from where the Jews wanted to be.

The Jews became a People for a Land
for a Land without a People.
But that was a slogan, not the reality,

because it seems
there were many people
who lived in Palestine, the Palestinians,

primitive people, said the army men,
wild beasts with schmutzy teeth.

Fast forward to today when Israelis have a problem
with people who retain keys to houses
that are now occupied by families who light candles
and invite the Shekinah of peace into their homes on Shabbos,

while during the week Israeli soldiers order Palestinian women to strip in front
of their children for security reasons, and as jailers, torture and lock up young men without decent food or clean mattresses who run checkpoints that force old men to wait in line for hours without water.

Jewish life is filled with irony,
which some of you out there call a Jewish sense of humor,
but this is not funny.

And how can I, Lenny Bruce, who in my day
talked a lot of unfunny stuff,
not cry out as a Jew,
how can I not say that justice and mercy belong to us all?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sh’mah Yisra’el

Hear O Israel,
from a daughter
who can only read the alliterative text of Hebrew
with glasses that need a new prescription
and a mouth that gets filled with saliva
from a tongue that knows not how to deliver
two-dotted vowels—

Here O Israel
from your daughter
who was born in the same year
you were created,
after World War II had folded
its charred arms around
the only hope that was left—
Israel, the land of milk and honey—

You were the voice of my parent’s generation
who planted trees along new boulevards
and carried ashes sewed
inside the hem of their clothing
to cry along the wadis of your limestone beds,
hugging Exodus by Leon Uris.

You gave them a bright torch
to carry every high holyday
for all their days
raising money and donating shoes—

a reason to drink tea
in a glass mug with a lump of sugar
coating their tongues with sweetness
as they stamped letters,
made phone calls,
argued with each other in the accent
of wherever they’d come from.

Israel, my heart is heavy
with the dreams of my parents,
this second generation daughter
who wanted a lasting peace
to fill the crevices
of your Wailing Wall
with a light of its own creation.

Instead, only war and massacre,
dairy farms and steel plants
laid to rubble.
Twisted iron stabbing the earth.
And the sighs of the six million
each time another official
invokes their name.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

For Destiny Arts
There weren’t always cell phones.
People went home to make a call
or stopped in a telephone booth
to put in the right change.

People called long distance
or person-to-person
asked to reverse the charges
or to make a collect call

which meant whoever picked up the phone
had to foot the bill.
There weren’t always cell phones.
There were longer silences.

People rolled down car windows
and waited until they got
behind closed doors, which is not to say
those were the good old days.

They were just different,
with longer pauses.
Now we keep talking,
text messaging, I aMMing each other

we can hear each other think
we can hear each other think


Think of all the places you use your cellphone. Where are you?

I'm talking on my cellphone in the bus
I'm talking on my cellphone at the mall
I'm talking on my cellphone in the bathroom
I'm talking on my cellphone in the hospital

Think of all the places you hear other people talk on their cellphones. Where are they? Where are you?

I hear you talk on your cellphone when I'm at school
I hear you talk on your cellphone when I'm in the supermarket
I hear you talk on your cellphone when I'm waiting on line to buy lunch

Group work:
Team up. Pick one of the above scenarios and develop a conversation.

Individual work:
1. 9/11. You're in the Towers. You're calling who? What do you say?

2. You're on the street. There's an accident. Who do you call? What do you say?

3. You're an astronaut. There's another life form outside the spaceship. It's telepathic. You don't need a cellphone. What do you say?

4. Make up your own.

5. You're sending a text message to your boy/girl friend who just found out that a best friend was killed. What do you say?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oakland is a Holy City
At the orientation this evening, the first of several for 40 transition task forces with a total of approximately 800 members, who are meeting over the course of the next six weeks to give Mayor-elect Ron Dellums five recommendations. A process "to bring the brilliance of the people of Oakland together," according to Kitty Epstein, a representative from Dellums' staff. She said this is "historic and unprecendented" in the way this is happening. I'm on the task force for Transparency and Ethics in Government.

Friday, September 15, 2006

First Online Date, Background Check

So by no agenda do you mean you don’t care any number of California figs whether a said page turner wears poppy or propane blue nailpolish or doesn’t have hands altogether, but manages to turn turn turn through a suction device strapped to the top of his or her forehead, which leads to another question, do you have an agenda regarding the gender of the person who might join you for a latte on some semi-lit afternoon when the light filters in slanted Greek pillars across the city? Just wondering.

Or by no agenda do you imply that somebody somewhere did have an agenda and wrapped you hard around his or her bullet points until you started to bleed so badly you needed to tie a tourniquet along any number of pressure points to staunch what was rising up inside you like a revulsion washing away what some people might describe as a tender feeling? Just curious.

Or by no agenda do you mean you are open to the moment, to fill a container of whatever two people can become together and not have any preconceived notions regarding whether a container should come from Neiman Marcus, or Ross, or fed by streaming video? Because I think everyone has some kind of agenda even if it's a non-agenda except of course for moments when we're inside our own puzzle. A background is the hardest part.

Like times when I didn't know what or how to say something without an agenda, found hidden ones tucked inside other pant cuffs, pockets, velcro fasteners or zippers that were missing teeth and plain broken. Now my agenda has turned into a to-do list. I do, I do, said the Cowardly Lion. Keep going. Take a bus to North Beach. Walk home without an umbrella. Drive five hours to Disneyland just to give Mickey Mouse a hand.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

In the Shadow of the Middle East
A Spare the Air Day
when public transit
offered free rides
on the house
the ferry fuller
than it’d ever been
caps turned backward
orange hair braids
digital cameras snapping
waves mixed with exhaust
on the hottest day of the year
so packed to the gills
we tipped backward and water-skied,
but once we passed
beneath the shadow of the bridge,
there we were
on the other side
of something we didn't know yet.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Release Party
You'd already left for Spanish immersion class,
I had my own baptism to take care of,
so I showered, but wanted

to lie on a bed of frozen raspberries,
each a clit pressed against my back.
Let's say I was motivated.

I walked outside the condo
with a bucket to go picking
when I heard the new neighbor say,

"You've got alot of duende
being out at night,"
and it wasn't even night,

tech vendors were on the march,
schools were wide open
everyone was driving carefully,

but from a car radio came a remix
of the Kurds and Rockefellers
pounding harder at every corner,

when a voice announced,
"Get the defibrillator." And I did.
And it was a good thing, too,

it brought me back
to my galvinized bucket,
filled with longing.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Movie Review of X-Men: The Last Stand
A friend and I had tired of viewing Netflix DVDs on our 13-inch monitors and thought that over the Memorial Day Weekend, we'd treat ourselves to a visit to the big screen. The next question was what to see on the big screen. Oddly, it turned out that we were individuals who shunned fads. Both of us had neglected to read the Da Vinci Code and I myself had to admit to only knowing what "Sex in the City" was all about until several years after its debut on HBO when I was able to rent all the DVDs from Netflix and watch the smashing conclusion with Mikhail Baryshnikov, which is to say that we didn't want to see the Da Vinci Code.

I, instead, suggested that we see the third X-Men movie, having read positive reviews with intimations of a drug that had been found to cure the mutants of their weirdness. It offered the possibility of an intelligent movie that was fun at the same time: moral choices with character development and lots of computer animation.

I was game and so was my buddy. So despite the fact that I had confused the movie times with another theater, we found ourselves in front of the big screen, having missed all but one of the noisy trailers and quickly sitting down for a recap of the last two X-Men movies as Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) recruit young mutants from the sofa of their parents' living rooms. (This might be, I thought, a science fiction version of Harry Potter.)

Quick Disclosure: I am unfamiliar with the two other X-Men movies preceding this one, and score low on series trivia tests.

The movie was overall entertaining. Storm (Halle Berry) knows how to roll her eyes into her head until the pupils disappear better than anyone I know, if you go in for that sort of thing. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is hunky enough, but didn't have the real pathos of Lon Chaney's Wolf Man. (Is it wrong to ask for depth?) Mostly, as the movie ensued, I bemoaned all the lost opportunities to grapple with some tantilizing issues. For instance:

Why does Magneto flash his concentration camp tattooed numbers on his arm when some young mutant upstart insists on seeing his mark? (Forgive me if this is explained in previous episodes.) What I really want to know is how his experience has turned him into a sort of warped genius, in some ways not unlike parents who survived the Holocaust not ever discussing the pain of that experience with their offspring, but succeed in fucking them up nevertheless.

Why is the choice to take the drug and lose mutant individuality not a bigger moral question?

Only Rogue (Anna Paquin) grapples with the issue, if only for a few moments of screen time. Her special powers don't allow for physical contact with other human beings and she wants to get close, really close to the Iceman (Shawn Ashmore). But what about other more philosophical issues that could've been explored? Sure, a few of the characters proclaim, "There's nothing wrong with us," and in the end, regular hum-drum humanity gets to co-exist with the mutant population who now have a representative in the White House in the character of Hank "Beast" McCoy.

But what about examining parallels with the thousands of people in the United States who rely on mood-enhancing drugs to control their neurosis, which is not a judgment call, only a question. At what point does the quality of our lives become so terrible that we surrender ourselves to the cure or to the pill, or to an operation? The choice for HIV and AIDS patients is surely about life or death. But what about cases that are more subtle? What if someone doesn't want to be chosen by their special gift and grows tired of its demands?

Then I was confused by the internal "them" and "us" scenario -- the older more schooled X-Men who've benefitted by Professor Xavier's tutoring on how to use their gifts (don't let the power control you, something many of us learn in driving school), versus the younger tattooed and pierced hordes who team up with Magneto to kidnap and kill a bald boy who's hidden in a drug company's corporate headquarters on Alcatraz Island. His DNA is the source of this miracle drug.

As a group, Magneto's crew are a lot less sophisticated then Xavier's, who've had the benefits of a sort of ivy league education in the mansion. So what kind of comment is this upon public education as school becomes increasingly focused on passing tests and less upon critical thinking? Is our educational system producing unruly children who consider violence a viable solution?

A few other questions: Does it really take blowing up and moving the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz to accomodate one of the punky mutants, the Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), who's never learned how to swim? You'd think that an intelligent older guy like Magneto could come up with a more energy-saving solution.

Then what about the human population at large? How do they feel about the mutants merging back undetected into their ranks? Neighborhood populations always seem to be uneasy when child predators are paroled back into their communities.

And what about the nature of life once a grand mutant like Magneto, now stung with the drug's needle, is condemned to sit at a park bench, trying to stir the pieces of a chess board with his outstretched finger? How does it feel to be ordinary and to sit around remembering your old glory days?

I applauded for a moment where there's a scene with Patrick Stewart on the mansion's lawn, discussing the nature of violence. But it comes and goes too quickly.

I know. I'm too serious, and the film is based on a comic book. However, why not think graphic novel? I bemoan lost opportunities to explore provocative questions that the script raises. I refuse the notion that a sci-fi thriller can't do that. (What about 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick?)

Maybe I'm one of those mutants who expects more.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Houdini's Cousin in the Storage Unit
She was moving from a 10 by 15 into a 5 by 9, downsizing whatever she'd packed into plastic boxes with seals that popped when I lifted them like they were filled with effervescent secrets, household remains, until she'd decided to make the pile smaller so she gave stuff away -- not the piano, it was her husband's, he played -- to people who kept driving up in cars until the pile was small enough to move to the second floor where we stacked her stuff, me and PeeWee who had a stroke six months before and Freddy who bought PeeWee $15.00 worth of gas that morning so he could get there. She said how I was a magician for getting her shit into one space, and I said that's why alot of people called me Houdini and I wondered how he did those tricks, and she said she knew. Really, I said. Really, she said, because she was Houdini's cousin her father use to tell her it was all muscle control, he'd expand his chest when they chained him up, and after they dropped him into the river, he'd let out his breath and escape from the slack.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

String Theory
A woman walks down a path in early spring,
a firetrail that runs along a creek,
bloated with the excess of winter.

But today golden poppies are arched to the sun,
as the woman spots a brown snake, new in length,
stretched across the road, its tongue

begging for hand-outs from every rustle.
She bends down to see the solicitor.
But seeing happens so quickly,

even if with her own two eyes,
as dragonflies piggyback around her,
she touches the string of snake with an outstretched finger.

Her act is an instinctual thing,
while observing is an acquired art.
Never mind. She's in the thick of it now,

follows the snake through water, to the other side
of the water's bank, until she turns into snake,
and twining around him, even his cold blood feels warm.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Un Dia Sin Imigrantes
It happened in Spanish.
My father stood behind a kid wearing a T-shirt
printed with "Hecho in Mexico," and waved to me
from across the street pointing to a digital
camera like he knew how to use one.

I haven't seen him in years.
He didn't drive either, said he didn't have time
to learn, worked six days a week supporting three girls.
My mother was the one who drove.

She was there also, her arm chain-linked through his
like in the olden days when they were still alive,
watching from the stand as everyone marched up 14th Avenue--
grandparents, uncles, Moms, Dads,
kids stuffed inside strollers and backpacks.

They waved harder now,
began to chant "Si Se Puede" in a broken language,
and the sound of their letters
stamped through the air.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Lost and Found Department
It's like I mean
I just didn't know

You know everyone tells you
you don't know
you don't know
you don't know
And the thing is you don't know
so you don't even know that you don't know
you know what I mean?

It's like-

I don't know.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

University Art Museum Berkeley
I enter the bathroom stall
of the museum

leave the door open
paint a Jackson Pollack

drip color everywhere
a work of art

in white porcelain
until gold flecks splinter sky

the energy of one man
bursting into dendrites

no one sees me pee
and I am a forest

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Dressed as a Wedding Guest
Riding on a bus, dressed in a black suit
with the dust of his travels
making a path across his buttoned jacket,
hair neatly trimmed into a gable
that points to a nose
that speaks nothing to his mouth,
but then,
a nose is for smelling danger.

The wedding guest feels
for a loose cord braided
beneath his jacket,
a loose cord that leads back
to where he came from,
a loose cord that is simple,
unlike his life that has no words,
so he waits

to deliver his gift
to the assembled party
riding with him on the bus,
heads pressed to glass,
when the man who is dressed
as a wedding guest,
pulls the cord,
and marries them all to the same thing.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Collapse
so buried inside sadness
dig to remove rubble
see who walks out

daffodils say
hide in the pampas grass
with the sparrows.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Cutting Down the Last Tree on Easter Island
Man, woman, and infant sit on a cliff with their backs
to stone statues. They pray for good luck
to enter through the wind, to hear

a yes spoken beneath the toromiro tree,
the last one standing since the giant palm
was tricked into falling all over itself.

He tells a story of how birds drop seeds,
and trees push back. The man begins to work.
She fastens the infant to her breast.

Frigates and storm petrels
serve melting sun to melting water.

The infant sucks.
The birds fly away.
Nothing enters through the wind.
The stone statues turn into more than stone.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Horatio at Graveside
It falls to me, the last request of Hamlet,
Not so much lord as friend of my heart
Who was able to plot the way my eye followed a sparrow

Landing upon a tree for a moment’s respite,
While I saw how the wave in him crested
Into the sun’s shimmer on water,

Our minds were of such close hemispheres,
We could spot each other inside the juggle
of life’s changing fortune—

And so he asked me to serve as witness,
To speak of events even as my own bower
Of grief threatened to hurl me beyond hearing,

Knowing there was no way Hamlet could live,
Even as I throw rocks upon his grave,
A bedcover to warm his body,

Which is why I came from such a long way off,
Because I loved him more than any other man
Who stood on this earth and looked at the sun.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I Have My Green Card Now
don't tell me how a people string together thoughts on a beach of content keeps washing up shells and seaweed and dead things they stay for easy pickings in sentence structures the caw caw caw of slang banging into rocks

when I lived in Hungarian my mother tongue more of a step-mother who was married to someone I never knew there were hundreds of words for horses their smell, color, earth at a certain time of day or after a rain I knew where my tongue wrapped around shaped language with loam and light but now I've hit everything the ground running with English how many times in one year malls coupons ATM's express accounts can one person open because I've loaned my soul to the devil and I'm getting no interest

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

CellPhone Poem 17: Extra Minutes
Business centers confront
each continental shelf,
each wave of water
from my cubicle
to your global positioning device,
a world drawing in upon itself
tighter under pressure
as we turn
into carbon diamonds carbon
diamonds wearing headphones
speaking with instant translators
embedded on the edge of a bluetooth
look Mom no cavities
no more countries
everything a borderland
beneath the freeway
bordering on something else
on something else on something else
where time is a rerun
in a new slot game
and we apple and orange
through the bling bling of it all.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cannibal Memories
Where will I go to talk to you now that the house has closed and I no longer have the keys or can use the excuse of checking the mail to see if the honeysuckle has started to bloom or if daises are starting to grow after everything front and back yard was leveled?

Where will I go to speak your name now that there’s no place after you died in the front room of the house with glasses of soda, tissues, and a standing orchestra of pill bottles that did not cheer those itinerant trips between your room and the bathroom, your room and the kitchen?

How can I locate you in my cannibal memories and in the things I’ve carried to my next landing: candles, bells, necklaces, a file cabinet, me?

Monday, January 02, 2006

TV Flash Fiction
The size of a 27" television set,
her life was compact, she heard voices

movie stars and their consorts
who stopped for a quick show of teeth

and laughter before taking their places
in the first row of the Grand Ballroom,

where she went remote,
reached for a cigarette, a glass of swollen ice.