Sunday, February 18, 2007

For Irena Klepfisz

I plotzd on the couch with you,
the first poet I'd read with new glasses,
me, the same age as my mother
when she'd died on the plane.
At that exact moment.
I heard her apron strings snap.

Before that even happened, ancestors
had whispered about other shadows,
things a child shouldn't hear
preparing me in a way my parents
couldn't since they'd been too struck dumb
by two World Wars.

In third grade we brought shoeboxes for a project.
No one knew about my inside diorama,
arms melting near chintz-curtained windows,
wind blowing softly through the fire escape.
I never saw how closely my face resembled loss
until I felt how you'd wrestled with its dead weight.

Poet Irena Klepfisz was born in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941 and spent the first few years of her life there until her father smuggled she and her mother to the Aryan side in 1943. Her mother had Aryan papers and worked as a maid for a Polish family while Klepfisz was placed in a Catholic orphanage. After her father died what many would term a "heroic death" on the second day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, April 20, 1943, Klepfisz's mother took her out of the orphanage and they survived the duration of the war in hiding in the Polish countryside.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Four Mood Swings


It's just like me to plant bulbs
at the bottom of the condo's steps
in sandy soil where workmen
have been digging
for these last six months

how can we live without flowers
we need flowers not just boxy shrubs
I see stalks
rise up from between
clumps of ivy don't
remember if I planted daffodils
or hyacinth think I should
be able to tell the difference.

Each morning at the bottom
of the stairs I worship them.


I've got a job
after the first few
hours at the office
post appointments in Outlook
everyone knows I'm busy

park my car in the Chicago Title Mortgage lot
get the picture?
don't pay for parking most of the time

sometimes there's a good lecture
at UC Berkeley even though
I have to pay for parking there.


The speaker was from Jerusalem
a professor talking about religion
and politics
how Palestinians and Israelis
after too much of a good thing
history hate each other.

When the speaker finished,
a thin man who'd been dehydrated
to gesture,

I asked if
women in both societies
have been involved in talks
he nodded
to each other, yes, they've talked
but so many Arab men are
ultra-conservative Israeli men
and women
across the border
protectors of life
who can, he nodded, he said,
may be the only ones
to allow that concession.


No matter how good
my weekend I wonder
when it's going to include
love a memorial for Tillie Olsen
a performance at The Beat Museum
with naked pictures of Allen Ginsberg
and Gregory Corso strewn
across the walls.

Then there's Monday.

I hear more people in the United States
are addicted to Valium than to any other drug.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

For Yair Dalal

Driving to Monterey
where fog caresses telephone poles,
and cypress trees bend to the waves,
where Pampas grass etches
an arc above a pod of surfers,
all their wet suits glistening black,

as your music slices a hole
through the roof of my car
without acetylene torch,
a dance of sandstorms fills my head
and runs out my ears.

Sitting aloft the camel of your oud
there's a country vast before me,
unlike the U.S.
where my parents emigrated
as yours did from Iraq to Israel.
My soul drinks deep from desert wells

as light parses sky
into successive openings,
just watch as layers fall apart,
a veil shakes loose from the Shekinah
who appears like a Bedouin on the horizon,
luminous in her presence.

I want to believe there can be peace.
I want to believe that a face viewed
through the cross hairs
of a weapon
is another human being
with eyes,
and two ears
that listen.