Posts from the ‘Interdisciplinary’ Category

Crimea and I

My  “commentary”  on today’s news:  Crimean war and rumours.




Krim i Moi

             2 March, 2014



I’m scared. Again.

Not as usual, but again.


I want to write “September 1, 1939,”

but really don’t even want to think that.

I’d like to hold a candle to Auden,

but not sit in some dive reflecting

on a newish, dishonest jackbooted cybersnooping

Hellfire droning millennium.


Do Putin’s crewcut minions wear jackboots? Overcoats?

(Gogol’s usually there when you need him.)

Does it matter that I’m Jewish

and haven’t made a minyan since before

our Iraq war.


I sit in a dive my own dining room.

On the table, by tart coincidence:

Inferno…1939-1945 (My dad was there,

barely got singed, unlike mom’s family —  ashes.)

The Collapse of Complex Societies (Do we have time

to fall apart, for global anaphylactic carbon, or will it be

we dinosaurs, monster asteroid, Sakharov cocktail?)

and This Is Your Brain on Music ( O tempora! O B-flat sonata,

Oh neuroscience and Mercedes Sosa.)


Munich Potsdam Yalta (There it is: Stalin-Churchill-

Roosevelt in their Black Sea overcoats, Sochi

Olympics just ended another resort. The human race

courting of last resort but for us and our exceptional

President “endangered species” means the middle class.

How quaint. How fatal. An angle

to make the lovely First Lady obtuse.)


Budapest, 1956.


Forgive me e.e. Cummings and Allen Ginsberg.

I presume to sit in a dive with you and Auden

crying in my beer for Wilfred Owen.


Forgive me, my fellow- humans,

one way or another



Forgive us our trespasses

as we have forgotten how to forgive

those who have institutionalized

their fear, avarice and violence.

Give us this day our vision within

the translucent scrim of lies.


For if we can forgive the unforgivable,

we may also forgive ourselves

for the fathomless wound we have made

and allowed fashionable in our name.

Amen. God freaking damn.

World without end

or otherwise.









Tuesday afternoon I dug a hole in the rocky clay hill behind our house. It was a small hole, but difficult for my unlimber body to dig into the spot I had chosen beneath a laurel bush. I knew the grave was large enough when I carefully laid the stiff body of our cat Pooh alongside of it.

We were away for three days. It seemed as if Pooh had waited for us, because when we found him he started to cry, and then howl as Lilia tried to give him water within eyedropper. He was our baby, and his howl was a baby’s puzzled protest and cry for help. We could only comfort him and cry ourselves. He vomited and then rattled terribly for about a minute. I got up to look for some antibiotic. When I returned, Lilia said He’s gone.

Pooh was 19; we learned from our niece who was feeding him while we were gone that he had bled from his nose and begun stumble sideways. So the shock was grave, but without much surprise. During those few minutes Lilia mobilized like the caring skillful nurse-mother that she is. Her own expressions of pain cause me to sob harder, from a place beyond words. Later I thought of my father saying It wasn’t supposed to be like this, as he lay dying in my arms. In the middle of the night I awoke thinking “Her heart fluttered like a just-born bird,” which is a misquoted line from a poem I wrote over 40 years ago, after my sister had died.

My mother, who is 91, through the first handful of earth into the grave; I had to help her remain standing. Lilia’s mother Florinda, who is 99, was also there. Her mind is often in the past, but never more in the present then with our baby grandson, and the animals who live in our home. Florinda used to pick Pooh up like a baby and wrap him in the blanket on her lap.

In my mind, lives and deaths have always flowed merging and separating like streams of water. I think of one, I think of many. The warm rising and falling of Pooh’s chest that I could no longer find as I kneeled on the living room floor. Hospitals and the Holocaust. Baltimore and Africa. Frederick, Maryland and Falastin. That is who I am. Almost – maybe – like a professional mourner. Brother. Teacher. Grandpa. Gravedigger.

Life goes on, “they” say, usually leaving out that death, too, goes on. So, for now, our family goes on – without one beloved creature that added so much to it. On top of the mound of earth I placed a round plaster plaque that had been in our garden: Kindness is the greatest wisdom.






A Mordent Christmas to You

A Mordent Christmas, 2002

That was the year the warfugue was huge
and I felt like Scrooge. Bach to the Future!
Peace, peace, peace, whispered the preludes.
the children, the buddhas, the lowly trinity
inhabiting lonely infinity – and only two newspapers
listened. To be direct: What did you expect?
It was a turn of notes and current events
no one dared predict. The President would prevent,
pre-empt, interdict – godnose why and what next.

They’re dreaming of a whiteboy Christmas,
Bingle bells, jingo bells, gracenotes wasted
on an Open Fire. Terrorists wasted… tourists wasted…
Tra la la… Deck Saddam… blows of folly…
Tra la… Sleighbells glisten, Blackhawks hasten…
We wish you a mordant Christmas
and that you listen
with a happy new ear.

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