Posts tagged ‘war’

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.








The Map of Syria: Another Graveyard?

In Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, a ghostly old couple adopt a baby that has been in desperation left in their cemetary. Thus the dead again care for the living – as we must care for the dead. Neither of “us” have done such a good job.

Such were my thoughts after reading Liz Sly’s brutally comprehensive front-page Washington Post piece this morning. on the history of the “map” – political, sectarian, religious – of the former Ottoman empire. After three years of war and no end in sight, Syria is of course the focus.

Here are some quotes taken, but re-arranged,  from the article.


We never had borders…. a long time ago, the French came and drew these lines. —  Mohammed Shamas,  shopkeeper near the line between Syria and Lebanon

If Syria is partitioned, there will be war for 100 years to come. The Alawites will have the coast, the Kurds will have the oil, and the Sunnis will be in the middle with nothing. — Abu Zeid, 37, Syrian refugee.

They made sure when those borders were drawn to maintain trouble between us forever. —  Mohammed al-Jamalhis farm in Syria and Lebanon.

The wars will change, but there will always be wars. — Issam Bleibeh, deputy mayor of Hermel, Lebanon-Syria.

The only solution is to share everything. Abu Zeid.

…it is all very difficult to predict.  Fawaz Gerges, London School of Economics.


Hiroshima, My Love

author’s note;  *On August 6th, 1945, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima , Japan. Three days later, the American B-29 found its primary target, Kokura, covered by clouds. The bomb was detonated on the city of Nagasaki instead.

Kyoto had been removed from the target list by Secretary of War Stimson because of its beauty and cultural significance. Tokyo was scheduled for destruction on August 19, but on August 15 Emperor Hirohito announced the capitulation of Japan.

Nazim Hikmet is the great Turkish poet who wrote “I come and stand at every door.”

The “sisters” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki speak. I wrote this poem as an act of witness — more so than other poems, though all poems are, against forgetting.

Hiroshima Mon Amour*

for Nazim Hikmet


Oh no. Oh yes.

Some are vaporized

that others may rest.

That day, the clouds

played lesser gods,

and a B-29,

American Wotan.

We are still whistling Dixie

in the cockpits of F-16s,

while the big boys deploy

the children machines

into targeted Gotterdammerung

like a line of thunderhead engines

rumbling to the end of the line.

(Kyoto speaks):

O my sisters! What can the lovely one say

as she stands in the sun in her tresses and lace?

Yes: In the company of rapists are cultivated men

who would not disfigure beauty. One spared me.

Yes: Before the smiling countenance of the sun

I stood, as bitter fire fell down from heaven

until I longed to throw myself over the bodies

of my spindly sisters upon the violated earth.

And all who did not shut their doors in the face of that day –

boys, graybeards, retired colonels and courtesans, became,

all became, sisters: mute, unmoveable, griefstruck

as oxygen fled from air.

August 19 (Tokyo speaks):

What is it to you

if I do not come and stand at every door

as my little sisters do?

Who is it that cannot see their ghosts?

Sister H., honored in all heavens

and all hells — the eldest, the first —

smooths her torn gray dress.

God has truly blessed


Sister N., forever condemned

to walk in a sister’s fiery shadow,

forever wrapped in sister-love

and the love of all who love the dead,

smooths the isotopes from her faded dress

and stands at your door.

Do you not see them there,

the two sloe-eyed girls?

Do you not have a door?

Do you not have eyes?

I come now to stand with them.

We will stand here forever, and longer,

with our sad eyes and black hearts,

like triplet invisible sunflowers

climbing the steps of the sun.

And you. What are you doing there

in your backyard with its brushed-metal grill,

its razor-wire, its fire, with your progeny

that speed over oceans, brighter than a million suns?


We forgive where there is nothing

We forgive where there is nothing

to forgive. We forget nothing

dead or alive or dead. We live,

a sisterhood of ashes

smearing love-characters

on doorsteps and pale skin.


A Dream Deferred?

Maybe an official of some Asian consulate has read Harold Meyerson’s column on the President’ s untapped army. “A paper tiger,” the bored functionary sighs.

What is... and what should be

What is... and what should be

That reader might be more perceptive than anyone at present realizes.  An e-mail  list is not an army. A year ago millions of people like myself were indeed “fired up and ready to go” knocking on doors,  and telephones,  and credit cards. Electronic networking was a terrific tool for turning ferment  into  political mobilization.  But I believe that Obama’s first six months in office has demobilized —  or at least immobilized — a significant part of his army:

Health care — If a “government option” is the extreme left of the debate (possibly even to be sacrificed through negotiation, and subject to mixed messages from the administration) the battle is already largely lost. Sure I favor single payer, but if it’s not even in the discussion, then the “progressive” side is at the mercy of insurance companies and related forces.

The Economy — The effort and money devoted to saving capitalism from itself dwarfs everything done for everyone else.  ’nuff said on the subject, except that…

War and Peace issues are  proceeding as promised, with a shrinking mess in Iraq and a growing one in Afghanistan/Pakistan. The economics of this “smarter”  superpower warfighting will cripple  progressive domestic initiatives, i.e.,  those that get past the snarls of Republicans, blue dogs, and the lobbyists they pay attention to.

Hope, by its nature, never entirely dies. Obama tapped into and became the symbol of a pwerful impulse. In office, he has blunted it.  Meanwhile the raving Right has increasing become the respectable opposition. This foretells failure at the top and dangerous mass polarization below. I do not want this to happen. But it seems that at this point Obama’s vaunted confidence  has led him into dangerous waters, and perhaps blinded him to necessary corrections of course. Read more…


Onions and Lemons   (Gaza: January, 2009)


I went to the market
and all I could find there
was onions and lemons,

said Um Adel Abu Nahil,
resident of a Gaza camp,
trapped between Israeli tanks
and page A14, column 5
of this morning’s newspaper.

I went to breathe
but all I could find,

said another, was fire.

Every poet in Israel
lay down by the riverside
and beat their electronic swords
into shares of the New Israel Fund.

Thousands of Gazans became poets
and lay down in the dust,
waiting for water. The least
among them, children unlike yours and mine,
the blessed of the shelled Earth, the salt
of the blood-drinking Kevlar warriors,
lay down beside the corpses of their mothers.

I would gladly give up my home
a woman told me last week
and my land, in Maryland,
if I could trade it for peace over there.

A woman as kind as you or I, perhaps,
but wiser than a thousand ministers or
as was said of Hiroshima:
brighter than a million suns.

To kill, we send other peoples sons
for the most part. Blessed are the Refusers
for they shall see some bored officer,
or some conflicted officer, or some superior fool
commander with the commandment: Thou shalt kill.

You may leave your conscience at home,
but you shall go and lie down in the dust
with the children of Palestine, and embrace
their many aunts and uncles; they are the Chosen.

Honest journalists shall commit suicide
and be resurrected as witnesses. Poets
who cannot bite their tongues will be dragged
by their tongues, by Israeli colonels,
until we are turned completely inside out
so that all may see our revolting insides.

I would give my house. I have given my heart.
Neither giving nor forgiving will sate the beast of war.
We went down on the knees of our tongues in the desert
and tried not to look at the children with their dead eyes
and their dead mothers and their tortured fathers
and their enraged uncles. Would those children permit us
to become their aunts and uncles? No.
They have Abu Nahil. They have onion fields.
They have a vast paradise of lemons.

They have the self-righteous leaders
of “the only democracy in the Middle East.”
They’ve had a succession of US Presidents
and Secretaries of State, one at a time,
proffering their good offices in places
where even a gravedigger would hide his shovel in shame.

Right On, Tolstoy

War and Peace

War and peas.
Rice and bones.
Sleigh bells jingling doomsday tones.

Tell me more, before
they break down the door.
Oh, shit; you snore.

How can it be that breakfast was served?
The light at the end
of an endless tunnel is curved.

Don’t die. Clean your glasses
on someone else’s tie. Truth.
Like a wall on a fly.

The blood, the beans, the sirens,
the rain. How can this be? Again,
again: soft brilliance, soft pain.

Early Christmas to you. Reflect on the zoo.
Love thy far neighbor
what evermore you do.

Dead Afghan Kids (Collateral Damage)


The Washington Post, Oct. 9, 2008: Military Justifies Raid That Killed  Afghan Civilians.

Yes, I know it’s a cruel world. I also know that the “warrior ethic” lets you think and even weep, as long as that does not distract you from the Mission. The mission of the USA since 9-11 has been wrong, wrong, wrong. In the name of anti-terrorism we have conducted an orgy of military revenge and armored geopolitics. Bush was wrong, Cheney/Rumsfeld worse than wrong. McCain was and is wrong.

They are OUR children

They are OUR children

And Obama is wrong on this. He is campaigning for a bigger and more effective fighting force in Afghanistan, so we can do more than just kill civilians in air raids. He talks about killing Osama Bin Laden as if that  were one of the worst failures of the Bush administration. Yes, we must protect Americans, and help nations rebuild. But through the Defense budget?

The “truth” of this is small, but in appealing to our fear and unreflective, belligerent patriotism, Obama’s words have enormous consequence: How can we “change” the post 9-11 disaster of America’s role in the world when 1) we continue to deny that we do damage and increase emnity and 2) we appeal to the emotions that reinforce this denial ?

American imperial swagger (and coups and warfighting) did not of course begin in response to 9-11, or even in the Cold War. But hope lies in acknowledging that and working to establish America as a superpower for good — exactly what both McCain and Obama asserted in their last debate that we already are.

Radicals conclude from this that there’s not enough difference between the parties to make enough difference for the country or the world. I do not. Obama in ’08 — yes, but don’t expect to stop working for “change”.

“But I, being poor, have only my dreams” (click ‘Bienvenidos’ at right for the Yeats poem and more). My “dream” is that Presidents et al. would  know in their hearts FOR ALL CHILDREN the same love and pain that their mothers feel. . Never happen, you say?  Not literally, I say, but in a different sense, one of the few worlds worth working for. If you can take poetry in this context, you will understand why I am publishing here one of the poems I wrote in the months after 9-11:


In the Beauty of the Lilies

. Thou shalt love thy Afghani neighbor’s children as thyself

Already seen it.
From Glory to Hallelujah
from Fier Kashes to Four Agreements,
from ragas and Bach and Bob Dylan
to the coming of the joyous queers,
and their sad going.

My country calla su boca
sweet land of la vida loca,
sing life, sing death, read all
about it: collateral damage.
Deposit it on deep bunkers,
riverbanks and loan banks –
as if old men dreamed in darkness
and their dreams became spectacular cinema
and cinema became the fate of nations.
Now we brave gringos saw it
in the coming of the Boeings.

As when a baby, dreaming of the earthquake she has never known,
wakes to crawl unharmed from thunderous rubble,
so a tiny mercy is scratched with blasted girders
into our sunlight now
. bleached sunlight of common mourning
. plainlight of gathering,
. patchlight of human work.

And this precious child, her mouth filled with dust, has no one to meet her
but the astonished stranger who now must be her mother, father, sister, brother.

. David Almaleck Wolinsky

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