Last night, in honor of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, we hosted a poetry workshop on themes of joy, sadness, and conversations with the divine. It was guided by my new favorite poet, Elana Bell… who writes powerful stuff about Israel, Palestine, and everything else that crosses her mind.
At the beginning of the workshop, we played a really cool game called the “Hafiz Game.” You can play it on your own, but it also works in a group. Elana asked us each to concentrate on a question we have about our lives, and then direct it– silently or aloud– to her book of Hafiz poetry. Then, you open the book to a random page and read for Hafiz’s answer!
My question was: “Why do I move around so much?”
And For No Reason
For no reason
I start skipping like a child.
For no reason
I turn into a leaf
That is carried so high
I kiss the Sun’s mouth
For no reason
A thousand birds
Choose my head for a conference table,
Start passing their
Cups of wine
And their wild songbooks all around.
For every reason in existence
I begin to eternally,
To eternally laugh and love!
When I turn into a leaf
And start dancing,
I run to kiss our beautiful Friend
And I dissolve in the Truth
That I Am.
(Nobody ever looks like this– perfect hair, perfect, nails, shaved legs, cute nightshirt– while chilling in their room… I repeat, nobody.)
An empty pint of Ben & Jerry’s, featuring lukewarm chocolate drippings around the folded white cardboard edge—poop stains, if you will– and a too-big metal spoon threatening to tip the carton over. Abdominal cramps and an expired bottle of ibuprofen with the label peeling off from age, that you noisily knock to the floor when you reach to turn off the lamp with the crooked lampshade that’s slowly turning brown in one spot as it’s burnt by the bulb. Rumpled blue flannel sheets, with a reddish brown stain from the last cycle. Twisted comforter… everything’s warm but not like cozy warm, like awkward warm from a body staying in bed way longer than it should. Continue reading
I bled on the full moon…
Joined hands and danced with an old woman round and round the synagogue
…Almost pulled her arm from its socket. Continue reading
I see the downtrodden, smelly, grungy, muttering, and I hide,
Drifting slightly left or right on the sidewalk
Averting my eyes on the train
It’s all a form of hiding… Continue reading
I’ve been thinking more poetically than prosaically (did I just make that up?) recently, and so I’ve stared a blog to express Jewish thoughts, or thoughts on being Jewish rather. Please consider submitting a chai-ku to the cause… it’ll only take you a few minutes. Shabbat Shalom!
A close friend who represents the Hasbara movement in the US was telling me that last night he went to a speaker event with one of the leaders of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions) movement. When he identified himself and asked a question about the speaker’s proposed one-state solution during Q&A, the man attacked him as an “occupier” and refused to even answer the question. Another woman, whose grandmother was from Jaffa, angrily called him a “killer.” Continue reading
I was undressing at the gym tonight post-workout, and thinking about a job decision that I deliberated and dramatized for hours on end today. I was just in the middle of ruminating over the scary thought that maybe I was being too picky and Don Quixote-ish by turning it down, when I noticed the nightly cleaning woman coming through the dressing room with her mop and gloves. Head down, just like every night, although I always try to catch her eye to smile or say thank you.
She was just doing her job, probably none too enjoyable– given that her job consists of picking up matted clumps of hair out of shower drains and sweeping away sock lint from the area beneath the lockers– but it got me thinking. Here I am, blabbing on and on to my friends about whether I’ll get more fulfillment from challenging intellectual program tasks versus three weeks paid vacation plus Jewish holidays, and meanwhile here’s this woman—I don’t even know her name—sweeping through my pathetic panic attack with probably very little choice as to her career and how she makes a living.
She sweeps to make a living because that’s what’s done when you live in America and need to eat and don’t speak English as your native language. Not clinging on to the cushy life of a freelance writing gig, or scoffing at job offers because they’re too database-y and thus, beneath me. And especially not taking shelter under the loomingly huge (but heretoforth unnoticed) stormcloud of privilege that floats around with me like a big protective translucent bubble.
I figured trying to give a tip could get awkward, so instead I filled out a feedback slip and dropped it into the suggestion box at the front desk saying “the cleaning staff does a lovely job—you should give them a raise.” But just as I was patting myself on the back for “taking action,” I thought, “Jesus. Is this what my activism has come to?”
Good thing I start volunteering at Imani House tomorrow… I think I need a good dose of reality.
They say that coffee is a drug, but I never really understood that as a kid. It didn’t seem to me, from watching my dad drink a cup or two of Peet’s strongest brew on weekends, that coffee had the power to make people hallucinate or leave reality. Sure, it made him talk at maximum speed (and volume) while recapping the latest Giants game or Phil Lesh concert to his BFF Sandy over the phone, or catching my grandma in Delaware up on events from the week….
“OH HI MA,” he’d shout into the receiver, “YEAHHHHH… WE’RE DOING GREAT OUT HERE, HOW’S YOUR TEMPORAL ARTERITIS THIS WEEK? … YEAH IT’S GORGEOUS AND 70 DEGREES HERE, WE’RE JUST SITTING AROUND AND…. WHAT? WHAT’S THAT? Oh, Deb is telling me to lower my voice… Oh… Yeah, she says she can hear me from next door… so yeah HOW’S THE WEATHER OUT THERE?!”
Aside from overexcitement and extended trips with the Sports page to the downstairs bathroom, I never noticed anything exceedingly abnormal about my father’s personality while under the influence of caffeine. And so I always assumed it was a harmless, albeit bitter, one of adulthood’s simple pleasures. Continue reading
Friday, January 4th 12:06 am, sitting at my kitchen table and eating a delicious dinner of tuna salad with sweet red apple and red onion, fresh red lettuce leaves with oil and balsamic, and challah with fresh cheddar cheese… which I savored only because I turned my phone on silence and left my laptop upstairs.
Humans can be incredibly oblivious creatures. That’s why when I notice something: a cardboard box in a garbage can, or a piece of litter on the street… a homeless person on the street I’d rather not make eye contact with… I try to force myself into action. On those few and far between instances that I actually notice an opportunity to make a difference, I should take it—to begin making up for all the times I’m not aware.
On a completely separate note, I spent a lot of time today thinking about a particular question on OK Cupid, which I recently joined in an effort to get over my recent ex and start meeting new guys to entertain myself with. While I don’t mind being single, at the moment, it would be nice to have somebody to share life’s ups and downs with. It’s sort of like this thought I came up with while eating: Continue reading