Thursday, April 4, 2019

What the farmer saw

Once there was a man who had a small farm on which he planted beans, pumkins, cucumbers, potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, peanuts, garlic and onions. He also had a lemon tree, two plum and two almond trees. At a certain point he acquired a heifer, and called her Rivka. Unfortunately Rivka ate a lot of the man's vegetables, and insects and fungus ruined the rest of the crop. The man was hungry, and decided to eat Rivka.
But when he went out to her at night, to slit her throat, she looked at him affectionately with her big brown eyes and licked his hand which held the knife. The man was unable to kill her, and told himself he would let her live another month. But when he returned again in a month's time, his belly grumbling and his pants loose about his waist, Rivka sat quietly in her muddy stall, thinner too, and gazed at him with the trusting eyes that a young child gazes at her father with.
The man realised he was unable to take Rivka's life. he decided, instead, that he would wait for Rivka to die from old age, or disease hastened by hunger (there was not much food or fodder on the farm, for man or beast), and then, when she had died of natural causes, he would eat her. And so he waited several months until, in the spring, Rivka closed her eyes, exhaled with a sigh, and returned her soul to her creator.
But by then the man was too thin and weak to butcher Rivka's carcass, so he lay quietly next to her for a while, and then went back into the farmhouse, to lay for awhile on his bed, to rest.
And there he died a few weeks later.
And they both lived happily ever after.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

In the Heart - Bilvavee


בלבבי משכן אבנה להדר כבודו
ובמשכן מזבח אקים לקרני הודו
ולנר תמיד אקח לי את אש העקידה
ולקרבן אקריב לו את נפשי היחידה

יצחק הוטנר

My translation of the above, a beautiful 19th century devotional poem by Yitzchok Hutner:

In my heart I will make a sanctuary
to amplify the beauty of His glorious presence
and in this sanctury I will place an alter
to catch the rays of His magnificence
and as an eternal light I will take the fire
from the binding of Isaac up on the hill
and then, as a sacrifice, I will surrender up
my false sense of self as a unique seperate person
in order that He and I and Now
may be revealed
as one
"To die every moment into love"
Byron Katie

Poem Without an End

Inside the brand-new museum
there’s an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
is me.
Inside me
my heart.
Inside my heart
a museum.
Inside the museum
a synagogue,
inside it
inside me
my heart,
inside my heart
a museum

by Yehuda Amichai
translated by Chana Bloch

"Freedom is never of the person but from the person"
Nisargadatta Maharaj

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

There are no reconstructionists in fox holes

Just like orthodoxy, it seems to me that reform / progressive Judaism is located in particular sociological and economic circumstances. In the 20th and 21st century it has appealed to middle class or aspiring to be middle class people, with its recasting of Judaism as somehow synonymous with a tolerant, human rights oriented, socially and economically progressive liberalism ( by carefully selecting source texts and omitting or ignoring all of the source texts that are diametrically opposed to these ideas, which are arguably alien to, or unknown to, pre 18th century Judaisms.) 

It seems to me also that poor Jews, Jews living in beseiged societies, or in places where there is endemic or state-sponsored anti -Semitism, will turn more readily - if they turn to a religious identity at all - to a more visceral, irrational, tribal and demanding orthodoxy than they will to the polite, anaemic, politically correct and not really individuated from the broader culture (hence its appeal for Jews in countries where they want to, and are allowed to, belong) reform, reconstructionist and renewal Judaisms.

Poems 2019

I'm still waiting to see
the subversive website
where hungry people can go
to watch the pornography of intimacy
which shows people tenderly
being the first to do the dishes
brushing their lover's hair
giving or receiving a foot rub
bringing the other a cup of tea
or before turning out the light
kissing their almost asleep
partners' eyelids

I am anxious about the future
because I don't know if I'll be
able to retain what I have now...
which is anxiety about the future



Blessed are you, O Lord, our G-d
who brings troubles to the peaceful
weariness to the energetic
silence to the talkative
slowness to the quick
sadness to the wedding
the subtle shade
to the harsh light
death to the birth
the last to the first


What can I do?
Make way for the king of glory...


farewell to pomegranates
farewell to dust
farewell to peeling paint
farewell to rust

I say to the trees, straggling
between asphalt and the mall
rescue us please
I say to the milk cows
lowing for their stolen calves
rescue us please
I say to the shark
sinking finless in the depths
rescue us please
for we know not what we do


her veins
under her
well used skin
her worth
and when
they kissed
his sweat
rolled down
her face
like tears
of joy


Now human's best friend
was the dog
of time
that chewed up

And so it has come to naught
as we knew it would
but weren't the sums

I wonder if my poetry
can survive a nuclear war?
If so, I will use it as a bomb shelter


What are the minimum requirements for celebration?
Is a body required, and if so how much of a body?


Can mold go moldy?

All generalisations are untrue, which means at least one generalisation IS true.
Which one is it?


Is revenge really sweet. And if so for how long does the sweetness last?
I suppose it depends on the meaning maker's story about "revenge"


Isn't it wonderful that we don't have to worry about dying or being born at the right time, and that G-d takes care of this for us?

who was the one who did not want it, and who was the one that got it anyway? Are they two, or the same?

I am not
that G-d
did not
give you eyes
to see me
through the veils
of day to day


with apologies to Arnold Benjamin

fava beans
will set you free

"eff off"
we used to say in South Africa
to express
the in eff able

Throughout this entire crisis G-d has been incredibly strong, and we have not seen Him buckle or compromise even once. He has arranged everything impeccably.


After May comes June
and after June July
and so on and so forth


All of us have equity in G-d


 When the king said " will someone rid me of this turbulent knave" he was, of course, speaking of the mind.

Apparently Australia
has a lot of space
but not much room

Do you take this sky to be your lawfully wedded wife?
And do you take this earth to be your lawfully wedded husband?
Behold, in sadness and joy, in terror and ecstacy
I am betrothed to You
by the laws of Moshe and Israel

I don't know
how many people should be on the planet
how hot or cold it should be
how many species should appear and dissapear
how many countless billions of animals should live and die on factory operations
what thoughts and feelings I should have
how much fear and resentment and blame
should be on the internet
how many tears I should shed
but fortunately
Reality does


 (Got  up to jun 26)

The Silence of the Jackfruits

scrub the skin off the jackfruit
pull the jackfruit
push the jackfruit
punch the jackfruit
smash the jacfruit
mash the jackfruit
with a splork.
roast the jackfruit
toast the jackfruit
singe the jackfruit
unhinge the jackfruit
beat the jackfruit
rub salt in the wounds
insult the jackfruit
jack the fruit off
leaving only a bit to hit
the road, jack
fruit can be packed
firmly into a small
colander, drain it
until pale and listless
leave standing for 24 hours
give a little air
immerse in water for a few minutes
allow the jackfruit to breathe
put the jackfruit in the fridge until it squeaks
when ready
place in oven at Farenheit 461
and then deny
you had anything to do with it


letters to a dead living wife
written while accepting the apology
that will never come


Things happen to people
that they struggle to make sense of:
why was I born to this mother
why did our father leave us
why did I lose my job
why did this one live and that one die
why am I not content
why do I hunger so?

Things happen for people
that they struggle to make sense of:
I was born to this mother
Our father was someplace else
I have become available
everyone died and everyone lived
I can not accept anything less than the real
Why though my belly is already full
have you spread out a feast before me?


there is that moment
when you suddenly glimpse
that something you have been stuck on
no longer matters
and you can let it go,
when you feel
returning to it
is no longer natural
but something
you prop up out of habit
and that aroma
of the letting go
is like the time
you first
saw the ocean
or heard the whisper
of the stars



Even when it happens
so slowly
or so deep beneath
the surface
that the flitting gaze
does not notice it
the alchemy of ripening
is taking place
all the time
in the eye

misses it


Often at work
or interacting with the broader world
I adopt an unnatural and
exaggerated generosity
lending money
and not asking for it back
contributing more than my share
to the farewell present
of a colleague who is leaving,
bringing in cake
for people to share
all just so as to make it harder
for those carrying stereotypes
about Jewish miserliness or supposed
love of money (and what the f%ck does that even mean)
to apply them to me
and unwittingly I nominate myself
as a representative
of an entire community
as their ambassador, vigilant to be on
my best behaviour
trying to be inhumanly perfect
in the vain hope
this will disrupt the projections
that hang unstated in the interpersonal air
or are obliquely referred to
by fellow workers who have never mixed
with Jews and who grew up in communities
where Jew-despising slurs
were common coin used to cement
group cohesion. And witnessing this tendency in myself
I recognise it in others. So walking in a
national park, with difficulty down some steep steps
to a waterfall, a bearded Moslem man, with his family,
politely steps aside for me and says "go ahead Sir",
and I sense that same urge to make a good impression, to show he is of the right stuff, civilized, belonging, acceptable,
and understand.


Just like
a shimmering light
can not unblock the sink
or get you to work
so my poems
cannot feed
a starving child
or set a broken limb
or turn around the cattle truck
on its way to the abbatoir
but still they might warm you
a little at night

the sound and sight and feel of waves
can be very soothing and peaceful
if you have somewhere safe to go
when you've had enough of them
and so it is with everything...
that seems to offer a promise
of something better, sweeter
easier and kinder
when you arrive
know how to depart


if we are lucky
by the time we reach our fifties

we have become very schooled
and skilled

this is how it is now

It seems to me
there is a natural order
and that animals were given limbs
to enable them to move
so that a pig prevented
from standing up or turning
in his rusting iron cage
or a chicken imprisoned
so she cannot
flap her wings
is a perversion of that order
and stains and dams
that river of innocence
that flows in childhood
and could still flow freely
to the great ocean
of mercy

Learning to be
not at war
with my thoughts
or feelings
is a wonderful
of discovery


Every year
I go to the grave of my wife
and say a little prayer for her
even tho she's not dead


What's your line? 

Lost in the depths
of a cartesian plane
I stumbled across an ex
"you are nothing to me"
I said. "Why?" they responded.
"You are nothing too" I plotted,
and placed them on a table.
then I followed that line up
with a run
and a rise
but in a gradated way,
placing the latter
above the former
and, after a surprising reversal
reached the places
where that line cut the axes
instead of the other way round


I don't like it
when human beings
use dogs to hunt pigs
or any other animal
I don't like it for the dogs
I don"t like it for the pigs
I don't like it for the human beings
I don't like it for me
I don't like the sight of it
I don't like the sound of it
I don't like the thought of it.
Yes G-d created agression
so it must have its rightful place
and G-d created death
and every single one of us
are deaths' messengers
at one time or another.
I am trying to understand these things
I am trying to accept
what I apparently cannot change.
And yes, the past is a graveyard,
and it takes memory and imagination 

to go digging amongst the bones
of suffering that is already over.
Perhaps aggression can be alchemised
into risk taking and courage
in the service of Life
although I do not yet know
what that looks like,
but surely the abbatoir owner
and the abbatoir customer
and the abbatoir bystander
will lie down with the lamb
and neither they or their children
shall want
and in the meantime
brother bird
sister snake
hurting hunter
be elegant messengers
that we may awaken
speedily from the dream
for suffering that is impermanent
cannot have any more
absolute reality
than the joy that is fleeting
the intention matters supremely
so let all intentions be swallowed up
by the intention to realise
without delay
even in hell, amidst crematoria
and piles of hair and glasses.
the absolute freedom
that must always be here


Dear G-d
Let the dairy cows keep their calves
soften the hearts and hands
of those who take the calves
and those who buy the milk
and soften their eyes as well
so they see the cows
not as food
but as friends


My older son
is spreading his wings
and no longer wants
much hands-on parenting
anticipating redundancy
am contemplating applying
for another role
once I find out
what that is

Babble on

Not knowing what to do
I ate
and not knowing what to do after I ate
I drank
and not knowing what to do after I drank
I tried to get a little sleep
and not knowing what to do when sleep evaded 
I went out into the streets
where people went about their business
and saw what they saw
and did not see what they did not see
and not knowing what to do with the loneliness
I sat down and wept
and remembered me

I give G-d
an encouraging word:
"Come on Big Boy"
I tell Him
"you can do it"
'tho I have no idea
what it is


Because I found myself unable
to fully articulate a truth
I said things that sounded
like they could be true

and that's the truth

The universe
will not sit down
and behave
I have given it
a stern talking to
on numerous occasions
but it just keeps on doing
its universe thing

Women are born
with a body
that most men crave
sometimes they bestow it
at the top of a long flight of stairs

Like a gunslinger
who blew into the valley
and became a farm hand for a while
but was pushed by circumstance
to return to what he was
and move on
so I blew into this world
and. became for a while
a son, student, brother, soldier,
worker, husband, teacher, father
but am pushed by circumstance
to give up these roles
and return to being

the evening


Song of descents

One persons’ partner had an affair
anothers’ son turned out to be gay
someone’s body got something called cancer
another lost their life savings
to the extent
that people manage to
let go of the mind’s fantasy
of how it would and should be
the smile on their lips
will one day return
and descend
to the heart

I am bitter
for it seems unavoidable
when vacuuming the house
that I destroy
some tiny creature
that does me no harm.
From the moment this body
was pulled
out of my mother's womb
born of a ceasar
whose cut weakened
her stomach muscles
it has been an unwitting
sometimes unwilling
but often willing accomplice
to the way things are

Finding a Cure for Scientific Curiosity

In memory of the kitten
whose eyelid was sown up
and became blind in that eye...
in memory of the monkey
that had its finger amputated
and the one
that had its fingers sown together
and the one that had
its mother taken away
in memory of the nameless mice
each one with eyes
and a tiny
beating heart
while I am grateful
for the discoveries
about neuroplasticity
and positive psychology
and cancer
I felt the need
to mention them
and apologise

my child
immanuel suttner is famous
because he had a house...
immanuel suttner is famous
because a dog with large paws
would follow him
wherever he did go
immanuel suttner is famous
for relocating mice
immanuel suttner is famous for the
spirituality of his semens
immanuel suttner is famous
for his commitment to cleaning up chicken shit
immanuel suttner is famous
for being a father of note
immanuel suttner is famous
for the way he picked words like flowers,
and arranged them in a see through jar
is famous
for the bargains he triumphantly brought home
is famous
for his nagging
is famous
for his anxiety that things would not get recycled
is famous
for embarrassing his family
by crawling backwards on the beach
Here lies Immanuel Suttner
feet splurged outwards
asleep, asnoring,
one eye open
listening to the
news in Hebrew
by ministerial decree he will henceforth be known
as is
is is famous
for creating businesses
that never got a single client
is is famous
for the milk and cruelty-free shampoo wars
is is famous
for resting a while
is is famous
for his timorous roaring
from behind the screen
is is famous
for his free floating intellect
is is famous for collecting
family artifacts and resentments
is is famous
for his identification with the
is is famous
for his verbal smokescreen
under cover of which
he got away
is famous
for his bird like
is famous
for gazing at trees then bowing
in heartfelt prayer
is famous
for his oppression of mosquitoes
is famous for his shabbos burps
is famous for suddenly darting
into massage parlours
is famous for his love of song
is famous
for blowing his nose
and discreetly thumbing it
here lies is
pomegranates growing from his groin
wild oregano from his hair
in the golden fields
of eretz yisrah'ail
now all has been heard,
here is the verdict:
is is a sweet man
tho' he howls and moans
so if you see him
please give him a hug
rest awhile in his shade
and send the fruit of his heart
home to


Tefilah - Petition

If I can help you and me
from primness to insanity
from prudence to abandon
from vigilance to letting-go
from past and future to now
please let me know how


Lost in time and lost in space
can we win the human race?


Ah, Presence, my bride
how mysterious your shifting veils:


thank you for the way they part
to reveal your heartfelt


After divorce
a tree is still a tree
a cloud is still a cloud
a smile is still a smile
the grass still sings
tears and
rain are
still wet



The next dance is with sadness
she will twirl you round the floor
sometimes there'll be less
and sometimes there'll be more
but she will hold you tight
and guide you how to go
and when its time for the dance to end
both she and you will know

the cords that bind, the rope that keeps us safe


You don’t have to be dead
to be Rumi

With a bow to Kahil Gibran (perhaps put in fathers’ and sons section)

Once I was an arrow
now I am also a bow
please o archer
steady me


(From Dec  21 2018…have got up to Dec 15 on FB)

In the shopping mall
I saw
a small young woman
with enormous breasts
and there was absolutely nothing
I could do about it


shaved of substance
by unexpected twists and
seemingly condemned
to shades of isolation
and solitary confinement
bravely search for
beads of joy
and string the shards
of their shattered self-belief
as best they can
before stepping out
the front door

The ground is pushing at my feet
The clouds weigh down on me / The clouds they way me down
because wherever I may go
my thoughts accompany

If I can find that verdant isle
where thought was never seen
I'll gently lay my heavy head
upon its fields of green
"Evidence based therapy?" Reminds me of a saying re the mountain of meaningless statistics gathered by the US army during the Vietnam war: "if you can't count what matters, the make what you can count matter. "


will you bathe me in mother's milk
will you listen to me whine
will you clean my soiled washing
yet still see my light shine? 

will you lead me to water
and take me to dine
will you give me your heirlooms
will you give me your time?

will you take me to the moon
will you fetch me from mars
will you wrap me in shrouds
at the feet of the stars?


FB December 5

Set the judgemental mind aside
o sons and daughters
of Chava and Adam
and return to the garden
of Eden

I find that as I get older I get older. Does anyone else have this experience?

The stages of change:
You have a belly button
You contemplate your belly button
You remove the fluff from your belly button
You have a belly button


FB - Nov 30 2018

Like a kohen
I place my fingers
on her breasts
and bless them
as they bless me


FB Nov 26 2018

Like breath
love gathers
in a certain
time and place
and then
spreads out diffused
to every corner
of the universe
and waits
for the gathering
once again


FB Nov 26 2018

Ch ch ch ch cha changes

A google maps image
November 2015
some trees and bushes
the fence a bit younger
two familiar cars
parked outside a house
everyone's still home