Sunday, June 28, 2020

Batya Jaspan

My cousin-by-marriage Batya Jaspan (nee Dredzen) was born in a small gold rush era hamlet called Pilgrim's Rest, in the picturesque Mpumalanga province of South Africa. Her parents owned the general store there which is now preserved as one of the town's Victorian era buildings

She was an earth mother figure, maternal, kind, strong, principled, taking under her wing many waifs and strays - including myself - who over the years wondered in and out of the kibbutz. Batya was born Cecile, but as a teenager in the socialist Zionist, avowedly secular Habonim youth movement she changed it to Batya, which ironically means in Hebrew "daughter of G-d". She left South Africa in 1949, and helped establish the new kibbutz, Tzora, in the Judean foothills, about midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In this photograph, taken circa 1952, she is holding her first child Yael.

The next black and white photograph shows Tzora in 1954.

Batya said later in her life said she may have unconsciously gravitated towards Tzora because its hilly location was quite similar to the hills around Pilgrim's Rest.

Batya lived on Tzora, with her life long friend, husband and partner Zvi Jaspan, from 1950 until her death in 2016.

This poem was written in 2016.

KADDISH (lezichra shel Batya Jaspan z"l)

May the name that every person
takes or makes
be blessed enough
as was yours
child of God

Not knighted or praised,
not glorified and exalted,
not extolled and adored and lauded,
but yes, honoured
and well regarded

not so much just your name,
but the work of your hands
and your heart

blessed she

above and beyond all the blessings,
hymns, praises and consolations
that are clung to in this world

May the earnest prayers
of all the House of Israel
be accepted by the Source
That walks amidst the trees
of the hills of Yehudah
and who is here
in the Dining Room
and the Clinic
and the Children's Home
where you worked 

may there be abundant peace from the cotton fields
contentment, equilibrium, satisfaction, help,
comfort, refuge, redemption, forgiveness,
remembering and forgetting
for us and for all who love

May the One who makes peace low and high grant peace
upon us and on all those who mourn
that the light has flickered and dimmed for a while
before it shines again from the North and South
from the East and from the West
above Tzora and
Pilgrims Rest

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Ology

If you want to understand G-d
look to the lifecycle of the May Fly…/the-mayflys-lifecycle-a-fasci…/amp/

Monday, March 16, 2020

Opportunity knocks

What is regarded as normative by some people I see as collective insanity.

Once the virus has past, will we clothe ourselves again in casinos and sports "betting", in cruise ships and socially sanctioned addictions, in behaviours of sedation and control, in the commodification of the human body to sell products, in infomercials and cosmetics and plastic surgery and fashion, in factory farms where calves are ripped from their mothers so we can drink the milk intended for them, in slaughter houses where writhing pigs are lowered in gondolas to be gassed, in casual travel to escape "boredom", in eating when we are not hungry, in the excessive consumption of useless and anxiety reinforcing 'information', in daily indoctrination into share markets and sport as weapons of mass distraction... or will the chance to realise we need none of these linger for a while? 

I hope many of us will take this opportunity to rediscover new and old ways of sharing resources, building resilient relationships and local communities, coming together, and experiencing bliss and contentment from simple pleasures that have been overlooked.

This show must not go on

Two years ago I was "forced" to attend the Royal Easter Show for work, and for me it was a chamber of horrors and an exhibition par excellance of our complete commodification of animals. I recall seeing an extremely large man with a face as hard and as frozen as granite, in jeans and an Akubra (cowboy) hat tugging a show calf along by his/her nose ring, to an uncertain fate, probably first as a trophy and later to the slaughter house.

One of my clients wanted to see all of the "cute" animal exhibits. We went into a large hall where crowds thronged, and reached an enclosure where several women, also in jeans and akubra hats held squealing piglets upside down by their hind legs and invited the crown to feel the baby animals soft bellies - " from which gloves are made" they commented. One girl in the crowd asked why the piglets were squealing. "Oh that's just the noise they make" explained a pig woman.

After my client had ooohhed and aaaahed over the goats, chickens, sheep and pigs he got hungry, so he headed over to the food court where he bought himself a massive pig sausage, dipped in batter, and deep fried. He ate about two-thirds of it, but it was too much for him to finish so he threw the rest away.

Poems 2020 - 5780


The quiet
and stillness
of the late afternoon
autumn sun
on the plant
on the table
in Sydney
is not
so very different
from the quiet
and stillness
of the late afternoon
autumn sun
on the table
in Johannesburg
and are both
much the same
as the quiet
and stillness
of the later afternoon
autumn sun
in Jerusalem
the quiet
and stillness
are not
in Sydney, or Johannesburg
or Jerusalem
but in you



the love of trees
the love of leaves
the love that leaves
the love that grieves
the love that sees
the love that is blind


True Blue

Our burgers
are made from Australian beef
raised by Australian farmers
who, after drinking Australian spirits
punch their Australian wives,
and drive over Australian wombats and emus,
until their Australian anger

Our burgers
are made from Australian beef
killed in Australian slaughterhouses
by Australian workers
born in 17 different countries
one of whom
in his tea break
checks his sports betting app
only to find
his Australian horse,
leg broken,
has been politely green-screened
and shot with
an Australian bullet


Made with Australian hands
and Australian nervous systems
using Australian corn
Australian molecules and only
the finest
Australian atoms
for Australian conditions and

Australian digestive systems.


please lie on your back and tell me...
what do those cloud patterns say?

What letters do the seeds
on these salted brinjal slices form?
what is the smallest happiness
you can discern?


"They gave their lives...."

No. Their lives were taken
while they were doing
their best to keep them: Unexpectedly,
A land mine under the left tire;
shot by 'friendly' fire;
an overturned APC;
mortar fragments in the carotid artery.
"They gave their lives..."

No, their lives were taken.



Let my love
burst its banks
and drown
every story


O Lord
Open my hips
and my groins
will declare your praise

My friend had a dream
in which we were
joined at Café Zigolinis,
by her dead-at-ninety father,
as dapper as ever,
dressed in a pristine 

blue suit and tie
skin smooth and unblemished
(she'd last seen him withered)

And after we'd sat for a while
he bounced up
announced he was going home
brushed away her offer of assistance,
and walked off with a spring in his step

for death had taken years off his life.

While waiting for the world to end
I made a list of things to be:
a singer, a surgeon,
a bat in a cage
a knower of things I can't see

a farmer
a dolphin
a clear muddy stream
on its way to
becoming the sea

Someone is always
ripping a hole
in the heart of the world
someone is always
turning it
into a skylight


Snot is salty
tears are sweet
the Lord has neither
hands or feet

Like a gambler
licking his lips
and feeding coins
into a slot machine
G-d feeds poems
into my head
hoping one of them
will hit the jackpot


Like a gambler
licking his lips
and feeding coins
into a slot machine

hoping one of them
will hit the jackpot
G-d feeds poems
into my head
hoping one of them

will reveal Himself

And G-d
planted man
in the Garden of Eden.
And he grew roots
like a tree.
And wings like a bird.
And that's why he's pulled


This is something that it helps to know:
G-d takes you where you're required to go


I'm so sappy (or hapad)

even without the corona virus
things would not have been the same
despite appearances
they never are



suddenly One that was alive,
is dead
suddenly the Tomato that was Green
is Red


He got away
under cover of light

cloudy apple juice
made only with apples
and clouds


I am like a midwife
doing my rounds
in the ragged quarters
helping my clients
(and myself)
to give birth
to a little


What is memory
but clinging
to a
branch or rock,
as the river of time
takes you on


A note to the pesach lamb

Its zeman cheyrooteynoo*
so please don't bleat
we don't want to hurt you
we just want your meat

zeman cheyrooteynoo - Hebrew: the time of our freedom, Passover

“Have a nice day”

don’t have a nice day
because nice excludes 99.99 percent of human experience
have an awful day
have a sad day
have a numb day, if that’s what’s there is today
have an ever shifting day
have an inscrutable moonbeam palace day
have a real day
have an authentic day
have an awe inspiring sink to your knees rise to the heavens day
have a dirty day
have an incoherent, fits of laughter day
have a surprising day
have a don’t have day
have a lie in bed paralysed day
have a peaceful contentment and acceptance day
have a step in shit day
have a glorious day of ease
have a dunno what kind of day this is day
have a rough hewed jagged day
have a day you have day


Intimations of Immortality

at 2am
a 93 year old woman
tried to escape the aged care facility
she waited til the guard went
to make himself a cup of tea
then moving as fast
as her walker would allow
shuffled through the marble lobby 
and the sliding glass doors
out into the parking lot but
trying to scale the fence
fell and broke her hip
so she's back on the ward
yet for a moment
she was so close
to how it used to be
she could smell
wafting through the palings
from her recently 
put-up-for-sale house
in the garden
blooming, its arms
open to receive her.

disposable income
disposable plates
disposable bags
disposable cups
disposable cutlery
disposable packaging
disposable wipes
disposable razors
disposable masks
disposable staff
disposable stuff
disposable trays
disposable cloths
disposably syringes
disposable dressings
disposable gloves
disposable panties
disposable gowns
disposable nappies

indisposable earth
I'm still waiting to see
the subversive website
where hungry people
can go to peep
at the pornography 
of intimacy
wherein you can watch:
people offering to do the dishes
brushing their lover's thinning hair
giving or receiving a foot rub
bringing the other a cup of
or when the other is unwell or unable
helping them dress or
go to the toilet while still
keeping in sight and heart
their irreducible dignity 

Covet 19

I saw on the news
there has been a serious outbreak
of contentment
the government
and chamber of business
are working hard to contain it


With apologies to Fernando Pessoa

For a baby
the breast
is a little larger
than the entire universe


Young women
casually sling their

over their


when the wheels
come off
they run up hill
down dale
and free

like we


chubby little boy
sweet smile
untainted by intellect
innocence incarnate
Douglas his real name
at age six
back with the Lord

better not to know
than to be unkind

no body is immune


My ex wife is bitter
that I kept
autonomous walking devices
and was not of the
anti-rodent party:
guilty as charged


Burnt offering

Now that the fires have abated a little
let us use the reprieve wisely
to build containment lines
around out-of-control marketing
which invites us to endlessly devour
more than the body can contain
or the earth can offer

let us rebuild our neighbour's houses
and our own
not out of inflammatory convenience
and instant non-gratification
but out of slow-burning, meaningful journeys
which are long enough to reveal
the true value of things

let us prepare stockpiles of joy
and connection
so that people do not stream like lemmings
to horse races and bars,
cruise ships and neon malls
hungry for excitement and escape
but instead nourish themselves
with a soft internal rainfall
that falls in a measure that the
earth heart can absorb,

and dance like the breeze
that wafts from nowhere
to caress and kiss
new growth


אבינו שבשמים
שבתוככי ובתוכך,
שרק האשליה החולפת של העור
מפרידה בינינו

Our father
who art in heaven
and in the earth
in me
and in you
and that only the fleeting illusion
of skin
divides us

I stop at a
lost in time
in the shire
staffed by a humble
hard working
immigrant Chinese
man and wife team
whose children will be
proctologists and actuaries
and order fish and chips
which arrives
not as greasy as I remember
but just as burpacious
and wash it down
with plastic tasting coke
just to be who I was
forty years ago

On the last day of the world
the shops held a mega sale
the flames were licking at the door
as people
in their bargains

In an eatery
a man
playing a role of waiter
and I
playing a role of patron
glimpsed each other

but he did not know how
or did not want to
take off his mask

and I did not want 
or did not know how
to put mine on


On this
vaster and vaster
and more
than more


If I fall over
in the parking lot
I know the birds
will take this body
into their hearts
and say kaddish for me


Give us this day
our daily sedation:
share prices
the smiling death masks
of "news" anchors


If only I had a bigger smart phone
I could sit in restaurants all on my own
I'd always have somewhere 

that I can call home
I wouldn't get bored when I am alone
if only I had a bigger smart phone


One day I looked down
and there was a pair of old men's legs
attached to a young man's mind
I wonder who they belong to?


Slow it down
slow it down
slow it down to the ground
slow it down to the sound
of the breath in your chest
slow in down slow it down
so what's frantic can rest
slow it down slow it down
til what's mislaid
is found


stop the world turning
stop the stars burning
stop the heart yearning
would I if I could?

 (Feb 29 copied from Facebook) 

I lean my head
against the side of my house
and wail
and thus it becomes
my wailing wall


Like a merchant
who spreads out his wares
in what he imagines is an attractive way
to seduce passers by into his stall

so have I
spread out my imaginary wares
to seduce you
into loving me

and like a merchant who
knowing the call to enter
must come from within
not without

and who
can no longer wait

I take off my vestments

and step through the gate

My feet
are no longer
allowed to go out

I am staring into
the abliss

stick to the plan
o son of man
and find your dignity
wherever you can



Cooler conditions
are suing fire fighters
for taking advantage of them

A deeper love

how i loved
every moment
of the journey
every rock and pebble
every fish and slime
the sluggishness of silt
and the rush of the canyon
but now
a greater love calls


may all beings
be happy and free
starting with me

(for South Africans of my vintage:)

three things I remember:
public telephone booths reeking of urine
trolley buses


I played hide
and seek
with G-d
and G-d
my hiding place.

That's All.


Man dies
in submerged


Mayachorei HaPargod (Behind the curtain)

There is a three dimensional cinema
without ceiling or floor or walls
and into it the universe is projected
and behind the lens of the projector
is a curtain
and behind the curtain



Although the atoms are enraged
I remain calm

I come home
to the dog and
the boys have tidied up
and G-d
is all over the house


on the long trip
back to the office
when I get lonely
if I could give G-d a call
I would


Please G-d turn us into
a wall of steel
that stops the trophy hunters' bullet
into medicine
that heals the sick
that feeds the hungry
a blazing fire
that warms the cold
a waterfall that
slakes the parched