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

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