Thursday, January 29, 2009

I hide from kabalat shabat duty at school like I used to hide from the rasar (sergeant-major) in the army at tzayilim (in the Negev desert), in someone' elses tent so that he wouldn't call my weary body of to kitchen duty, but it was no use, he found me anyway.

Everyone is "acting", either consciously or unconsciously, and there are great truths in acting, i.e in consciously making yourself other to what you imagine yourself to be most of the time (in a universe in which everything is moving and changing all the time, what is the ground upon which the personality stands...only memory creates the illusion of a fixed self with knowable characteristics.)

Fear keeps me in my place - tarti mashma

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Poems written or captured in 2009

See also vidui and other poems

My dad's lift at teleoptic
pty (ltd) 257 main street
with the expanding iron gate
that had to slam shut once the door had closed
I haven't thought about it in years

Not everyone
wants the rough and tumble of reactivity
the distracting chatter of the morning breakfast show
can a jolly good chin wag save us from the grave?

I go from the school family
now disbanded for the holidays
to my family family
alone and bereaved
having neglected the one in favour of the other
and yet the school family being far more illusory than my own
though neither will last
but one will last months
and the other decades

There's no 1 way 2b a teacher
There's no 1 way 2b anything
There's no 1 way to run a class
There's no 1 way to run away from a class

Teacher thoughts
Leader thoughts
Service Thoughts

My heart is wide open like the evening sky
Libi patzua vedomem
defeated by my own contradictions


Don't worry
you will not forget
and if you forget
it will not matter
and if it matters
life will remind you

I can never get enough
sea and sand
light and shade
penis and vagina
hand and mouth
alone and together
speaking and silence

May an earthquake strike
the hearts of Iranians
and turn them into
lovers of Zion

I have tried to knit me
a shield of armour
with words

There is that desperate hunger in me
for some kind of acknowledgment
perhaps an acknowledgment I have
never given myself
slow down in that relentless search
hear the little voice that whispers
"you're OK...nothing more needs to be done"

Those who know the pain
of another load of washing
and the gaping dishwasher
waiting for the overflowing sink
at the end of a long day
the kids refusing the food:
"that's disgusting"
keeping your temper in check
and suddenly at bedtime they're
tearing round the house
not doing what they were told to
and then the following morning
getting them up for school
red eyed, exhausted
complaining and whining
trying to remember
what's needed for work
should know you deserve a medal
and applause
for your daily acts of heroism

A couple rode into the woods
into the woods they rode
the day was hot, she rode on ahead

he watched as she rode in the woods

a couple rode deep in the woods
they stopped to rest in a glade
the silence was heavy
the bush was alive
the breath was short in his breast

she held his helmet
he took off his shirt
she loosened her hair
it fell all around 

deep in the woods they rode

My son is walking with me
and I am walking with my father
who is walking with his father
who is walking with his father
and it is always thus

Because I could not keep my parents
I kept some of their possesions
for a little while longer

Habayit reyk

hamekarerr mefamzem lo
d'maot shel shalva
zolgot al lechyai

The house is empty
the fridge is whirring
tears of peace
pour down my face


In the small silence
I glimpse the great silence
that Solomon spoke of:
ki azah kamavet haahavah
mayim rabim lo yuchlu lechabotah
uneharot lo yishtefuhah...
for love is strong
as death a flame
blazing vast floods
cannot extinguish
nor rivers down.”
I take off my body
and stay at home

See "Shir HaShirim" - the Song of Songs
See these poems transcribed in Hebrew in BaMisaadah
Listening to Noah
singing "nanuah"
liquid love
smiles from the tears
pure ghee rubbed
on a babies' back
feels just like this, a
1000 years
of lonely fear
hidden in the fortress
of the heart dissolves
just like that. If we are not
haMakom, haAyn Sof
az maayin noveya
hayofi hazeh

haMakom -
Hebrew name for G?d = the place, the space
haAyn Sof
- Name for G? d from the Kabblistic (Jewish mystical) tradition - 'the Endless'az maayin noveya - so from whence flows
hayofi hazeh - this beauty?

School a week before vacation
staff and students
thoroughly sick of one another
can already smell it in the air
they sniff at it greedily
with engorged nostrils
and continue to pretend
to teach and learn

Once the son
of Schickelgruber
saw a Jew family.

The Jew papa
patted his little boy's head
and a pain shot through the son
of Schickelgruber's chest.
He could not look
that love in the eyes
the sweetness hurt too much

to rid himself of it
he ordered the Jews
sons and fathers,
mothers and daughters
clothed in fleas
and dysentery
drowned in misery...

it didn't help

the Jew love lives on


On the bus
being transported to work
a loud yawn -moan escapes me
a by product of anti-depressants
and despair
and I apologise
to no-one in particular
for forgetting to be opaque


On the bus
coming back from the psychologist
I am sitting on more
than just the seat

When you're feeling sad and blue
but the timetable says teach 8.3 or 8.2
who gibber and jab and jibe at you
tell me friends what do I do?

wear your heart upon your sleeve
or wear a mask, while inside you grieve?
there is no right way, nor a wrong
but sometimes a class can feel very long

salvation sometimes comes as a bell
tolling for thee, come forth from hell

I lie in bed
my crocodile eyes half open
waiting to see if my wife
will come down to the river

Sometimes I want to explode on a bus
not like a suicide bomber
but from love
even the coughing spluttering man
pushing his trolley and cursing the passers by
is caught up in the blast and blown
to kingdom come

I have always fallen in love
with women whose faces
seem to be laughing and crying
at the same time
even when they're
just staring blankly

became this:

Often I've fallen in love with women
whose faces seem to be laughing and crying
at the same time
even when
they're just doing
the dishes

uncertainty is my friend
self doubt my brother
longing is my sister
acceptance is my mother


Rust how wonderful you are
rust and decay
as you slowly oxidise
our vanities away


What is boredom?
stopping halfway
what is boredom?
Not looking at what is under the rock
What is boredom?

Taking a stand 

At 45
I feel lonely and frightened
like a little child
and I'm sure many other dads and husbands
and ageing batchelors do too
but by and large
unless we're extraordinary
we keep it to ourselves
we've had our time for that, now we're supposed
to be self sufficient, independent
"the father", the "man"
the "I can"
not the "I'm desperate, I'm trapped, I'm drowning...
I neeed help...."
well I say to that: bullshit
I can't do it on my own
I won't do it on my own
and if I need help I'll ask for it

Imagine the scene:
Austin Powers on one side of the desk, on the other a comely supplicant
Austin: (in measured cautious tones) I think in this situation the right, the natural thing..., the decent thing would be to ....
(vaulting across desk)
f%$k you!


Lord please help me
move through the fear of boredom
and drudgery
so that I can support my family
in integrity

armed with his laptop and umbrella
the hero goes of to his job once more
to face the lions of his skull once more


There is a delicate dance
between teacher and class
a subtle and wonderous thing


Smoke and mirrors At the bookshop looking at a colourful book on video games I feel that familiar twinge of regret that instead of becoming something creative like a filmaker or gamemaker I'm now only a teacher, knowing full well that if I was a filmaker I'd be paging through a book, being full of regret that I hadn't become something real like a teacher

sometimes I wish i could earn a living helping people escape their lives for an hour or two and sometimes I wish I could earn a living helping people face their lives for an hour or two

When i tried to be a writer i wrote some things and when i saw them on the page i said to myself and sometimes to others thats me thats mine Im here I matter I'm someone, that's me, that's my poem that's mine when I tried to direct i directed some things and when I saw them on the screen i said to myself and sometimes to others thats me, thats mine, I'm here I matter I'm someone, that's me, that's my film, that's mine when I tried to be a teacher i went to a concert where my students performed and when I saw them on the stage I said to myself and to the others thats me, thats mine, I'm here I matter I taught her, I teach him that's my child that's mine

Israelis have soft bodies
like the rest of us
but try to make them hard
to armour themselves against the emnity
which seems to gather around them
because they have survived and even thrived
but the missiles, bombers and kidnappings
regularly prove
their soft humanity

I became a rabbi
watching a woman
ride a killer whale
I became a rabbi
when I argued with dad
to let the gardener
swim in our pool
I became a rabbi
in brothels and yeshivas
I became a rabbi
reading Tolstoy all night
I became a rabbi
hearing howling Al Ginsberg
singing Shalom Achshav
at Kikar Hamalka
I became a rabbi
when I rescued a cat
I became a rabbi
in an ashram in Lucknow
I became a rabbi
when I pushed out a fart
while being pushed out a plane
above palmachim
I became a rabbi
when I did not join in in Gibalia
as my unit clubbed a man to jelly
I became a rabbi
between her legs
each pubic hair
black fire on white
I became a rabbi
in run-down Tzefat
where I ran down the hill
like the Ariza"l
I became a rabbi
on the rocks of eyn gedi
where I leaped like a goat
in my tzanchanim boots
I became a rabbi
fighting back the tears
at the end of films
I became a rabbi
translating Amichai
I became a rabbi
with charitable acts
with each love song I wrote
when I held my new borns
and blessed them with peace

yeshivas - fundamentalist theological seminaries

Al Ginsberg - Alan Ginsberg, the famous beat poet
Shalom Achshav - Peace Now, an Israeli extra-parliamentary movement which has fought for Israel to make territorial compromises in exchange for a cessation of hostilities against Israelis
Gibalia - shanty town in the Gaza Strip
Kikar haMalka - a large square in Tel Aviv where many political rallies have been held. It was in this square that Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated, and the square has since been renamed Kikar Rabin. At the time I heard Alan Ginsberg reading there at a Shalom Achshav ralley, it was still called Kikar HaMalka.
Palmachim - a beach on Israel's central coast where people often parachute
Ein Gedi (Hebrew: עֵין גֶּדִי‎, lit. Kid Spring (as in young goat) - is an oasis in Israel, located west of the Dead Sea, close to Masada and the caves of Kumran.
tzanchanim - paratrooper
Amichai- Yehuda Amichai, Israel's national poet

Strange fire

Sometimes when our sons
come home from friends
they bring with them sticky energies
from other households
that seem to us alien
or brash
and then we spend time
brushing them off
or waiting for the wind
to blow them away
'til they settle again
and enter the threshold
as the boys
we know and


On the bus I pretend
the nubile passengers
are all my wives
and because my stop
is at the end of the line
one by one
my harem diminishes
until I alight
to go home to
my wife

Thoughts while attending a community college Yoga classSometimes I pity the charedi yidden
with their tsholent bellies
and their fish bowl eyes
who never know a moments rest
except on shabosand even then
they still have to
keep and
keep - Deuteronomy 5:12 and remember - Exodus 20:8 - the shabat (Sabbath)

My cell phone is a goy
its predicative texting
doesn't recognise words
like shabbos or


In the gathering evening
the boys and I
played pidgin tennis
with a bouncy yellow ball
and the score card read
love fifteen
love thirty
fifteen thirty
fifteen forty

the sterile streets of Sydney
from which rats and dogs and cats and cockroaches
have been vanished and poisoned
this is a landscape made for humans
and sometimes not even for them
its subterranean bars and casinos
with patterned carpets and dim lighting
the portals to a tattered hell

call it acceptance if you want
is making all my suffering turn into sweet wine
no that's not it
its making the illusion of suffering disapear
no that's not it
there never was any suffering

When I was 19 or so
I sat in a yeshiva in Yerushalayim
at the time of the third meal
when the day was darkening
together with another 200 young men
and together we sang:
mizmor ledavid Adon-i Roh'ee
"The lord is my shepard, I shall not want"
and yedid beloved nefesh of my soul
200 voices in a darkening room
becoming the song as we sang it over
and over and over again
'til each note, each bend
hung before us in the air

and now the threads that held us together
no longer bind me
I have shed them like an outgrown skin
and the time and the place are gone
and I have ripened into something else
but the song remains the same
and eternal

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The day before school

Hello stranger, how've you been

Great thanks, and you

Good, good, we went to the south. How was your break

Nice, there was a war in Israel and my employer was arrested and my dad doesn't know how to use the microwave anymore, but on a personal level it was all great.

So, you ready for the year?

Yes, I'm looking forward to the challenges

(Translation: I haven't seriously looked for another way to pay the bills and don't feel like any changes right now - I crave stability. I'm here because this is the alternative that's known. I don't know that I shouldn't be here any more than I know I should be here. In the absence of knowledge why expend energy making changes. And thanks G?d I have a job)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yellow underpants

Imagine if a society became so puritannical that it insisted that babies in the womb had to wear little yellow underpants for modesty's sake, or even a two-piece should it be a girl child.

My boys and I were looking at a picture of a blast furnace and we discovered what seemed to be a pizza inside it, so we discussed the olives and other things on it as well as the pipe with the toilet flush valve that seemed to be at the bottom of the furnace.

Very important questions

Is asking/praying for suffering to end a form of dissatisfaction with what is??

Am I a coward who sometimes does courageous things, or am I a courageous person who often gets afraid?

A couragous person is someone who has worked hard to overcome their cowardice

A coward is someone who isn't afraid enough of their fear to keep on trying to overcome it

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Poems written or captured during 2008

See also poems 2009 and 2010


I came naked into this world
this world came naked into me
and I dressed it in parents and a home and family
and I dressed myself in schools and fights and memories
the first punch in the mouth, the first ejaculation
nights spent longing for the visitation of a dream woman
the surge of kindness and desire to heal the other
the unboundaried altruism of the adolescent
the terror of the deep
in an Apartheid era Soweto roadblock
the longing for form and strength
the assumption I was without these
the flight to Israel
becoming religious, all these I wrapped myself in,
like a Talit at dawn
cast out from the light the moment “I” was born
saying the Shema as I went off to the army
hoping it would make a man out of me
looking for solid ground to stand on
(if I was nothing how come I was always trying to make that nothing safe??)
loosing myself in books great and small, in depressions and elations,
like a plane flying into cloud and emerging on the other side
until the experience of getting lost lost its siren song
and I did not want to go anywhere or give my attention to anything
other than a path to becoming invulnerable
so threatened am I
by what seems outside me
(can I reclaim these shadows as phantoms of my own weak mind, as Sri Nisarghadatta seems to say??)
the books I wrote for money or fame
(not to clarify the movement of myself to myself)
a thin amour to make me less vulnerable
and reduce the suffering of mindless heartless work

Why would you lie

Why would you lie to me
Ramana Maharshi?
with your doe like eyes
and your teapot in hand
why would you lie to me
with your piercing eyes
and your flailing tongue
I am that
and that I am


I like to browse catalogues
looking at things
I'll never buy


I laugh you

I luf you
I larf you
I laf you
I lav you
luv you
larph you
laugh you

To Kathy Kure
who offered me some sweets in the open palm of her hand
and when I took two said
“its your Yiddish genes coming out”
and whom I did not challenge
not her
or anyone else
thank you for being
the agent of my fear

I thought my fear of the sea
was just between it and me
but I am the sea
and I am not me
and the fear is the fear
of being free

I had sex with a dying woman
when I was a dying man
we thrust all night with all or might
but the sun (world?) did not rise again

To paraphrase Ben Gurion:
we must fight the reactivity outside ourself as if there were no reactivity inside ourself, and fight the reactivity inside ourself as if there were no reactivity without

I have moved through several histories
the beginning of the end of apartheid
the first Lebanese war
the first intifadah
the first gulf war
SA’s return to democracy
but none of these can be the field of my enquiry
they are far and distant from me
my field of enquiry is myself
in which all my desires and fears arise
all my stories and assumptions
which shape the world I live in
I have seen this time and time again at work

Indigenous cricket

In our garden
a white stinkwood
whose green clad branches
have intercepted many a wide and six
is frequently awarded
tree of the match

The Devil in Africa

At a birthday party in Johannesburg
a woman who identified herself
as a devout Christian
and whose disassociated love
with its endless capacity for destruction
made my skin prickle
told me knowingly
“Oh yes, the Devil is in the world, all right….
how else can you explain what’s going on”
Afterwards the host told me this same woman
on hearing her domestic worker
(who was the sole-breadwinner for her family)
was HIV positive
had immediately fired her
and sent her packing
which made me agree
yes, there is a devil
but its only address
is our unconsciousness

Moonbeam of Love

When I go
with my dad
and the moon is full
and the night is clear
the ride is so smooth
it glides like a moonbeam
of love

The X -rays
the dentist
took today
showed a greyish area on my teeth
he mistakenly called a cavity
when in fact
it was just
the late afternoon shadow
of middle age

(Published in Carapace)

Tefilat haDerech

oh Lord, keep me black
and fill my holes
with tar
make me run to interesting places
and don’t let them build
a highway to replace me

Footnote: Tefilat HaDerech is a Hebrew prayer for travellers, to be said when embarking upon a journey. Tefilat HaDerech means “prayer for the way”, but also literally translates as “Prayer of the road”

Sometimes when people feel naked
they wrap themselves in a story:
"this G-d led us out of Egypt
that one died for us
I'm not enough
there's too much of me
I don't belong
I'm bound
I'm free"


If only pet lovers
would share their love
with the chicken, pig, cow and sheep
they feed their dog and cat


My first girlfriend tasted
of slightly fermented strawberries
and even at seventeen
she knew how to nurture
sending me, temporarily trapped
in Beyt Sachur
a small round wicker container
with herbal tea and a letter
addressed to her cute soldier
that I put aside
for the photograph in profile
hands raised above her head
shaping her heavy breast
with its dark smudge of nipple
into a perfect pear
which I carefully hid
in the recesses of my kitbag
and upon which
in secret
I fed

Beyt Sachur - Palestinian village near Jerusalem, in the disputed territories. There was an Israeli army base next to the village

The events of our life
petals of a flower
around a central death
to which we are


In the corner of a field
cows graze peacefully
beneath a giant billboard for hamburgers


Boy and a puppy in a box
what looks out from between their eyes
at the dead photographer's lens?
what looks out from between my eyes
and leaps towards them
in a million unconquerable blessings?
puppy dog and puppy boy
(bewildered as I am)
your forms are just the echo
of the song that set you singing
tho you may grow bigger
and not understand why you hurt
and hurt
your suffering has an end
but not this
and when everything has gone
still it will offer
its sweet embrace

On my bike
the leaves of low lying trees
brush against my head
and give me their benediction
incadescent in this moment
what more surprises
have you for me?

Some people walk the wire
strung between two buildings
some sail solo at sea
some stand up naked in front of a crowd
some leap from planes

I go back to my job as a school teacher

Domestic Life

Returning home
the boys embraced me
in a huge soft hug
teeth and eyes shining
and later we wrestled.
I, eyes shut
drunk with tiredness
their marshmallow blows
manna from heaven.

Tikun Chatzot
Once in Jerusalem
very late
I took the No. 9 bus home
and on the way
at a flashing light
saw a road gang
fixing a pot hole
that meant at least as much
as the beyt hamikdash.

Tikun (fixing) chatzot (midnight) is a custom whereby devout traditional Jews rise at midnight to recite prayers, mourn the loss of the temple in Jerusalem, and pray for its restoration.
Beyt haMikdash - the temple that stood in Jerusalem. Beyt (house) Mikdash (that is holy,that is consecrated)

A Yom Kippur Prayer
Avinu shebashamayim
Our father in heaven
help us to feel parented
so that we can parent ourselves
help us forgive our earthly parents
so that we stop blaming them for what we have decided not to be
avinu malkeynu
if my father is a king
then I am nobly born
a prince
for whom all things are possible

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Short Story: Tisha B' Av - The Ninth of Av


He turned away, his eyes watering, and banged into a shtender. The mesechta on top of it fell off, and Gavriel bent over to pick it up. He kissed the heavy volume, then put it down on some other books, making sure that a chumash was not one of them. Nothing should be placed on top of the chumash - it would be disrespectful.
It was past one, and he had seen nothing in the lighted windows opposite. His hungry gaze had to make do with distant furniture, which sometimes turned into slow strip-teases when he stared long enough, but then dissolved back into chairs and lampshades. His long vigil had only been ended when the unknown inhabitants of the flat in the building opposite the yeshiva had turned off the lights.
Now what should he do ? Study was an option, but his eyes were burning. And he might end up turning to the bad bits, which just made it worse. Like where the daughters of Lot eased themselves moistly down on their father, or to the laws of modesty in the kitzur shulchan aruch:
"Even when a woman is giving birth one may not look there...the woman on top is a chutzpah before may not look in that place, and all the more so one may not kiss it."
‘Oh, how sweet’, Gavriel had thought after reading that, ‘how sweet to look there, to smother it with kisses !’
He decided not to leave the beis hamidrash . Not to brush his teeth, not even to go to the toilet. In the toilet he might end up touching himself, and he knew what Rashi said, had read it countless times: one who wastes seed is like one who has murdered a million souls. No he would stay here all night. That way he would be safe. If he showed HaShem he was sincere, that he was prepared to go to any lengths so as to remain clean, the problem would resolve itself. He sat down at a desk at the back, adjusted the jacket that hung loosely on his shoulders, put his head down on his arm, and closed his weary eyes.
He was woken by the shuffling of chairs and the singsong chant of someone reciting psukei dezimrah . The sun poured weakly through the half lowered blinds. He davened shacharis, went down to the yeshiva dining hall and had breakfast - porridge and a boiled egg - and then went back to his room. He was lying on his bed, still dressed with his shoes on, when his room mate -formerly a Geoffrey, but now calling himself Tuvia - burst in.
"You’d better get some of your shmutters washed. The queue’s already a block long."
Tuvia, all fussiness, haste and disaproval, moved things around on his already neat side of the room, his exact movements hidden by the big bookshelf which acted as a divider. Then, with a click of the doorhandle and a "shoin" thrown out behind him, he was gone.
Gavriel sluggishly bundled his dirty shirts, socks and underpants together and went and stood with the others who were waiting to use the laundromat next to the yeshiva's canteen. It was forbidden to do laundry during the nine days, so the yeshiva students were making sure they would have enough clean washing to last them through the mourning period. All these special preparations for the anti-holiday generated a kind of gloomy pall, instead of the excited busy-ness that preceded Pesach or Sukkos.
"I’m doin washeeng for Seemcha" said the bocher in front of him, who hailed from Mexico City and who had, in his pre-chozeyr betshuva days, been an up and coming tennis champion, "I have to fight him to geeve me, I pull them from heem. Is mamish a meetzvah."
Simcha was the Yeshiva’s masmid, always in the beis hamidrash pacing up and down, murmuring to himself while his lightly clenched fist made little rhetorical motions in the air to aid the flow of the shakla ve tarya, the talmudic give and take his mind was constantly pulling at. The others fought to do favours for Simcha, so that he could learn undisturbed. They would discuss him with awe:
"He’s already got the whole of Seder Nezikin."
"He has a chevrusa with the maschiach at Mir, and you know what I don’t know who knows more than who"
"When he argues with Rav Kornblum I get lost"
Gavriel wanted to be like that, revered for his talmudic wisdom and possessed by learning. He wanted to have others whisper admiringly of his prowess in Torah. He saw himself astonishing his peers with the complexity of his thought, or counselling young truth-seekers. They would come to him for help with a difficult passage, and he, speaking softly and modestly, would hold forth with all the authority of the Law. He worked hard to insinuate his entire being into the dalet amos of halacha , to reach the point where the doings in the exterior world would be as nothing compared to the endless inner joy of dwelling in HaShem’s house. For weeks he would learn and pray and sleep, undisturbed by troublesome thoughts.
But then sometimes, alone, at odd moments, perhaps sparked by a visit to the yeshiva’s admin office where two young women worked, the sweetness and allure of this future as a talmid chocham faded into a dull and grey boredom, and was replaced by a longing for a present of tittilation and intensity. When he felt the energy shift inside him, both panic and excitement rose, as he tried impossibly to distance and yet have what he wanted and yet did not want to want.
At these first warning signs he prayed for the desires to leave, and when they did not (perhaps because his prayer was not sincere and a deeper unheard prayer asked for them to continue), he prayed for sexual dreams to visit him, dreams that would provide release without making him truly culpable, all the while berating himself for perverting the concept of prayer.
But the dreams rarely came, and the desire for some kind of crisis and resolution gathered in him like storm clouds. Try as he might to keep his thoughts away from the pink fleshy images, they came to him unbidden yet welcomed, to fill some emptiness which the black Hebrew letters he stared at all day could not. And when they came he could not leave them, his mind returning obsessively to soft naked encounters until he grew excited and the inevitable happened.
What made it worse was that the fantasies, once they had led him over the precipice, lost their allure and became as thin and insubstantial as chazal had warned:Yetzer hara kechut hasaar: the evil inclination was just a hair’s breadth, nothing, a mirages which could not slake the source of your thirst, a siren which seduced you and then left you feeling bereft and mourning what you had lost. Yet again and again he allowed himself to be sucked down. And after each episode Gabriel judged himself an imposter and failure, trapped and betrayed by something in him that he was powerless to set right. And after each episode, as he lay amidst the rubble of the pure life he had worked so hard to build, he was filled with rage and heaviness and despair.
He had been given all kinds of eitzes when he occasionally summoned up the courage to speak to a Rabbi about his problem. There were, for example, certain verses from Tehilim to be said, over and over, every day:
"Create in me a pure heart Elohim, God of justice, and renew a correct spirit inside of me."
The words were sweet and true and purified automatically. The power was in them from zechus avos, so that even in these latter days they could help the spiritually blind and poor.
Rabbi Kornblum had merely smiled.
"I thought I was going to hear something new" he said, "not something that nearly every second bocher has to deal with. You mustn’t get depressed about it, because that is exactly what the yetzer hora wants, to make you feel it is hopeless and that there is no point in trying."
Gavriel respected Rabbi Kornblum, who seemed very wise and gentle. But he could not help noticing, whenever they spoke, that the rabbi’s breath was terrible. It bothered him that the scholar was unaware of this, and he agonised over whether it was his place to try and hint that it was not to the honour of the Torah's spokesman to have such an unpleasant odour coming from his mouth. In the end he said nothing. Perhaps it was an unworthy thing to notice.
And about his problem - he decided not to give in to despair, and to pray to HaShem to keep his feet from wondering towards the admin office, or his mind towards the women who occupied it.
The shabbos before Tisha B' Av Gavriel put on clean underwear, and over his lighter, cooler tzitzit he placed a clean shirt. In Jerusalem Tisha b’Av fell in the middle of the hot summer, and since it was forbidden to wash your body during the final week, most of the young men at the yeshiva, by the time the fast day arrived, smelt strongly.
He descended to the beis hamidrash. The heat had gathered there, fueled by the assembled bodies, and there were no fans or airconditioning to disperse the clingy air. He had to keep on freeing his shirt at the armpits, and he longed to scratch amongst his pubic hair. But he eased his thoughts away from bodily sensations, eyeing the Borsalino hat of the bocher in front of him while his lips moved by themselves around the familiar prayers. Then mincha was over, and kabbalos shabos began.
They sang lecha dodi with great fervour, shifting and swaying to receive the shabas queen. Gavriel's heart lifted with the tune, and closing his eyes, he sang as loudly as he could, tried to be taken up by a holy wave, to be filled with misty kedusha. Then it ended, and chairs scraped as they sat down to hear the sermon. He was pleasantly exhausted, having studied late the previous night, and he only caught snatches of the stately rosh yeshiva’s talk.
After prayer there was the shabas meal which they all ate together in the dining hall. When that finished, too tired to learn, Gavriel went up to his room and ate a few of the biscuits he had brought for shabos. He stopped reading when the automatic clock turned the lights off, and lay in the flickering glow cast by the candles Tuvia - away this shabos - had lit. Their dim red light reminded him of Jerusalem torched by the Romans on that Tisha B'Av two thousand years ago.
At high school, in his native country, before he had come to yeshiva, he had learnt of the Holocaust - read books and seen films about it, even heard a survivor who came to lecture. But only at yeshiva had he discovered how the Jewish tragedy stretched back to the destruction of the temple - indeed had its roots there. It spead outwards in time from there to the breaching of the walls of the second temple, to the fall of Betar, to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and into the long golus - exile - which, said his rabbis, not even the modern State of Israel had ended.
Gavriel had seen a model of the temple only three days before, but it was the architectural drawings on display there that had really bought home to him the scale of the whole Temple Mount Area. 'Were they Jews just like us', he wondered, 'the ones who looked up every day and saw the Beis Hamikdash towering above them.'
As he listened to the dogs barking from the Arab houses down the road, he tried to derive a feeling of significance from the fact that he lay so close the temple mount. Perhaps where his bed was now had stood the home of a Jew who walked every day to the Temple compound, to the market below its walls, or perhaps - at the end of the day - to use the mikvot near the steps leading up to the temple. After all, it was only ten minutes walk away from here. And what would that distant ancestor of his have felt had he been standing on the massive walls when - in the distance - the tiny figures of the advancing Roman army appeared ?
Gavriel knew what he himself, had he been there, would have felt. He knew with certainty he was a coward, he would not have been one of the biryonim who resisted, he would have hid trembling under the bed, leaving his family to fend for themselves as the Romans, burly, big, rough voiced and menacing burst in to drag them out …
He began to think about the cruelty of the ancient world, of pillage and rapine. He remembered a painting in a National Geographic which had fascinated him. It was of the sack of Rome. On one side it showed long haired barbarians fingering bolts of fabric and looted ornaments while bloodied Roman centurions stood passively by. On the other were Roman women, dressed in white and hugging each other. What had really drawn Gavriel’s eye was the naked girl in the foreground, her back to the viewer, her face hidden amidst the folds of a stout matrons toga. By her height she was a child, but the artist had given her the curved hips and buttocks of a woman. And in the recesses of the painting were tiny figures of other naked women - one being hoisted in the air, her breasts prominently out thrust, another kneeling, and a third lying with her arm raised protectively above her face as if to ward of a blow, while an equally tiny Vandal, his face a demonic smudge, knelt over her.
Even with only a thin sheet upon him it was very hot. He threw the sheet off and lay there in his pyjamas. What would it have been like to be alive then? Better not to have been a Jew, better to have been amongst the conquerors, the barbarians, a dirty sweaty soldier, unaccountable, anonymous, given sanction by the general collapse and chaos to grab whatever he wanted, do whatever he wanted …
Whatever he wanted.
His thoughts began to excite him.
He got up, red eyed and exhausted, determined not to be defeated again, determined not to believe he had no free choice because he had used it to choose wrongly. He must go to where others were. That alone could save him. As Hillel said: ‘Do not separate yourself from the community’.
One cannot, Gavriel told himself, sin in public.
Down he went, to the beis hamidrash, almost empty now except for a few dedicated scholars swaying to the rhythm of the words of the Talmud. He tried to learn as well, but his mind refused to take hold of the ideas offered it. He put his head down on the desk and closed his eyes, listening to the voices reasoning and arguing, the sweet chant of the boatmen of the Talmud.
After a while he moved a shtender over to a recess, away from prying eyes, and read tehilim, drinking in the words, hanging on to them, ad-libbing from them, inserting his personal plea to be made whole and content with his lot. Then his mind came back to the verse at hand:
"Create in me a pure heart Elohim, God of justice, and renew a correct spirit inside of me."


The beis hamidrash was full. Most of the light bulbs had been removed, so that even though the dusk was gathering, it was still dimmer inside than outside. The chairs and tables had all been put aside, and people sat on the floor. It was forbidden to wear leather, so all wore plastic shoes, or socks without shoes. The book of Lamentations was read in a subdued minor manner,and when the reading was done a visiting rabbi stood up to deliver a talk. This rov was an important rosh yeshiva, and it was considered an honour that he had consented to leave his own yeshiva and constituents to deliver a talk in their beis hamidrash.
The guest speaker - "the ilustrious, brilliant Rav Mordechai Himmelshtein, may he live a good long life" as their rosh yeshiva introduced him - was a small man, but he appeared very broad because he wore a great many pairs of tzitzit. It was rumoured that he had vowed always to wear them, for some mysterious reason known only to himself. The bocherim whispered amongst themselves, trying to guess how many pairs the rov was wearing. The estimates ranged from seventy to one hundred. It must be very hot under all those layers. Obviously the rov existed on a different plane, else he would not be able to bear it.
"Modern man", began the rabbi, speaking in a tiny voice which his audience strained to hear, "surrounds himself with theories and trinkets. He reads ‘good' novels - bobbemeises, he goes to concerts and plays and films in which he sees adultery and violence glorified, he makes sure he will not have a spare moment to reflect what he is living for. At expensive restaurants he wastes money on food he does not need, and goes home to the spiritually numbing blare of the TV, the radio, the record-player. This so called entertainment is all about distraction, diversion, diffusion of the light, to help him forget that one day he will die, and that we come to this world not for pleasure, not to take and to grab and to stuff ourselves, but to give and to serve and to grow. He is afraid to remember this, so he keeps the babble very loud to drown out the thin clear voice he is afraid to hear.
"And then there are his ‘theories' - that is, his clever excuses not to heed the creator, to indulge all of his selfish passions and lusts. Yes bnei Torah, we have had many neviay hasheker in the last one hundred and fifty years. There was Darwin. He put forward the proposition that we are descended from monkeys, and was acclaimed by the entire goyishe world. Then along came a Jew. He agreed with Darwin that man is an animal. Make sure that every man has a full belly and a roof over his head and mankind will be saved ! That is what this man Marx said, and we only have to look at the millions slaughtered by Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot to see how happy and free this theory has made people. But then along came another Yid - only a Jew could go so far in the wrong direction - and said: you're quite right, Darwin and Marx, man IS an animal, but it's not his stomach that motivates him, no my learned colleagues, you must look a little lower down. This was Freud, and his ‘contribution' to mankind was to ‘prove’ that man is only motivated by low, base, animal drives - by taives. These ‘great' thinkers, HaShem Yerachem, were all trying to prove only one thing: that man does have a soul. But you and I, dear benei Torah, know something that they were trying so hard to forget. Yes, we know
the rabbi banged the rostrum so hard that Gavriel, and several other bocherim, started nervously
that man DOES have a soul, and it screams out through all the chains these charlatans place upon it, screams to be reunited with its eternal source. Man is not a stomach, dear benei Torah, no he is not a stomach or a set of detached sexual organs. He is a soul which seeks, via the body, expression in the world.
"Yet do not think that the rot is only out there, that here in the tents of the Torah we are safe from being corrupted. No, even here we are assailed by the slimy lies and distortions of neviay hasheker. They enter into our lives, become one with our thoughts, until we cannot distinguish between what is ours and what is not.
"That is what this exile is, a night where we cannot tell friend from foe, purity from impurity. That is what the destruction of our temple, of our glorious Beis Hamikdash is all about. Do you know that the other day I received a phone call ? It was from a young woman, a very young woman, whose husband learns in a kollel in Mattersdorf. She had a sheila. What was her sheila ? A tear in a lung ? Blood spots ? Something that the wife of a kollelman should be checking up ? No, benei Torah, her sheilah was different. Her husband had been putting pressure on her to shower with him, and to perform oral sex.
"She was distraught, and wanted to know if it was permissible, because her husband will not lay off. Disgusting abomination ! Here, in Mattersdorf, in eer hakoydesh, Yerushalayim. Here, in the supposed fortress of a world conquered by tumah, here amongst ourselves - we too have forgotten that man has a soul. Let me remind you why the desire for woman was planted in man. It is to bring to the holy act of creation, where HaShem, husband and wife come together to bring more souls down to this world, so that they too may find their tikun.
"This is such an awesome task, it is so elevated, we cannot begin to comprehend its significance. No less than the Rambam points out that after ejaculation has occurred, the man looses all interest in the woman's body, a sure proof that the purpose of desire has been achieved. You would not use a spade made of priceless gold and silver and precious stones to shovel manure, would you ? So why do we allow ourselves to pervert great gifts for ignoble ends ? Ribono shel Olam, we have been given so much, and we are asked for so little in return. Yet we refuse to give it ! Why ? Why ? Are we crazed ? Are we fools ? Are we, rachmana litzlan reshaim ?
"No. It is because we too, benei torah, we, who should know better than anyone else, we too - great is our shame - have forgotten that man has a soul. That is why the Beis Hamikdash has not yet been rebuilt, because we have forgotten. But remembering will bring the redemption, G-d willing, soon in our days, Amen."
"Amen" answered the packed beis hamidrash.
"Amen" mumbled Gavriel.
The drasha ended suddenly, and it left Gavriel perturbed and unsettled. It was supposed to inspire, fill you with thoughts of tshuva, but it had just excited him. How could the Rov throw something like that out before a crowd of bocherim ? Were they married and elderly, judges, prophets, people who could see the lie of the physical from without a thick cloud of sensual vapours ? Maybe the others had been horrified by the story of kollelman, but he had been fascinated. To be married, to have someone kneeling before him in the shower, her large breasts ballooned against his thighs... Oh there could be no words for that.
He fled from his thoughts to the upstairs study hall, but his thoughts fled with him. Taking down a heavy leather bound volume of the Talmud - Gitin - he held it in his hand, felt its cracked cool leather against his sweaty palm. He hugged the volume to his chest, moved slowly towards a shtender, but found himself outside on the balcony, his eyes brushing the lit windows opposite him. Was that a woman there, bending over something ? Maybe she was about to get
undressed ...
Another bocher, an Israeli, came onto the balcony. Gavriel started nervously. Had he been seen gazing across? The Israeli engaged him in conversation, and Gavriel gradually relaxed as the other gave no indication of suspecting anything. He rejected the offer of studying together, explained politely that he was exhausted, that he wanted to be fresh for prayer the following day. Then he hastened the conversation to its end, watching uncaringly as he rejected the chance being held out to him, watching as if in a dream how salvation had lost all taste in the face of the need for some kind of consummation now.
Gavriel left the beis hamidrash, went to his room, turned the key in the lock. He knew he was being tricked, that even before the burning had been spat out he would be beyond it, sober and regretting. But the vision of the woman in the shower thrust forward, and his being rushed to embrace it. Drops of water trickled from her turgid nipples. His hands squeezed her soft heavy udders. Squeezed.
‘Stop it !’ he commanded himself hollowly, ‘not on Tisha B' Av.’
‘Just a bit' the other voice said, 'just a bit' it coaxed, 'just a bit, like Avishag and David.'
His hand remained where it was, doing what it was. Gavriel's whole being began to vibrate to its creeping rhythm. It was too late, he wanted it, there was nothing else anyway. The burning stole up and up, was all of him for a fleeting moment, and then was gone.
‘You made me do it’ Gavriel raged against the emptiness, even before the white drops had wetted his stomach and leg.
He cradled his forlorn penis - it made no difference now if he touched it or not - while his breathing settled, then began rolling his head from side to side, wishing in some way to hurt himself, to punish himself for having become part of the great universal defeat which he had almost avoided.
‘Nero', he thought bitterly, ‘fiddling while Jerusalem burns.'
A teardrop of semen rolled down his leg.
(I wrote this short story in the late nineteen eighties, probably while I was at University)



Indian Honeymoon

Just returned from a trip to South Africa, where I travelled to in order to deal with my dad, who is having some health problems. I'm still processing the trip, and in the meantime here are some extracts from a website I put up in 1998, also called Manofesto. These extracts are a humerous account of experiences we had on our honeymoon in India at the end of 1997.

"On the Hebrew date of the eighth of Kislev, 5758 years after the creation of this veil of tears, 33 years after my last birth, and 29 years after her current incarnation, the wonder-ful Vivien and I married. You might say this was the beginning of our passage through India...but then again everything begins endlessly in everything else and you might say the trip to India began with the way my mother talked admiringly of Israel, and of an elder cousin who had left South Africa to found a kibbutz there in 1948. My mothers yearnings mingled with my own, and at the age of 17 and ten months I went to Israel, propelled by internal forces I rationalised as the desire to belong somewhere, and the simultaneous desire (in retrospect a contradictory one) to individuate and break out of the prison of my parent's fears and limitations.

In Israel I ended up studying in a yeshiva in Jerusalem, a theological seminary called ohr somayach or "lightjoy". One of the other students was an American, about eleven or twelve years my senior, who had been involved with left campus politics in the US of A. His name was Raphael, and in Israel he became observant, and met and married his wife, an Australian woman. She had gone to India, interested in studying herbal cures, and somehow met up with a cigarette maker in Bombay, who was regarded as 'enlightened' by many. She had a book of interviews, or rather Q&A sessions, where seekers would ask this man questions and he would respond. This cigarette makers name was Nisargadata Maharaj, and through her contact with him this Australian woman ended up in Jerusalem, living the life of an orthodox Jew. She lent me a copy of this book, "I Am That", and I read it and felt it to be one of the most truth-full documents I had had the good fortune to be exposed to. I copied the book, and read it every day. But Sri Nisarghadatta says don't cling to anything, including my I burnt it...trusting that when I am ripe I too will be consumed. Not surprisingly the year I first encountered Nisarghadatta Maharaj's advaita teachings - 1981 - was also the year his physical form ended.

Some 16 years later, back in South Africa, again for reasons which defied my conscious impulses, an Israeli friend gave me the weekend supplement of an Israeli newspaper and pointed out an interesting story about an Israeli pilot who had dropped out of the air force after meeting a guru called Papaji. The things the pilot said, and the bits of Papaji's teaching which came across from the article evoked something in me, and I instantly recognised the connection to those words I had read almost two decades before. Something in me had perhaps ripened and the idea of actually going to India to visit Papaji began hatching. But by the time we actually did, Papaji had left his body - perhaps I was still not ready for a confrontation with the truth, still needed to be in the market place shopping around - and I contented myself with watching videos of satsang in the Lucknow hall where Papaji had given daily satsang, and kissing photographs of Papaji's feet, in the hope that somehow surrender to his form would bring surrender to the Self which has no form or place. Again, not surprisingly, I discovered a copy of I Am That in the Ashram's bookshop...and read it almost daily for over a year. The words were as sweet and sharp as ever...clearer even - to me - than the same truth expressed by Papaji in Wake up and Roar and the Truth Is. If you're interested in their point-of-view google I Am That. What follows are some hopefully entertaining recollections of our trip.

Breakfast & Bed


"What’s for breakfast ?" The waiter, dressed in schmutters, takes out a dog eared piece of paper enclosed in plastic and puts it down in front of us. It is a typed menu which reads:

"Continental breakfast. Bred, tosted, jam and butter, fruit, eggs (omlett, scrumbled) tea & coughy"

A few of the waiters speak about ten words of English - the rest none. Although my Hindi is coming along famously (until my phrase book falls out of my pocket when we are running to catch a train) we still struggle to communicate. Using hand gestures and smiles we order two continentals. While we wait, Viv and I stare irritatedly at each other. We have been married for three weeks, but lived together for three and a half years before that, so our resentments are already those of a vetran couple - and mornings are the best time for these to surface

The only other people in the dining room (four tables laid with paper place mats, no tablecloths, a few empty tables against the walls, chilly marble floors, bare neon lights) are an Indian family from the UK. They chatter away in English, and we discuss with them the general disrepair of the hotel. Yes, they say, we’re moving across to the Ashok..very nice, modern rooms, air conditioning. Nothing works here."

Our coffee arrives in a thermos. The boiled milk is in a jug either filthy, or else so stained, it looks filthy. Viv orders another one. After ten minutes it arrives, as filthy as the first. We dare not risk another try - the lukewarm coffee will be stone cold by then. The toast arrives neatly wrapped in serviettes. The waiter puts it down and dissapears.
"We don’t have jam or butter" complains Viv.

Determined to be a good husband, I go to look for the waiter. I cannot find him. I go to reception and ask the clerk if he can arrange some jam and butter for us and the rest of our breakfast. He promises to help and hits a bell on the desk.
I go back to the dining room, and wait, and wait, and wait. Eventually we eat the dry toast. We are washing the crumbs down our throat with the dregs of the coffee when another waiter appears and lays a plate with some synthetic looking strawberry jam on our table. Our waiter reappears with eggs and two green and very hard bannanas. We gobble them up, and find everything absolutely delicious, either because it is, or because we’re starving, or because when you’re travelling, you’re open enough to rejoice in whatever comes your way.

We don’t eat again until tea-time. We sit outside in the big garden, catching the luke warm rays of the winter sun. Birds chirp, squirrels forage for crumbs amongst the potted plants (the reason for all these becomes clear when we see a wedding the following night) and monkeys stare curiously back at us. The waiter hands us a menu different from the roughly typed sheet of paper we had seen the previous night. This it turns out, is the snack menu, and a different kitchen, it seems, handles snacks.

We order tea - delicious - and toast. We have learnt from experience, both here in Lucknow, and from eating in Varanasi, that the people who bring your meal are called "waiters" because they make you wait. The average time for one of them to make the 10 metre crossing from our table to the kitchen and return with our request - be it a main course, a glass of hot water, the bill, even just getting to see the menu a second time (unless the waiter has one folded in his pocket) - is half an hour. We wonder if they perhaps sit in the kitchen staring blankly at a clock until the person in charge slaps them on the back and says:
"Right, they’ve done their 25 minutes, you can go back now."

True to form the toast arrives - untoasted - after half an hour. Viv sounds conflicted as she sends the bread back, simultaneously haughtily instructing and desperately pleading for him to bring it back soon. We know the risk involved in sending things back - you may end up sitting a long time gazing at the unladen table while your stomach rumbles for company. It could even precipitate a major fight between us. My nose is running again, and the little pile of tissues on the table grows bigger.
"Can’t you put those somewhere else" snaps Viv.
We are about to begin a new cycle of hack and parry when the waiter arrives with the toast. We ask for the triffle (so spelt on the menu).
"No triffle"
"But we had some last night"
"Only when there is a a wedding. There was a wedding last night."

Then supper. We get a waiter who does not understand a word I say. I don’t trust my pigin Hindi enough to ensure there won’t be some major stuff up. A manager crosses the floor of the "dining room" to assist us. (We are the only diners, if there are other guests they eat outside in a sort of boma at the side of the large garden. But we, sick as we are, decide not to risk the chilly night air). Last night this same manager had changed money for us. Now he courteously takes our order. Relieved, sensing the possibility of communication, I try to clarify one or two items on the menu.

"What is onion ghobi ?"
"It is onion with blos"
"Ah. Onion with what ?"
"With blos"

I cannot stifle a giggle. Incomprehensibility always makes me giggle, graphic concretisations of the senslessness of things. I hide my giggle behing my hand and distract from my laughter by pretending to study the menu intensively. (how, coughing, pretend to examine the menu, rearrange things on the table ??), which I am sure he will take umbrage at, as if I were laughing at his English, rather than at the collective incoherence of India to me.

"And the alu rice, what’s the difference between that and the onion ghobi?"
"One is fried and the other is watler."
"Uh huh." I nod understandingly, although I understand nothing.

Our obliging little waiter nods as the manager sends him off. Vivien, who has a terrible cold, has ordered chicken sweetcorn soup. The regulation ½ an hour later the waiter returns:
"No chicken sweetcorn soup."
Viv is so exasperated she can hardly speak.
I am giggling. When I am finally able to stop, I ask Viv if she wants the ordinary chicken soup.
"Oh I don’t know." Deep despair.
I order the ordinary chicken soup.
"How long will it take" says Vivien.
A flood of Hindi.
Vivien points at her watch. The waiter shakes his head in the infinity-sign motion which is the Indian nod of assent. Yet we are unable to say with any certainty if we have been understood.
"Pani Garam. Hot water. Can you bring us that right now. Staight away. Immediately. Yes ?"
He nods again. Whatever happens everyone nods.

Viv orders chowmein and I - fingerchips. We had ordered chowmein the previous night, and it arrived so hot Viv wanted to vomit and had to order yoghurt raita and pepsi to extenguish the flames. I ate some and was able to breathe again after a cold which had completely bricked up my nostrils.

We call the manager. He tells the waiter to leave off the peppers.
We wait 40 minutes, no longer expecting anything. Freedom from desires and expectations is part of enlightenment, and if so, we are becoming enlightened.

Miracle of miracles, the waiter arrives with the right stuff. The chow mein is mild and exceptionally tasty.I am still hungry. We order more chow mein. I go to reception to get help with making it clear that this one too should be without red peppers. The waiter scuttles off, all servility and eagerness to please. He takes so long to return an unwell Vivien goes back to the room while I wait. He eventually returns with chow mein minus the pepper, but minus everything else as well, so its just plain noodles for supper. To change it will take another ½ hour. I ask for the bill. He gives it to me. The soup is overpriced 10 rupees but they left off the chips. I go to reception so that the night clerk/money changer/manager whatever will explain it to him.

The manager shouts at the waiter.
"No need to shout at him" I mollify him, afraid I am going to be the cause of the waiter being fired or worse.
The waiter scuttles off again, an Indian version of Manuel in Fawlty towers, after 10 minutes there is no sign of him. I want to ge up to the room. I go and pay at reception, reception tell me they will send the waiter up to me. He comes, I pay him, we order tea with milk separately, he brings lemon tea.

& Bed

...being a survey on the state of the Indian matress, how difficult it sometimes is to secure one, and what we learnt about life and each other while bedded down.

Hotel Beds

Funeral Beds - often on fire, especially near the banks of the Ganges. proceed with caution unless you're dead.

Railway Beds (Just gravel and granite, like everywhere else...we don't recommend these.)

Railway Bedding - comes in an incredibly dirty hessian sack, filthy pillows, but clean pillow cases, sheets, and blankets smelling of dust and a little heat

Still under construction: Come back soon to laugh and cry with us over the poverty, pity and purity that is India. For six weeks we ploughed this overwhelming land - the sights and sense-ations we brought back will be posted here over the next three weeks - bli neder.