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

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