Sunday, July 25, 2010

Alices misadventures in 'stralialand

My experience as an immigrant has been that the Australian networks are reasonably impenetrable. This has been the experience of numerous immigrant acquaintances as well. ( Said he self-justifyingly.)

I have so far sent out in the region of 100 job applications. In response I have received

a) in many instances zero response
b) polite formulaic thanks but no thanks letters
c) two interviews.

The first interview was for an internet producer role at the Ted Noffs Foundation. I arrived early for a two pm interview, and was then made to wait for an hour before having a short and immensely casual interview with the grandson of the founder, one Matt Noffs (Its a VERY family run foundation, many of the executive staff are family members - just the kind of foundation I would structure myself.) Matt looked as if he were acquainting himself with my CV for the first time, and after a few nowhere minutes where I attempted to find out what they were looking for so that I could be it, we rose to part company.
"Its very unprofessional to make someone wait for an hour with no explanation, for an interview that was scheduled at 2pm" (me)
"well someone has to be unprofessional around here. See ya" (Matt)

Who knows? We may indeed see each other one day, coming out of train station or while crossing the street to get to an urgent appointment. So I took Matt's passing shot as a benedictive prophecy.

The second interview was with a company called ruralco, which has many rural retail outlets and a number of agriculturally based busineses such as stock feeds, fertilisers, farm insurance etc. During a reasonably lengthy interview (which I had prepared quite thoroughly for) with the IT manager and the marketing manager - Cameron - it emerged I'd been a teacher for two years.

"What did you teach" asked the IT manager.
I hesitated for a moment. "Jewish Studies" I blurted out, after considering saying something suitably vague like 'languages' or 'theology.'
I made quick eye contact before averting my gaze again, to try and guage how this snippet of information was being received. To their credit neither of them missed a beat. We continued shmoozing like old friends, and when I felt things were winding down, I asked if they - Ruralco - had any factory farms.

After being assured they did not, I mentioned that I was vegetarian, and that I would be bringing my own sausages to any staff sausage sizzles they might be holding (for the uninitiated a sausage sizzle is an Australian cultural event where sausages - ground up animal muscle encased in a synthetic or natural casing and generally flavoured with a plant derived flavouring agent - are heated on a (usually gas) cooking device which is wheeled outdoors for the occassion. Said sausages may be served on processed white flour rolls with sauces made from tomatoes or mustard seeds mixed with vinegar).

I'm not sure it was before or after my questions and declaration that I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Cameron had begun shuffling his papers - a reasonably clear indication that my allotted time was up and that time wasters should know when to move on. I dutifully said I had no more questions and was jovially seen to the door. I expected to get a thanks but no thanks message the next day but instead there was nothing - just a great big vacuum which left me wondering; was it my ambiguity about the commute? (it would have been about 2 hours 20 a day). My South Africaness? My (gasp) Jewishness? My vegetarianess? My Imanuelness? Was I too forward? Too backward? Too sideways? Or none of the above?

In the absence of data the mind is very creative with what it makes up - but two weeks later the matter was semi put to rest when the HR recruiter - an ex South African who had sent me to the interview sent me another email which clarified things, if not a lot, at least somewhat. It said "they still have not decided. Am leaving job today to become a wedding planner."

Not a bad idea. Perhaps I'll consider that option for myself as well, if the next 100 CVs I send out prove to be similarly unproductive. In the meantime the bills continue to stream in, and I mantain the daily routine of the landed gentry, while sometimes. at night, the repressed fear arises and keeps me tossing and turning wondering how it will resolve itself.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Malice Aforethought

See also Poems 2010 and poems-for-path and fathers-and-sons and damm-straight
One word poems:



I am all awash
thoughts like discarded plastic bottles
drift aimlessly
in the mind sea
far beneath
a whale glides
perhaps it will be killed
by a Japanese harpoon
perhaps it will be torn asunder
by killer whales
perhaps it will die peacefully
on the sea bed

It is absolutely necessary to know
that enlightenment will never come
to Immanuel Suttner
I was walking home from the shops just before shabat
and I sat down at Diamond Bay Reseve and lookd out across the sea
and just before I picked up my bags to continue home
and it occurred to me that kabbalat shabat - and in particular the psalms that make it up - could be seen as a review of creation, of all the wonders that were created in the six days
before the crowning act of creation is non-creation

there is no stopping us when we are shopping
forests may fall and species disappear
but there is no stopping us when we are shopping
when we are shopping
products glisten
disconnected from time and space
from a source and an end
suspended in their new wrapping
(putting our lives back into giftwrapping
the shimmy of women’s breasts
sends an answering tremor
of desire through me
crossing over realities
like when you come back from overseas
and the country you were in
slowly turns into dreamstuff
and the country you’ve returned to
again becomes your reality
wrapping itself around you
like a prayer shawl
with the irresistible force
of the G-d of now
slowly becoming present
so that one moment you were driving on the right side
with different trees and hills and accents
and then suddenly you’re back
in this suddenly temporarily strange
as it reasserts and reinsinuates itself
and the other strange which had become temporarily familiar
evaporates into the private dreamstuff of memory
as does everything outside of the now
as when you waken from a thick and turgid dream
where some inescapable condition
rendered you paralyseds
and you waken to your mixed bag of life
the bedroom and what lies beyond it rushing in
some people have secret lives
like pornography
or gambolling or drugs
or a mistress
mine is different.
(like a pet kept secretly in the basement
of a building that doesn't allow pets)
I work in English
but come home and worry
in Hebrew.

Gaza 1987
Nino Rodruigez
lies on the camp bed
white tea shirt, olive green pants
black boots
South American Indian
jet black eyes in his
olive skinned smooth
round moon face
closed now
to shut out the other
smelly sweating presences
and be alone
with the voice of sting
coming through the walkman headphones:
Cueca Solo
a hot dusty wind
blows through the tent flap
which dances
Ellas Danzan Solas
where are you now ?
how I wish to be present
when all the joy and peace
that hides amongst the stars
brings us together again
I was on the beach
on Australia day
playing cricket with the family
and some other young men
were playing cricket as well
and a ball came flying
and thwacked my wife on the head
“please be careful guys” I smiled, tossing them back the ball,
not wanting any trouble, any trouble at all
why don’t yous piss off back to where you came from mate
said one, and his mates hooted and jeered.
so the next day I sold our house
took my kids out of school
packed our bags
and went back to South Africa
for eighty years
and from there to Lithuania, Latvia, England and Russia
and from there to Poland and Germany and from
there to Alsace and Babylon
and from there to Israel and Judah
and from there to Mesopotamia
and from there we went back to sperm and egg
and from there to amoeba and algae
and from there to the centre of the big bang
not wanting any trouble, any trouble
at all
(boy o boy was I surprised)


What does the infinite know of me?
A small lump of misery
arrogance vanity
all of these

On the pillow lies a skull
covered with a thin layer of skin and hair
inside the skull thoughts chase each other
in endless succession
I am acustomed to think of this skull as "mine"
but am I in the skull
or is this story of my skull in me?

Is poetry mostly
the snail trail
of the desire for recognition?
If I can distill an essence
of a moment


I cannot get enough of quiet
I drink up silence like a starving man
ever mindful how it may end


Sometimes my dhirhea smells like
steam powered railways

sometimes I see someone
who looks exactly like someone I knew
but isn't

sometimes my


When people ask me “what do you do?”
I try to have a word ready at hand
I’m a writer
I’m a teacher
I’m a script writer


In response to MasterChef

to eat from hunger, not from boredom
to be with what is here
to thank G-d for gratitude
to met desire and fear

now that I'm in my later 40's, a night on the town means staying up 'til almost 11:00 to write a few poems

"I'm a breast man":
A man masturbating over a video
of a cow being milked

A devil as a mosquito

What gets in the way of poetry sweet poetry?
letters of demand
the desire to inhabit my roles as responsible provider
(after all, what have my children sinned?)
google analytics and ROI
language in suits
and the fear of imagination
how many times have I betrayed the one I love
to do my imagined duty
adequate might
let you sleep at night
but inside there is
so much more


Lord preserve us
from the terrible poverty of excess

Like salmon returning to their spawning grounds
the wandering wondering Jews
have returned to Zion
at least, some of them
and I too have returned
to my spawning ground
the unmanifest
or at least
some of me

A political poem

we stand for

This morning I had a telephonic conversation
with a rotund sex worker
who is doing her masters
in public health
and as she described her body
I stroked mine
then we parted amicably
with a promise from me
to make an appointment
I never kept

apologies for the way things are
a pity on her and on me


Royal Randwick Shopping Centre, Sunday Morning

Earnest Chinese Christians
discussing salvation
over bibles and boxes
of factory farmed chicken


Always I have wanted
to be that love itself
no matter how it looks

the quiet order of things
in their proper place
undisturbed by
the passing passions

Holding On

my son is playing the piano
for my dad
over the phone
invisible electromagnetic radiation of the wireless phone
the thin chariot facilitating our
tenuous yet irrevocable connection
and I encourage and acknowledge him
as a good father should
wanting to model for my 78 year old dad with Alzheimer's
how he could have been with us

Saba Ronnie

my son is playing the piano
for my dad
and I am showing him off:
"see... see the beautiful thing
that has come forth from me"
and it is all normal and natural
except that I am in Sydney
and my dad is in Sandringham Gardens
an old aged home in Johannesburg
"it sounds lovely" he says "very good."
and I, hyper aware of this constructed grandpa I build
for the boys, or perhaps for myself
from silences and absences
from a few words over the phone,
wanting there to be the solidity of dynasty
rather than the flimsiness of the orphanage
do my duty
and quietly grieve.

("How are Marcia and Jeff" he asks
though Jeff died in '99)


On some days my mind has me pinned down
by the short and curlies

Spring has Sprung

Its almost summer
suddenly someone’s turned the sun back on
and the breasts that have been hibernating all winter
are coming out again
the ghosts of cattle and sheep
cancer patients and octopii
that did not make it
cease to haunt us
as winter babies
and cautious spring flowers
raise their newborn heads

Rule of thumb:
wherever there is state sponsored anti-Semitism
there is poverty, corruption, and something to hide
poor people being ripped off
repression, torture, the controlling of the media
homophobia, the violent homogenisation of the individual
just look at Iran, Zimbabwe, Venezuela


I had just finished watching
this documentary about how
the holy crusaders had painted the town red
with the blood of any people
who happened to be Jews
on their way to liberate
the holy land
for the lord of compassion

when I got this phone call / the door bell rang
it was some Christians avoiding themselves
by selling the G-d of love

I am not one who was born to command
but neither am I one who was born to be commanded

Palestine will be free
from the river to the sea
as free as Gaza, the one party state
where to speak against Hamas is to seal your fate
as free as a woman of the Taliban
who can only breathe if her owner says she can
as free as a Bishop in Teheran
who can choose between a bullet or conversion to Islam
as free as Rafik Hariri was to crticize Hizballah
til they blew him and 21 others up to Allah
as free as a donkey, explosives strapped to its back
sent by Hamas in a donky-ish attack
as free as a cronies of Arafat or Abbas
to pocket billions of donor cash
Yes Palestine will be free
to spread around its bigotry
from the river to the sea

but Palestinians will live in slavery

free as ______________ held in the mukata

as free as a Kurd to speak Kurdish in his own land
Between 1982 and 1991 the performance or recording of songs in the Kurdish language was banned in Turkey, The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance reported that "The public use by officials of the Kurdish language lays them open to prosecution, and public defence by individuals of Kurdish or minority interests frequently leads to prosecutions under the Turkish Criminal Code)
As free as a Fatach member in Hamas land
thrown from the rooftops to see if they would fly / where they would land

as free as Gilad Shalit held by Hamas for four years
though his family wept a river of tears

as free as Hamas to abduct journalists who won't report what they're shown

as free as a coptic Christian to go to church

money into their pockets / private accounts
as free as a Sunni Syrian to criticise Bashar Asad
Since its 1994 founding under the Oslo Accords, the PA’s credibility has been hit by allegations of rampant corruption. In early 2006, the PA Attorney-General Ahmad al-Meghanni reported that he was investigating no fewer than 52 cases of official corruption. These totaled hundreds of millions of dollars and involved numerous senior officials of the PA and affiliated companies.

once I watched a man drowning
in his own spit

More notes on Australia

Immigration To Australia

Year one: busy busy
Year two: zolpidem
Year three: zoloft
Year four: metrol beta blockers
Year five: steroids for haemarhoids and Cymbalata for everything else


"Can I speak to Alison please?"
"I'm sorry she's not at her desk at the moment"
Ok , could you ask her to phone me please
"Would you like to tell me what its about"
"No I fukking well wouldn't."
Because I wanted to get away from Crime and incompetence in SA
I now have to put up with anal bureacrats who hate creativity and spontanaiety with a passion

Thank you G?d
for being in Australia
thank you G?d
for bicycles
thank you G?d
for Yoga and rain
thank you G?d
for my so called mistakes


Australia's synagogues
are its shopping malls
horse racing courses
and stadia
where its people try to still
with forgetting and numbness
the hunger for more
but if someone gives me a job
I will stop complaining


While I have found some establishment Australian poetry (poetry written in Australia?) fresh and clever, I find much of it to be technically acomplished, but emotinally flat and instantly forgettable - soul less would be the metaphorical descriptor that comes to mind. Which probably says as much about me and my disinterest in recasting myself as Australian (whatever that might be - is Australian an Imam in Lakemba or is it a Tamil Tiger refugee making their way in Adelaide??...answer it is both, as well as the Aboriginal inhabitants and Anglo invaders)

( despite the tokenistic curtsies and nods in the direction of multiculturalism, the public domain here is still dominated and grounded in one discourse, one set of assumptions, one representation of normative reality) which is largely that of secularized English speaking Christianity - so from mainly Anglo TV presenters, to the temporal orientation points of Christmas and Easter, to the normalization of meat eating and heterosexuality and alcohol consumption and horse racing - the ideas about what is Australian still trump who actually lives in Australia, and the visibly or substantially different still live their differences in the safe and subterranean burrows of the private domain )

Message in a bottle

Hello from darkest sydney
where nothing happens very slowly
but perhaps not as slowly as it doesn't happen
in Cairns or September
who knows?
its enough to drive you to Bhuddism or Bretslavism

Things I l loathe about Australia
its diffident complacency
its bureaucrats and civil srvants trained to think inside (the bottom left hand corner not exceeding 5cm of ) the box

its aversion to risk, its do it by numbers
its horse racing beer drinking war on fish tv
its blonde haired presenters, its fear of the depths
its do it by the book robotic pretence

Things I like about Australia
its diffident complacency
its bureaucrats and civil sevants trained to think in the lid of the
its aversion to risk, its do it by numbers
its horse racing beer drinking war on fish tv
its blonde haired presenters, its fear of the depths
its do it by the book robotic pretence

Australian history begins in Southern India
Australian history begins in Ireland
Australian history begins in Poland and Greece and Lebanon and South Africa
The narrative does not start here it only continues here
we all bought our lives inside us with us, and tried to continue them here as best we could, in some shape and form, even if we had lost everything there...

See also: australia-day

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Musings on the life of a married cave dweller plus the 9th of Av

In my role as minister of the interior
I do my best not to believe I'm inferior

This Tisha BAv (ninth of Av, a fast day which commemorates the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem) I did not fast...I even forgot it was Tisha B"Av
I don't really mourn the absence of the temple, although perhaps I do feel the absence of a secure and settled Jewish sovereignity, where we are not always looking over "our" shoulder to see if we are acceptable, or to check who may be planning to attack and hurt "us"
I don't want animal sacrifices to be restored
and if the temple is going to be rebuilt let it be an eco temple, with solar panels on the roofs and an indoor swimming pool/ mikveh
and may only delicious vegetarian food be served there

Monday, July 19, 2010

Self portrait with micycle

Here comes that man I love
pushing his bike
collecting rubbish
behind an old woman
all bones and angles
balancing herself up the hill
here comes the man I love
a young old man
aboard his micycle
thoughts pedalling endlessly in his head
roaring down the street
to the ocean
all plants and plans
blind to the leaky tap
mourning the plastic bag
and feral pig
not sad for the earthquake victims
unless he hears their cries
here comes the man I love
all poetry and poo
fuller of love
than resentment
wearing the smile he got from his dad
and passed on to his son
a furry man
more bird than rodent
here comes that man
bigger than an ant
smaller than a professional wrestler
content to stay there
in the middle
always ready to worship
the truly modest and the oddly bold
here comes that mouse that man that

A message From the NSW Police

"Be alert, confident and assertive."
Be 6ft 9 and weigh 160 kilograms.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Being a house husband

By the time I have packed the dishwasher, done some homework with the boys (Hebrew homework is particularly exhausting seeing as the boys resist it) and hung up the washing my brain is dry and numb and not a drop of anything interesting or alive can be squeezed out of it - a room of her own applies as much to him.

Australia's War on Fish

Tourists went out to the barrier reef
they watched the fish
they ate the fish
something's got to change:
do one or the other
but not both in the same room

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Striving for Balance

As my body grows older I seem to find it harder to keep my balance. Or rather, because I rarely fall, it might be more accurate to say I fear losing my balance much more. So when I get out of the bath I am a bit like a little old man, and I clutch at door knobs or sinks or whatever is available, because my mind makes up I will slip with only one leg still making contact wth the wet bath bottom. Or, when going up tiled steps in the rain, or after rain, I walk with exagerated mincing steps raisng my legs unnaturally high and placing them unnaturally carefully, attempting to keep my weigh very much centred, so as not to slip. This is especially so when wearing crocs or other smooth sold footwear.

And indeed I have slipped several times in the kitchen on water or oil, not slipped that I've fallen but suddenly felt my fet sliding unexpectedly and frightendly, no terrified, clutchd the air and righted myself, my mind already racing to my head banging hard against the tiles though it never happens...from whence this fear of uncontolled falling? And the dizzyness and sense of lack of balance that accompanies it? Low blood pressure? Possibly, but I somehow doubt that there is a solely physiological explanation. I think I feel unsteady in my life, unrooted to the earth, without a solid connection...

Is it emigration?
Is it Australia?
Is it middle age?
Is it lack of vitamin F14?
I feel like the juice is being sucked out of my brain

Having said that I once ran down nachal david or nachal arugot like a mountain goat, with a radio on my back...following my samal (seargeant) and leaping from rock to rock in a way I'd never imagined possible the possibility of flight does, or did, dwell in me. And at least i can still warm my hands around that thought.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Meeting Places and Journeys

Shye Ben Tzur -(his name means "Gift son of Boulder/Rock") is an Israeli Hebrew speaking Qawwali (Sufi) singer.

He was formerly part of the rock band Sword of Damocles. After attending a concert in Israel by the Indian classical musicians Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain, he became interested in Indian music, which brought him into contact with Qawwali.

He went to Ajmer in India (the site of the mausoleum of one of the greatest India Sufi saints, Moinuddin Chishti), and learnt Qawwali from qawwals there. In 2004, he performed at Jahan-e-Khusrau, the prestigious international Sufi music festival held in New Delhi in the spring annually since 2001.

After years of studying Indian classical music in the traditional manner, Shye had felt the urge to compose music using his own language. His debut album Heeyam (Supreme love), was recorded in India, Israel, and USA. It was released in 2003, and earned great applause. In Heeyam Shye has worked with traditional Sufi Qawwali singers, (Qawwali is a form of ecstatic Muslim devotional music) who have been learning his compositions and poetry, and sung them in Hebrew.

From his own life experience Ben-Tzur has injected bnew life into his own ancient culture and is creating a unique cross cultural body of work. Besides working with the Qawwal communities across India, in the past few years shye has been collaborating with different folk musicians from the Rajasthan desert. His first collection of poems Souls expressions was published in 1999 in Israel A new book with a collection of his poetry “Love poems of worship” is soon to be published in Israel. In present days Shye is concluding the recording of his second album titled “SHOSHAN” That is to be release with Earthsync on 2009.

You can listen to, and buy, his music here

He also has a presence on my space

And a journey of a different kind...Born Ellen Peters, Illana Skolnik, was raised as a Protestant in a “colored,” or mixed-race, family under apartheid. But more than 20 years ago she converted to Judaism and has been living in Israel ever since.

Read her Ruth like journey here