Saturday, January 31, 2015

Poems 2015

(What do you do)
when a famous person
whose fame, having reached the tipping point
has begun perpetuating itself
as a house hold reference point
uses their fame
their access to platforms
their brand
when someone is seeking an example:mother theresa
the dalai lama 
to make a group wrong
to judge harshly
rather than understand
to fling adjectives and opinions around
that are designed to inflame the passions
when they ask you to sell your family
betray your history
turn your back on that which formed you
ask you to sacrifice
that which they will not
to earn their praise and acceptance

when a person
lauded for their moral leadership
selectively witholds their empathy
and seems to see only bad in you
and only good in your enemies
cruel and implacable as they are
hardening entrenched positions
fuelling old hurts

does their moral stature slip a little


When I drive I scan the road repeatedly
for cyclists
people turning right from the wrong lane
attractive women with large breasts

Feeding the fire

feeding the fire
are words like "betrayal" "abused" "murdered"
"rejected" "abandoned"
water and balm are words like

Driven mad
perhaps by lies
or meaninglessness
and the mirage of connection
another child-man
takes out his toy pistol
and sprays his fellow citizens
with real bullets

At the funeral
we clutch onto
our prayer books and umbrellas
as if they were life itself

I passed
like a black horse in the night
lines of causality
shimmering in the air
perhaps not

when the mind
grows desperate
for something
or sweet
see how long
it can chew on
I don't know 

The Torah as Tao

The Torah is compard to water
which always flows
to the lowest point
from the highest point
and is best carried
in an empty vessell

like tatters in the wind
something feels so fragile
is it my words?

In the morning
when I open the gate
the hens
hungry to eat
rush out
over my foot
each one
as light
as a


The magical moment when it is seen that your chains are your wings

If everything you touch turns to sand how come you still have fingers?

at a particular
time and place
the mind and breath slow
to an easy pace
and the SatGuru
from the ground of space


There is plenty to do in the future
there was plenty that could have been done in the past
there is nothing to do
right now

Lean into the wind
don't stand by the door

Its 7 o Clock and here is the news

Its 7 o Clock and here is the news

Paw paw trees prefer mildly acidic(?) soil
your liver knows exactly what to do
a snail got away, one did not
the funeral will be held by ants
people got tangled up in thought
weeds and clouds
escaped unnoticed
toenails grew quietly in the night
Someone forgave herself 
Someone else put a chocolate under your pillow
the note read: "there is food in the fridge, I love you"
doctors sewed up
the hole in the heart
photographs of faces
shortly after death
reveale its not so bad


Ella went to the beach
paddled in the water
and leapt and danced in the sand
the wind came up
clouds gathered
she came home
and pranced around the yard
mouth open to catch the raindrops
when the thunder roared
she grew loud as well
frenetically running
through the house
much later
she fell asleep on the bed
and twitched and shuddered
in her sleep
I can only imagine
what dogs dream about

I value myself because I know how to receive as well as take
I am excessive in nothing including righteousness
I still recall how to be playful and imagine will do so til the moment the body drops
I practice reading the letters G-d writes me and letting go daily
I'm a sensual sensuous being who experiences the full gamut of human emotions
I folow my bliss and do not choke it with seemingly pragmatic considerations
I surge towards balance in all things
I am mindful that my heaviness does not betray my lightness
I take nothing for granted
I long for the redemption and liberation from the sadness of ephemerality of much name and form


Rabeynu shel olam
Hidden One of the world
in places that have never seen
an observant Jew walking with their lulav and etrog in hand
let there be many observant Jews
in places where there are only observant Jews let there be
free thinking Jews
Jewish heretics,
Jews who hang glide and eat sushi on Yom Kippur
Jewish plumbers and civil engineers
tradesman, fisherfolk, basketball players and
Professors of Japanese art
and best of all
let it not be an either or


a memory-picture:
my dad is working with a jigsaw
it has a strong die cast iron head
and a round blue motor housing
it lives in a red rectangular

metal box, the kind you don't see
any more
with yellow blades for wood
and blue blades for metal
we're building something together
probably a model railway layout
and at some point he lets me
have a go with the saw.

now rub out 
the backyard 
long gone
rub out
the model railway
rub out
the saw and its blue and yellow blades
rub out the metal box
rub out the South Africa of 1975

long gone
rub out my dad
interred in West Park cemetry

rub out eleven year old me
never to return

what remains of 
that then in this now?
that is not a thing

if you like
you can call it


Sydney is different today
even though most of the people here
neither know nor care
that Yom Kippur is approaching
the roads are emptier
the streets are quiter
the buildings more thoughtful
and pensive
a solemn joy
wells up from the manholes
the notion that there could ever be
such a thing as a mistake is revealed in its
hilarious absurdity
an August breeze blows
swaying trees and rearranging plastic bags and tired thoughts
sweeping away past and future
and these words


The heart’s slight sleight of hand
how it opens and shuts
without hardly moving, how
cattle lowing in a truck
become good economic data
how one person sees a terrified child
the other a future terrorist
one a grieving family
the other their familiar kept safe.

I have watched the bbc for years
cherry picking “the news” re Israel
you know when someone is out to get you
and you can do no right in their eyes
and you know how it is with groups
how its comfortable to say the things
that seem to make you acceptable
this is how it works in newsrooms and bars
where journalists hang out
they report for each other

The truth eludes
but these are some snapshots of me
trying to catch it by its disappearing tail
as it exits frame right
like a mythical good-luck dragon

Hanevicha shel Balak hakelev hameshotet


(repeat as many times as needed)

my heart is a very private thing
not like a bird on a bower I sing
but like a cricket in long grass
who halts his song when strangers pass


One 51 year old body, +/- 400 000kms
a drawer of socks
a bag of midnight regrets
one lawn complete with ants and dog droppings
a mortgage
some children
one wife

From my father, may peace be upon him:
a shellac 78rpm “Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Chili Peppers
and a 2-8-0 Rivarossi model steam locomotive

a swimming pool filled with gratitude.

one female dog
three female spinnifex hopping mice
some middle aged unrequited longings
a slowly stiffening routine
sixty white Lexipro next to the bed
because of the fear at dawn
an empty mezuza case
filled with the vastness of G-d

and whenever Life calls it to melt or enlarge
a heart quickly moved in its ribbed garage

Researchers have found
that water is wet
that sadness makes the bones heavy
that the mouth hole is connected to the arse hole
that a positive correlation between the proboscis and the sense of smell 

is possible and probable 
we now know that what we call meat is actually the striated muscle of ungulates
and that eating small amounts of chocolate will not significantly decrease your life span, unless done while laughing and snorkelling at the same time 
and this vast new wealth of knowledge is being prodded and poked by expert committees and working sub groups and advisory panels even as we speak
bringing us much closer to finding cures
for an ever expanding array of ailments that no one had heard of
50 years ago

When I thought I was an urn
I worried about the other urns
When I thought I was a wave
I worried about the sea
When I thought I was no thing
then no thing worried me

A good husband who can find him
for his price is above shares in banks or mining houses
he takes out the garbage, he loads the dishwasher
he cuts his toe nails, he puts down the seat
trims his nasal hairs, fixes more than he breaks
he unblocks the sink, does maths with the children,
he takes them to sport, and cooks up a storm
he leads the dog to green pastures and rinses her bowl
folds up the linen and puts it away
he handles his needs without bothering his wife
who contentedly snores at his side
his shoe cupboard declares his fancy footwork all his days
and in the evening obituaries quietly sing his praise


sometimes I let 
the Dog choose the path
The Spring is in Her
so let Spring find the way
Autumn will decide 
some other day.

Oh ego
mean and bitter
summitless hill
and yet I insist
on climbing you still

In stillness and darkness
in the mushroom shed of the mind
new poems sprout


It felt
like there was a war going on
I ducked my head low
to avoid the shouts, whistles
bombs and bullets
there was a bang and blinding flash
and then I could not see
I crawled on my belly
crawled and crawled
my eyes tightly shut
til I seemed to enter
some kind of tunnel
I crawled on further
til the explosions and shouting
were only a vague rumble in the distance
then I lay there in the quiet.
panting, not moving,
my fingers stroking the earth beneath them
so glad to be
after what seemed like ages, when my breathing had
stilled, I raised my head, it bumped
against something.
I tried to move my foot but it
struck some sort of barrier
I tried the other leg -
something held it fast
I dared to open my eyes a little
gradually my sight returned
and I was able to glance around.
I was in a suburban house
in a Sydney suburb
with a mortgage disappearing into the future
and a sell by date
stamped on my forehead
receding into the past.


My mother laid me at the foot of the fence
on my back, quiet and wrinkled,
and as if in a well, I gazed from below
'til she fled as one flees from a blow
and I gazed up at her, as from if in a well
and the moon like a candle raised high.

But that very same night
at the appointd hour
I returned to my mother's house
like a ball rolling back
to one who kicked it away
I return to her house
like a ball rolling back
caressing her neck
with hands of shade

Before the Almighty,
from her throat she tore me
as if I were some kind of leech
but when night came down
I returned as before
and this has become our pact:
as before, at night-fall, I return
and she bows to my whip lash 

The doors of her dream are wide open to me
and no one is there but I
for the love of our souls is still taught
like a bow, from the day I was born
because the love of our souls remains taught
and can never be given or taken away

Thus 'til the end, God has not moved me
from my mother’s groaning heart
and I - who was severed without being weaned
will not be parted or moved
and I - who was severed without being weaned
enter her house and lock the gate

She aged in my jail and grew barren and shrank
and her face grew folds like my own
then I dressed her in white with my tiny hands
like a mother dresses her babe
then I dressed her in white with my tiny hands
and carried her off without saying to where

I placed her at the foot of the fence.
gazing quietly on her back
and she looked at me, laughing, as from if in a well
and we knew our battle was done
and she laughing, looked up
as from if in a well
and the moon like a candle raised high

Natan Alterman ( 1910-1970)
Translated by Immanuel Suttner
Natan Alterman was one of Israel's greatest modernist poets, and renowned for his metrical virtuosity. The above translation is of one of his poems that is very difficult to translate and yet preserve the original prosody and rhyme scheme: Note the poem is written in atbash format - that is the first verse (verse "aleph") parallels the last verse (verse "taf"), the second verse (verse "bet") parallels the penultimate verse ( verse "shin") and so on....with the middle verse acting as a bridge between the two parallel sections. Here is the first verse transliterated so that the English reader can get a sense of the original:

Hanichatni imi leraglay hagadayr
kmut panim veshokayt, al hagav
va’abit ba milmatah, kemo min habe’ayr
ad noosah kehanas min hakerav
va’abit bah milmatah, kemo min habe’ayr
veyarrayach alaynu huram kemo nayr


I never did anything good or bad
it was the desire for applause
that made me swell
and the fear of ending
that made me shrink
hoping death would not find
my hiding place

it was the cells, the moon
the stars, the knife,
the wind, the tides, the rain
I watched them roar and flicker
convinced that it was me


Swing low, sweet chariot

When I died
I found myself
in a sort of no man's land
brown and bare,
festooned with litter,
dried human turds
and rusty razor wire.

In the distance
the gates of heaven
so near and yet so far.
Too tired and heavy to move I lay
looking up at the darkening sky
when like the door of a nagmash
the gates fell down
and out poured the righteous
of every faith and time.
They unfurled a stretcher
and gently lifted me up

no one gets left behind
* Kafhakelah – Hebrew – in betwixt and in between, neither here nor there, in Kabbalah a soul that wonders between olamhazeh and olamhabah
* APC - armoured personnel carrier

We stopped after dark at a red traffic light
the most beautiful red I had ever seen
Such love I felt, I could have lingered forever
and was utterly bereft when it winked and turned green


The night sky
is a big black plastic
garbage bag
into which some yawning
galactic worker
at the end of their shift
(having spotted it on the floor)
has carelessly chucked the earth

and in the places
where a child
of the universe
has punched holes
with an interstellar
bic pen
little stabs of light
seep in

on one side
a large gash
perhaps from overuse
they tape up the hole but
each month
it slowly falls apart
revealing seas
and a kindly face
and in the morning a different worker
blinking and rubbing her eyes
rolls up the bag
and stuffs it behind the sun

ready for the night shift
to use again

Very occasionally
when hunger overwhelms shame
I duck out of the rest of my life
into a faded stale smelling
temple of forgetfulness
to find some relief
before going back
to the ones I love

Once two women
offered their bodies
for a certain amount
(plus 10% on amex)
one was from Thailand, the other from Taiwan
the Thai ineffectually rubbed my feet
but I felt too sorry for her to murmur anything but
how wonderful it was
the Taiwanese woman was more effective
her English better, her act generally slicker
when I turned over from stomach to back she took charge
I discovered a strange bony protrusion just above her coccyx
she said other clients had also commented upon it
and stopped for a moment to examine herself
and felt the area above the buttocks
of the Thai woman to compare,
then continued on me, wanting it over with,
but I asked her to wait a while longer
now sorry I'd paid the Thai to come along as she was
really rather absent as was I
popping in and out of an irksome disembodiedness,
as my body responded in its habitual arc

the Taiwanese whispered expletives in my ear and
I was like a faithful actor
determined to support us to play our roles
but also wanting my money's worth,
these moments of hoped-for bliss being rare.
I asked the Siamese to hold me from behind
so that I and the other woman could be more together
(you see how men really are monagamous)  
and they held me, and I held her,
and she whispered crude words perhaps some clients had liked
and I said I don't want fuck I want love
which is true

When I was done
and our humanity rushed back in
I thanked them and bowed,
bhuddha on the massage table
too vigilant not to blow the whistle
on my mr sensitive
but the melancholy I felt
was genuine enough
for them
and me
and all creation
so far away from home


There is a place 
called Lake Sadness
I do not visit often
and so it comes

to visit me


my heart is a very private thing
not like a bird on a bower I sing
but like a cricket in long grass
who halts his song when strangers pass

Lake Sadness:
I dive into its silky depths
roll down my windows
to let the inky darkness in
I sink down and down and down
until it is so everywhere
It might as well be Joy

if you can hop and skip associatively
then my friend, you are living poetry


The night sky
is a big black plastic garbage bag
into which some yawning galactic worker
having spotted it on the floor at the end of their shift
has carelesly chucked
the earth

and in the places
where a child of the universe
has punched holes
with an interstellar
bic pen
little stabs of light
seep in

on the other side
perhaps from overuse,
is a large gash some call the moon
they tape up the hole but each month
it slowly falls apart

and in the morning a different worker
blinking and rubbing her eyes
rolls up the bag
stuffs it behind the sun

ready for the night shift
to use again

Please G-d
allow me to take out the rubbish
to go to the toilet unaided
to feed the animals
to sweep the path
to wash the dishes
to sort out my daughter's uniform
to make a meal
to walk to where people gather
to plant spring flowers
to hang up loads of washing
if You will grant me this
I faithfully promise 
to rejoice in every moment

there is sight
here is seeing
there is doing
here is being

Zoreach kochav meyal
zoreyach kochav bifnim
lo nanuach velo nishkot
ad she yitmazgu
panim el panim

mishnayos for the poor
kabbalah for the rich
if you aint got much money
life is a bitch
once I had opinions
once I knew whats right
now I don't get involved
in anyones fight
give me bread so I may turn
with every fibre of my being
to look beyond what comes and goes
and waken from the dream

Shabbat is the sun
around which the days of the week orbit
and in stillness and the blinding light
all doing is born


Re agriculture and human hubris:
G-d produces
people manipulate

even the story
that I seek refuge
from the here and now
in abstractions
is just an idea

I like to hang out every now and then
with words

I suppose (somewhat reluctantly)
that if pleasure and pleasantness do not take you there
then pain will
Ray Perkel Depend on it. Therefore, you're safe.


"If there is no flour, there is no poetry
and if there is no poetry, there is no flour"
Pirkei Immanuel 

·  Ray Perkel May you be blessed with flour and poetry in abundance all your days.

Immanuel Suttner amayn amayn, kayn yehee ratzon

Don't worry
if you don't say it
someone else will

Dont wait...have your future right now!


SOD ( "secret")

As far as the ear can hear
as far as the eye can see
objects: hand, bird; litter; sensations: pleasure; pain
and every single one
a signpost back to me



After the “dehhhh”
the silence
that was there before bereishit

bereishit – the beginning, the beginning of creation

I have this degenerative disease
that is very slowly
robbing me of my mobility
so that by the time I am dead
I will not be able to walk


I am at a party
with Ramana and Osho, Kabir and Rumi
the Baal Shem Tov and Dod Zvi
St Francis, Katie Byron, Rav Kook,
and Gangaji

we link hands, dance the hora
left righ-yet
left riot
faster we spin ‘til
our feet leave the floor
Osho’s beard flies
like a comet on the wind
Rumi is like
a sweet breeze at my side
Nisarghadattha tells me
it’ll be ok
the fruit will ripen
any day

on the edges the waiters
gaze wistfully
then fall into the dance
of eternity
Verbringen – Yiddish/German – to spend time in each other’s company
dod = uncle or cousin (Hebrew)

Jewishness as a wound
Jewishness as a vocation
Jewishness as a blemish
Jewishness as over compensation

Jewishness as a fashion statement
Jewishness as a  trumpet
Jewishness as a non-event
Jewishness as a status symbol
Jewishness as a quiet unassuming presence
Jewishness as a bridge or a fence

Jewishness as a non-event
Jewishness as a bridge or a fence
Jewishness as status symbol
Jewishness as  a quiet presence


I have tinnitus of the legs