“Solitude glanced at me with its two eyes of a gazelle. . .” (Yousef Abdul-Aziz)

bird is not stoneThe tattoo ringing my right forearm spells out the Latin words

Quemadmodum desiderat cervus ad fontes aquarum

They constitute the first phrase of Psalm 42,

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? (KJV)

Three months ago I wrote about this tattoo. I don’t need to explain it again, but for several days I have needed to write about solitude—loneliness—isolation again because mine has again become unbearable (this, too, shall pass). I am mystified to note that often when I am feeling most alone, I am drawn to Psalm 42. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.”

Why those words come to mind when I am feeling most alone I am not sure (perhaps because of the hauntingly beautiful musical setting by Herbert Howells—about which I have also written recently). I would not say that my soul “panteth” after God. I frankly don’t know—my self-understanding for some time is that I am no longer interested in searching for God.

When I took on the tattoo, I remarked to Joe the artist that we would know how skilled he is by whether or not the eyes of the Palestinian gazelle accompanying the Psalmist’s words seem to be looking at anyone who sees them. I think he did.
DSC01748-001
As I explained in December, I make a connection in my mind between the “hart” and the gazelle that I had the gift of seeing in Palestine in August of 2008—a gift because they are so rare, so endangered that few tourists ever see them wild in the hills of The Galilee where they are native. The “hart” the psalmist knew was likely a Palestinian gazelle.

If anyone had asked me 15 or 20 years ago (or perhaps 5) if I was prepared to be alone, that is, to live alone exist alone sleep alone dine alone play alone, I would have said absolutely not. I had no intention of being alone. Solitude in the desert for a week or two at a time or on the beach at port Orford, Oregon. But not as the condition of my life.

Often on TV A real-estate company’s ad plays about finding the right house to buy. It ends with the sentence, “You are not just buying house. You are looking for the place for your life to happen.”

Somehow my apartment does not feel like the place where my life is happening. I’m not sure where I might be that would seem like that place, but it is not here. If this is where my life is happening, then I must not be one of those Homo sapiens the Nature program on PBS often indicates descended from the same ancestor gorillas came from. I do not seem to be a social creature.

Of course that’s not true. I have many friends and spend a great deal of my time with other Homo sapiens—today I will be with university student athletes for five hours, and I will be with a bank teller, a member of Best Buy’s Geek Squad, and a check-out clerk at Kroger. It is, however, likely that I will not spend any time with another person simply in order to be with them, and I will most likely not touch another person all day.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself (not intentionally, at any rate). I am contemplating the reality of my “social” existence.

I recently came across a poem by the Palestinian poet Yousef Abdul-Aziz titled “The book of doubt.” Its opening image startled me.

Tonight
I stumbled across Solitude in my house.
Not only wearing my best shirt
and drinking my coffee. . .

I thought, “Abdul-Aziz has written a poem for me.” The poem startled me because it is from the volume A Bird Is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry (Glasgow: Freight Books, 2014). Most of the work in the book is clearly about the political/social situation of the Palestinian people.

Abdul-Aziz’s poem does not seem to be. It seems to be personal. And its metaphor seems to be a metaphor for my own situation. Maya Abu Al-Hayyat writes in the introduction to the anthology,

We notice that most of the poetry particular to this generation [of Palestinians after the Oslo agreement] [is] very vague. They [use] words like “mirrors, shadows, absence, presence,” words that revealed the process of discovery and transformation from one state to another. They [deal] with viewing things in a different way, exactly parallel to the political situation. . .

Palestinian poetry became personally questioning about the poets’ place in the political realities rather than, for the most part, politically activist. The Palestinian people are living in a period of promise but uncertainty, and most of the poetry in the anthology reflects this communal uncertainty. (Of course, the situation has changed again in the short time since this poetry was written to one of the all-too-certain possibility of the destruction of Palestinian society.)

Here in the company of poetry about the enormous struggle of an entire people is a poem so personal as to be startling. And it uses one of my favorite images—one of which I am fond enough to have had it tattooed on my forearm—as a metaphor for solitude.

Perhaps I need to rethink my solitary life.

Living in a situation of political and social impossibility so different from mine that I can scarcely comprehend it is a man—a person—whose experience of being alone seems to correspond to mine. A man, a person, not a Terrorist, not a Militant, not an Arab, not a Muslim, not a Palestinian, but a person. A person with whom I feel together as we both struggle with being alone.

“THE BOOK OF DOUBT,” BY JOUSEF ABDUL-AZIZ
Tonight
I stumbled across Solitude in my house.
Not only wearing my best shirt
and drinking my coffee
but also smoking my tobacco
it was thrashing about the pages
of what looked like my manuscript.
It sat in my chair like a queen
and from its hands
rose an enchanted fog. . .

Still cloaked in my dreams I stood close by
trembling like a branch of the night
raining down bitter
questions:
What is woman?
In which storm
may my heart play?
Where did I bury the fire?!

As though I were a ring on its finger
it didn’t give me much thought.
Unfazed by my stiff shadow at the door
Solitude went on
with a sneer
scrambling pages
tearing them out of the manuscript.
I saw myself cast out to blind lands
and I hollered;
I saw before me a sphere of water
rising up in the wind
and above, a cracked moon,
and slain butterflies
strewn around me.

I’m sure
you will wrap up this farce! I yelled.
Solitude glanced at me with its two eyes of a gazelle—
my own eyes.
And it handed me
the book of doubt—it was my own book.

— Translated by Juana Acock
— From A BIRD IS NOT A STONE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY PALESTINIAN POETRY (Glasgow: Freight Books, 2014) –available from Amazon.com.
— Yousef Abdul-Aziz was born in Jerusalem and studied in Amman and Beirut. He is a teacher, a committee member of the online journal Awraq, and recipient of literary awards, including the (Jordanian) Arar prize.

The Sea of Galilee (Photo by Harold Knight, August 2008)

The Sea of Galilee (Photo by Harold Knight, August 2008)

“. . . They sip at their longing for God. . .” (Samih Mohsen)

Like mother like son

Like mother like son

I bought an iPad about three years ago. I’m not exactly sure why, except that the (more than) friend I was hanging with had one, and it looked so convenient and fun. I discovered it will do almost everything I ever want to do on my computer.

The thing goes with me nearly everywhere these days. About all I do with it is check email and Google to find answers to questions (actually, it’s Safari, not Google) I want immediate answers to. Once in a while I take pictures. Probably the most time I spend on it—shall I admit this public?—is playing Sudoku. I’ve gotten so I can hardly sit and watch TV without playing Sudoku, and the iPad is much easier to see than my iPhone.

The most useful App I have is my Nook book app. All of the books I’ve bought for my Nook, I can read on the iPad. I haven’t picked up the Nook since I bought the iPad.

I hear women occasionally talk about how they have become their mothers (is there a famous book about that?), but I never hear men talk about how they have become their fathers. I have.

My father became interested in computers in the ‘80s when he was in his 70s. He owned one before I did. Now I’m in my 70s and trying desperately (hardly at all, in point of fact) to keep up with technology. I am my father. I am amazed at all of this stuff. My computer knowledge is stuck somewhere in about the ‘90s. I can’t do anything technological. I have a big flat-screen (not THAT big) “SMART” TV that I can’t watch movies on because I can’t figure out how to make it talk to my wireless modem.

And things go downhill from there.

All of the messages from one of my very closest friends (there are many of them) were ending up in the spam file in my email. I was checking the file for messages of his and dutifully moving them to my inbox when I noticed that the “spam” icon at the top of Outlook turns to “Not Spam” when I open the spam file. I clicked on it when I had one of his messages open, and voila! Problem solved.

I’ve been using the same Outlook email for 20 years.

You can extrapolate from that little example to the larger world of GPS and iTunes and. . . . to understand how limited my ability is.

My dad bought his first computer when he discovered he could have the pictures he and Mom took on their 50th anniversary trip to The Holy Lands in 1987 scanned and printed out on a computer. It was pretty crude and rudimentary back then, but it was possible. He had to have one.

I had no clue then.

But when I was part of a delegation of the Inter-Faith Peace Builders (Fellowship of Reconciliation) to Palestine/Israel in 2003, I bought a digital camera. I have hundreds of pictures. Unfortunately, they are on 3 ½ inch floppy disks, and I have no way to read them. But that began my love affair with digital pictures. I use my phone and my SONY camera to take zillions of pictures, as everyone else does.

Wonderfully strange that my father and I both learned about digital photography through trips to The Holy Lands.

There was one huge difference in our experience there, however. He went with a Baptist church group, and the only place they went in the West Bank was Bethlehem—even though the Apartheid Wall was only a gleam in Benjamin Netanyahu’s eye at that time.

My dad’s group could have wandered anywhere they wanted, but they went where all tourists went at that time (and still today). Mom and Dad never saw a Palestinian Refugee Camp or the ruins of a Palestinian village covered in pine trees planted by the Israelis to make the ruins disappear.

Somewhere I have a digital picture of my mother terrified and angry on a camel—she had no idea it was going to stand up suddenly once she got on. Of course, that was at the Great Pyramid in Egypt, but the same trip.

I have such a picture of myself taken on my second visit in 2008—except I was having the time of my life, and not solely because of the hunky young Palestinian man who owned the camel—riding in a little walled-in yard in Jericho.

The Baptists did not know the Al-Aqsa Mosque is on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem or that the Dead Sea was becoming a resort for Israelis which the Palestinians who live within walking distance are not allowed to share.

Etc.

The latest download on my iPad is Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory. Ahmad H. Sa’di and Lila Abu-Lughod, editors (Columbia University Press, 2007). It is a collection of essays about the Palestinian “Catastrophe” of 1948—the year those villages were plundered and the planting of camouflage trees began.

My father, having been two miles (or less) from a couple of those destroyed villages never knew the word “Nakba.” I know because I asked him.

My parents were a stone’s throw from Deir Yassin, one of the first villages to be depopulated by the citizens of the newly formed Israel, and he never saw it or heard of the massacre. (Some of the buildings are still there—used as a state-run Israeli mental hospital.)

I was hoping last week when I heard about it to find a Nook Book version of the book A Bird is not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Palestinian Poetry, edited by Henry Bell and Sarah Irving (Glasgow: Freight Books, 2014). Of course, there is no Nook version. But I ordered the paperback edition.

I’d suggest that you get it. That is, if you have any desire to know Palestinians as persons, as a nation, as a people loving and longing for life in their homeland.

“Lamentation,” by Samih Mohsen

At Manger Square, at midday,
The chairs outside the cafes
Are taken by Western tourists, in September
They sip at their longing for God
The streets teem with passers-by
And foreign languages
We tread on the shadow
Of an old man stretched out on the pavement
With his arm and a tattered shoe for a pillow
His mattress was a story. . .
We pass by his wounds without seeing
Beer tickles our bellies to laughter
And telling inane anecdotes
We try to release the child within us
We stand in Manger Square
And mimic the dance-steps of Zorba the Greek
We step
We laugh
We step into the ring of lamentation.
–translated by Henry King

Samih Mohsen was born in the village of Naqour in Nablus, Palestine (Occupid Territories) in 1953, and has published two collections of poetry, Exiting the Narrow Rooms and Kingdoms & Peril.

From a book review of A Bird is not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Palestinian Poetry in which this poem is published:
“It is poignant and grimly amusing to read of the Western tourists who ‘sip at their longing for God’ in Manger Square and ignore ‘an old man stretched out on the pavement’ (‘Lamentation’ by Samih Mohsen, trsl. Henry King). It is hard not to feel something of a tourist oneself when reading a book of poems like this written, as it were, from Emily Dickinson’s ‘great pain’. As Iain Crichton Smith wrote in his long essay about the Hebrides: ‘Real people in a real place'; the Palestinians are also real people in a real place. And the land itself which is the subject at the heart of most of these poems, guarding the bones of their relatives and ancestors, is sacred to them.” From the online magazine, “The Bottle Imp.”

“. . . Till Truth obeyed his call. . .” (W.B. Yeats)

andrea
In his poem “An acre of green grass,” William Butler Yeats wrote,

. . . Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call. . .

Why?

I’ve asked a question I cannot answer. It’s not—by the way—a “rhetorical question.” No such thing exists. In a formal argument, asking a question one can’t answer is simply disingenuous—or, perhaps, an unintentional display of one’s ignorance.

I learned about Blake’s poetry in high school English class—“Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,” “Little Lamb who made thee,” “And did those feet in ancient time,” and so on. I’ve read his work since then. I have a Dover reprint edition of Songs of Innocence. I’d say I know something of Blake. But neither a Google nor an EBSCO search has turned up a poem with anything about “beat[ing] upon the wall.”

While I have found several scholarly articles that treat Yeats’ poem, “An acre of green grass,” I have found none so far that explains the reference. I know the story of Timon of Athens, perhaps the strangest of Shakespeare’s plays, in which Timon curses the walls of Athens and eventually tries to arrange for them to be destroyed.

We all know King Lear’s wild old-man ravings out in the countryside in the rain. Michelangelo lived to be 89 (1475-1654), but I don’t understand Yeats’ reference to him.

Perhaps Yeats (1865-1939) was confused in his old age. He wrote the poem at 73, a year before he died, so he can be forgiven for confusing the plot of Timon with some poem of Blake’s, and not remembering Michelangelo quite correctly.

"Ancient of Days," by William Blake

“Ancient of Days,” by William Blake

Perhaps someone who is more scholarly than I, or at the very least has a better memory than I, can answer my non-rhetorical question, “Why?”

Last night a friend invited me to go with him to a show at the Eisman Center in Richardson, TX, titled “4 Girls 4.” The four “girls” were Andrea McArdle (51), Christine Andreas (63), Donna McKechnie (72), and Maureen McGovern (65)—Broadway singers all, and—I think most people would assume—past their prime all. Perhaps!

Andrea McArdle is no longer the little girl who sang “Tomorrow,” but her voice is rich and enchanting (she doesn’t have to belt it out any more). Christine Andreas belted out “I love Paris” in as fine a fashion as Edith Piaf or any other cabaret singer ever did. Stunning voice control even on high notes no one her age ought to be able to sing. Donna McKechnie re-auditioned for Chorus Line with a richness and style she could only hope for in 1975—she didn’t exactly “dance,” but she moved with grace and elegance. Maureen McGovern sang “Morning After,” and then she caught the audience off guard and astonished us with her unaccompanied, “Somewhere over the rainbow,” poignant and affecting.

I have to make that list to help myself remember the show (I’ve forgotten more than I know by a factor of at least 10), but also as a companion piece to the Yeats poem.

. . . myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call;

A mind Michael Angelo knew
That can pierce the clouds,
Or inspired by frenzy
Shake the dead in their shrouds;
Forgotten else by mankind,
An old man’s eagle mind.

“I must myself remake . . . forgotten, else by mankind, an old man’s eagle mind.” I—me, as differentiated from and not comparing myself with Yeats—have never had an eagle mind. Nor have I ever done anything approaching the art and entertainment of Donna McKechnie’s dancing. If I stood on the edge of the stage in a hushed auditorium with light only on me and sang “Somewhere over the rainbow” (or anything else), the audience would be embarrassed at my lack of ability and disbelieving at my temerity.

But I am learning to remake myself, an old man’s mind—probably not as sharp as an eagle’s.

This week I recounted in more detail than I ever have in one sitting the five most painful moments of my life. That I can name specifically the most painful moments of my life indicates I’ve never freed myself of them—forgiven myself for them.

I’ve begun working with a gerontological psychologist. (How’s that for special?)

I’m having—as I should think anyone who has any self-awareness does—some trouble thinking of and accepting myself as being 70 years old. This is one the most difficult realities we have to face. Even at 60 it is impossible to imagine how it feels to be 70.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, average life expectancy in the US is now 78.8 years. I have 8.4 or so years left.

Here’s the deal. I have 8.4 years left to do all of those things I’ve been planning to do all my life—write the Great American Novel, see the Emperor Penguins in Antarctica, learn to make my bed every morning, lose 20 pounds. All of those things. “Grant me,” Yeats says, “an old man’s frenzy, Myself must I remake.”

Not possible. I am what I am. I’m not going to remake myself (perhaps get another tattoo).

It’s OK. It’s enough. I can tutor college football players. I can devote more time to explaining what I know about Palestinian poetry. I can play the organ. The stuff I’ve been doing that has satisfied me all along.

I don’t have to know “why” Yeats said Blake beat upon the wall. I didn’t know two weeks ago, and I don’t know today. I do, however, know the notes for the Bach Prelude and Fugue in G Major, and who the poet Sami Muhanna is. That’s enough.

And I can come to peace with those five distressing moments and disallow their power over me for the next 8.4 years.

“An Acre of Green Grass,” by William Butler Yeats

PICTURE and book remain,
An acre of green grass
For air and exercise,
Now strength of body goes;
Midnight, an old house
Where nothing stirs but a mouse.

My temptation is quiet.
Here at life’s end
Neither loose imagination,
Nor the mill of the mind
Consuming its rag and bone,
Can make the truth known.

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call;

A mind Michael Angelo knew
That can pierce the clouds,
Or inspired by frenzy
Shake the dead in their shrouds;
Forgotten else by mankind,
An old man’s eagle mind.

Time to see them yet.

Time to see them yet.

“. . . any recent attempts on your part To save our fellow-citizens from themselves. . .” (Carl Dennis). An open letter to my friends—all 47 of you.

The Sea of Galilee in the Occupied Territories of Palestine

The Sea of Galilee in the Occupied Territories of Palestine

Dear Friends,
If you’re anything like me—social scientists say anyone who knows me in the flesh and I are apt to be pretty much alike—

. . . Homophily—the tendency for similar individuals to associate with one another—is a widespread and well-documented social phenomenon. . . individuals who are similar with regard to race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion, education, occupation, social class, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs are more likely to associate with one another than would be expected by chance. . . . (Curry, Oliver, and Robin Dunbar. “Do Birds Of A Feather Flock Together?” Human Nature 24.3 (2013): 336-347.)

Homophily. If you know me F2F, we have that going on, and if you’re reading this, we could. We have in common the level of education and class that allows us the belief that the Internet is a way to communicate. I would hope individuals whose “race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion, education, [etc.]” are different from mine are reading this, but I doubt it.

You are almost certainly white, more-or-less middle-aged, more-or-less middle class, educated, kind, generous, and sensitive. You hate murder and killing (even if you—unlike most of my friends—like guns).

One of my doctors told me yesterday I have a way of putting people at ease, a charming if off-the-wall sense of humor. She said she’d bet most people who meet me like me. Our conversation centered on the amount of Prozac I might be required to take every day. I want to get “by” not “high.”

The truth is, I want much more than getting by.

I think I can say this to almost anyone reading this: It’s time for us to get off our comfortable keisters and do something to make the world a better place. Getting by is not enough.

In 2008 I had the privilege of meeting a remarkable woman who has had the courage and determination to make a difference for the better in the unbelievably difficult situation into which she was thrust in at the age of 15, and in which she has lived since then. We had an online connection and friendship well before we were able to meet in person, and we have remained friends since then. That amazes me, and that she counts me as a friend humbles me.

Hope, at the Church of the Heptagon on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, Occupied Territories of Palestine

Hope, at the Church of the Heptagon on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, Occupied Territories of Palestine

In 1948 Samia became a citizen of a nation that does not yet exist, a prisoner in her own land, a “freedom fighter,” an advocate for the right of her people to determine for themselves not only the government under which they live, but the future existence of their culture for her children’s children.

From April 18, 1775, to September 3, 1783, terrorists shot canons and muskets and set booby traps to terrorize the nice British soldiers in places like Massachusetts who wanted only to occupy and own 13 little countries along the Atlantic coast of North America. The British soldiers were protecting the privileges of the most modern democracy in Europe. Ultimately, the owners of the land were the King and Parliament of Britain. Taxes and other privileges of governance belonged to them. That included lining the coffers of the religious establishment of Britain, the Church of England. Colonists were allowed to practice their own religion, but they all paid taxes for the support of the Church of England.
We know how the eight years of terrorism turned out. The terrorists won, and the forced support of the King, the Parliament, and the Church of England ended.

A few days ago a friend sent me an email. He is younger than middle-age, (at least) middle-class, highly educated and way above average in intelligence. I think the world of him. He’s one of those younger people an old geezer like me counts on to carry on the highest ideals of our society. He’s probably surprised at the depth of my fondness for him. His email said, in part,

. . . [the “Holy Land”] is full of total assholes. Of course there are more than a few Palestinians who think like terrorists and regret only that their rockets aren’t enough to reduce Jerusalem to a smoldering rubble full of bodies. Of course there are Israelis who have long since forgotten the humanity of their neighbors, who arrived as a stateless nation and then callously created a stateless nation of men, women, and children who deserve self-determination and an international media that is not determined to choose sides. I trust you are much more educated about all this than I am. Animosity is a powerful thing, though, more powerful than media coverage, and I regret to say that there is probably no new perspective that will make the Holy Land a place of peace.

Above I gave a real historical example of the accomplishments of a bunch of terrorists. Here’s a make-believe example. Suppose the United Nations, urged on by the United States, declared that Mexico—because it had the first claim on Texas—would be given a swath of Texas from the Rio Grande up to and including Dallas. The Mexican army moved into Dallas, declared the people of Mexican descent and the “illegal” alien Mexicans who were already here to be the rightful owners of everything from the Myerson to the Frito Lay headquarters and all of Dallas County. They began pillaging everything in sight, ripping off the economy, not letting those of us who thought we owned property here vote, and, in fact, throwing us out of our homes—especially the ones in Southlake, University Park, and Preston Hollow—and took over the entire downtown and Galleria areas.

Would you and I, the rightful owners and residents of Dallas, be justified in fighting back? If we did, would we be terrorists who want “to reduce Dallas to a smoldering rubble full of bodies?” What recourse would we have, especially if the United States was giving the Mexican government $3,000,000,000 a year to keep us in our places?

Terrorists?
Freedom fighters?
Patriots?
Exactly what would you call us?
I’d like to hear your thoughts.

The best to you,
Harold

“Thanksgiving Letter from Harry,” Carl Dennis, 1939

I guess I have to begin by admitting
I’m thankful today I don’t reside in a country
My country has chosen to liberate,
That Bridgeport’s my home, not Baghdad.
Thankful my chances are good, when I leave
For the Super Duper, that I’ll be returning.
And I’m thankful my TV set is still broken.
No point in wasting energy feeling shame
For the havoc inflicted on others in my name
When I need all the strength I can muster
To teach my eighth-grade class in the low-rent district.
There, at least, I don’t feel powerless.
There my choices can make some difference.

This month I’d like to believe I’ve widened
My students’ choice of vocation, though the odds
My history lessons on working the land
Will inspire any of them to farm
Are almost as small as the odds
One will become a monk or nun
Trained in the Buddhist practice
We studied last month in the unit on India.
The point is to get them suspecting the world
They know firsthand isn’t the only world.

As for the calling of soldier, if it comes up in class,
It’s not because I feel obliged to include it,
As you, as a writer, may feel obliged.
A student may happen to introduce it,
As a girl did yesterday when she read her essay
About her older brother, Ramon,
Listed as “missing in action” three years ago,
And about her dad, who won’t agree with her mom
And the social worker on how small the odds are
That Ramon’s alive, a prisoner in the mountains.

I didn’t allow the discussion that followed
More time than I allowed for the other essays.
And I wouldn’t take sides: not with the group
That thought the father, having grieved enough,
Ought to move on to the life still left him;
Not with the group that was glad he hadn’t made do
With the next-to-nothing the world’s provided,
That instead he’s invested his trust in a story
That saves the world from shameful failure.

Let me know of any recent attempts on your part
To save our fellow-citizens from themselves.
In the meantime, if you want to borrow Ramon
For a narrative of your own, remember that any scene
Where he appears under guard in a mountain village
Should be confined to the realm of longing. There
His captors may leave him when they move on.
There his wounds may be healed,
His health restored. A total recovery
Except for a lingering fog of forgetfulness
A father dreams he can burn away.

Carl Dennis describes the writing of this poem.

Garden,  Church of the Loaves and Fishes, Sea of Galilee, Occupied Territories, Palestine

Garden, Church of the Loaves and Fishes, Sea of Galilee, Occupied Territories, Palestine

“Industrious and persistent, they’ve managed to weave. . .” (Jason Vest)

A little before 2000

A little before 2000

I remember – do you remember yours? – the first email I ever received and replied to. Magic. Jerry had moved to Dallas to work at (then) Convex Computers (now HP). I was a tenured professor at Bunker Hill Community College. Industry and academia had Internet (1993), but no one else did. Jerry sent me an email to the computer of the Chairman of Office Services.

She came to my office to get me in great excitement (she hadn’t seen an email from that far away), and I was dumbfounded.

“Answer him!” And so I wrote some dumb thing back, and a few minutes later he answered me. And so began my communication on the WWW.

Soon everyone I knew had email, and when I moved to Dallas, that was the way I (and everyone else) kept in touch with my friends. By the year 2000, it was as ubiquitous as if it had been around for centuries.

I mention that year because we had a Presidential election. No one will be surprised to know that I was using the email to let everyone I knew understand how opposed I was to George W. Bush. One of the things I discovered on the Internet was a document called the “Project for a New American Century.”

When I copied parts of it into an email to several friends, the pooh-poohed it and said it was too old to have any effect on current affairs.

I hope you will read the following two documents and decide if it has no effect on our political life since then. One is current, and the other a background to it.

Wallwritings
BIBI AND 47 SENATORS STRIKE DARK DISCORDANT NOTE
by James M. Wall
March 14, 2015

A week before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s March 3 campaign speech to the U.S. Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry warned the Congress that the Israeli leader was up to his old tricks.

Not only did the Israeli leader shamefully interfere in delicate U.S. foreign negotiations, he also inspired an embarrassing ill-informed letter from 47 senators to “Iranian leaders”, designed to undermine President Obama’s negotiations with Iran.

With the encouragement of AIPAC, the letter was circulated by newly-elected Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, shown above on the left standing with Bill Kristol, an important figure in the neocon drive to support President Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, now considered one of the nation’s major foreign policy disasters.

Unfazed by the Iraqi debacle, Kristol remains a zealot for U.S. militarism. He now has a new protege with whom he can swing his weight around the halls of Congress. With a massive financial push from Kristol late in the 2014 campaign, Cotton won an upset victory over Arkansas’ Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Pryor.

(More. . .)

This article appeared in the September 2, 2002 edition of The Nation.
THE MEN FROM JINSA and CSP
Jason Vest
August 15, 2002

Almost thirty years ago, a prominent group of neoconservative hawks found an effective vehicle for advocating their views via the Committee on the Present Danger, a group that fervently believed the United States was a hair away from being militarily surpassed by the Soviet Union, and whose raison d’être was strident advocacy of bigger military budgets, near-fanatical opposition to any form of arms control and zealous championing of a Likudnik Israel. Considered a marginal group in its nascent days during the Carter Administration, with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 CPD went from the margins to the center of power.

Just as the right-wing defense intellectuals made CPD a cornerstone of a shadow defense establishment during the Carter Administration, so, too, did the right during the Clinton years, in part through two organizations: the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Center for Security Policy (CSP). And just as was the case two decades ago, dozens of their members have ascended to powerful government posts, [Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Jeane Kirkpatrick] where their advocacy in support of the same agenda continues, abetted by the out-of-government adjuncts from which they came. Industrious and persistent, they’ve managed to weave a number of issues–support for national missile defense, opposition to arms control treaties, championing of wasteful weapons systems, arms aid to Turkey and American unilateralism in general–into a hard line, with support for the Israeli right at its core.

On no issue is the JINSA/CSP hard line more evident than in its relentless campaign for war–not just with Iraq, but “total war,” as Michael Ledeen, one of the most influential JINSAns in Washington, put it last year. For this crew, “regime change” by any means necessary in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority is an urgent imperative. (More. . .)

“. . . the land comes near me in my dream. . .” (Rashid Hussein)

The Desert of the West Bank, near Jericho, in Palestine; photo by Harold Knight, Summer, 2008.

The Desert of the West Bank, near Jericho, in Palestine; photo by Harold Knight, Summer, 2008.

I have chosen the poem by the Palestinian Poet Rashid Hussein (1936-1977) to introduce my new blog that is about the land of Palestine and the people who live inextricably in relationship with the land. The blog:
photo(1)-002Palestine InSight (we have Palestine in sight, and we hope to gain insight about Palestine) is at
https://palestineinsight.wordpress.com/

Besides posting (mostly) news and opinions from well-established websites, I include poems by Palestinian poets and poets of Palestinian heritage. I have been collecting this poetry for about a year, and I think this is a perfect way to share the works with others.

I am also collecting an ever-expanding bibliography of websites of organizations both secular and religious, news sites, opinion sites, and blogs to make finding resources for Palestinian study unproblematic.

I hope you will follow Palestine InSight and, if you know sources or articles I should include, let me know.

“With the Land,” by Rashid Hussein

The land comes near me
drinks from me
leaves its orchards with me
to become a beautiful weapon
defending me

Even when I sleep
the land comes near me
in my dream.
I smuggle its wild thyme
between exiles
I sing its stones
I will even sweat blood
from my veins
to drink its news
so the land comes near me
leaves a stone of love with me
to defend it
and defend me

When I repay it
I will embrace it a thousand times
I will worship it a thousand times
I will celebrate its wedding on my forehead
on the rubble of exiles
and the ruins of prisons

I will drink from it
It will drink from me
So that the Galilee would remain
beauty, struggle, and love
defending it
defending me

I see the land;
a morning that will come
and the land will come near me

Rashid Hussein (1936-1977) was born in Musmus, Palestine. He published his first collection in 1957 and established himself as a major Palestinian poet and orator. He participated in founding the Land Movement in 1959. He left in 1966 and lived in Syria and Lebanon and later in New York City where he died in February, 1977. He was buried a week later in Musmus. His funeral was attended by thousands of Palestinians.
Rashid Hussein

“. . . the ordinary man as he always was. . .” (Fadwa Tuqan)

Nancy's Moulin Rouge

Nancy’s Moulin Rouge

When I get old like Nancy Birtwhistle, I want to do something like build/bake the most spectacular cake in the country.

[The 60-year-old grandmother] was branded the ‘queen of consistency’ by judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in The Great British Bake Off final last week.

The “last week” in the Daily Mail was October 12, 2014. But I’ll bet not ten Americans who were hooked on the BBC/PBS show spoiled the excitement by looking up the result of the contest online before this past Sunday evening when the grand finale played on PBS. Who’d want to ruin a bit of genuine fun and real-life mystery-drama?

I need some advice on how to be retired. Yesterday I arrived at the Athletic Development of Student Athletes center at 9 AM for my regular three hours of tutoring. Then a quick trip to the fitness center for a short workout and 50 minutes of walking in the therapy pool, then back to the ADSA for two more hours of tutoring. Stop by the grocery store. Then home.

Fadwa Tuqan

Fadwa Tuqan

In the evening I spent an hour reading the book one of the students I tutor is reading for his class, and then about two hours researching Palestinian poets. That’s not true. I became fascinated by the life and work of Fadwa Tuqan, 20th-century Palestinian poet, and spent a good deal of the evening researching in university library databases for references to her—and I ordered her autobiography translated by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Today my schedule is easier—9:30 appointment with therapist, 11:00 extra tutoring session for student who has a monstrous essay due, 12:15 workout at fitness center, 2:00 meeting of GED faculty at the Aberg Center for Literacy (six blocks from fitness center), 3:00 meet with dietician back at fitness center, 7:00 twelve-step meeting and weekly dinner after.

It’s pretty obvious why I want to get old like Nancy Birtwhistle and have nothing to do but build cakes that look like the Moulin Rouge. I need some time to myself. That’s because I’m an introvert. It has nothing to do with old age. I was ever thus.

No, really. I always have trouble convincing my friends that’s true. I’m so gabby and so at ease with people and so unafraid to perform, to teach a class, to lead a choir, to. . . – you name it.

About the only upside to being as busy as I was yesterday and will be today is that I wasn’t and won’t be sitting at home alone and lonely, and feeling sorry for myself. OK. Stop. That’s not what depression is. It’s not being lonely and feeling sorry for myself. It’s this nameless, formless Thing waiting to overtake me whenever I make myself physically comfortable on my sofa or stand at the kitchen sink doing dishes or drive to the fitness center or go to a party or participate in a meeting of the GED faculty at the Aberg Center for Literacy.

The good news is that the older I get, the kinder I am to myself for this schizoid life. (Note: I did not use “schizophrenic” or any other pathological word.

Schizo-
word-forming element meaning “division; split, cleavage,” from Latinized form of Greek skhizo- comb. form of skhizein “to split, cleave, part, separate,” (Online Etymology Dictionary).

Division. Split. Cleavage. That’s what I have in my brain. There’s this guy who can go out and work with a university football player who—I think by most people’s standards—is physically pretty intimidating and have an easy-going but professional relationship with him. I can go to a meeting of a bunch of volunteer teachers and participate even though my throat gets dry and I have to hold onto the table every time I speak.

But submit myself to going to a party with a bunch of strangers (or even a bunch of people I know)? Not if I can help it. Carl Jung theorized that

The introvert’s attitude is an abstracting one; at bottom he is always intent on withdrawing libido from the object, as though he had to prevent the object from gaining power over him (quoted in Blandin, Kesstan. “Temperament And Typology.” Journal Of Analytical Psychology 58.1 (2013): 118-136).

“Libido,” as I understand it, is the unconscious part of the psyche that’s the source of instinctive satisfaction and pleasure. Of course, the most obvious instinct is sexual pleasure, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about that part of a person’s unconscious that attaches itself to other people and situation—unless, of course, for some reason, a person doesn’t want anything or anyone to gain power over them.

Well, how’s that for psychobabble? All I mean is that I like people, I love people, I fall desperately in love with people, but I don’t want them to have any power over me. The best way to prevent that is simply to avoid them—and to be sure to have enough time alone to recover after a bunch of people sap my energy.

I used to think that if I lived to be 70 years old, I’d be over this or at least have figured how to live with myself in spite of introversion. I didn’t say I’m not happy. Those parts of me that don’t need Lamictal every day are pretty happy—go-lucky, in fact. I know how to have as much fun as Nancy Birtwhistle—but not on TV, not with the whole world watching.

I think most of us are introverts. Some of us have perfected the art to a high degree. But I think most of us are forever devoid of the kind of strength necessary to attach ourselves to others without fear (extraverts may just be crazy).

I can’t even imagine the kind of strength it must take to participate in the lives of others so completely as to be able to write a poem like this—or to have the strength of the person who is the subject of the poem. Even if Hamza is fictitious, he is drawn from the reality of people I have met in Palestine.

“Hamza,” by Fadwa Tuqan

Hamza was just an ordinary man
like others in my hometown
who work only with their hands for bread.

When I met him the other day,
this land was wearing a cloak of mourning
in windless silence. And I felt defeated.
But Hamza-the-ordinary said:
‘My sister, our land has a throbbing heart,
it doesn’t cease to beat, and it endures
the unendurable. It keeps the secrets
of hills and wombs. This land sprouting
with spikes and palms is also the land
that gives birth to a freedom-fighter.
This land, my sister, is a woman.’

Days rolled by. I saw Hamza nowhere.
Yet I felt the belly of the land
was heaving in pain.

Hamza — sixty-five — weighs
heavy like a rock on his own back.
‘Burn, burn his house,’
a command screamed,
‘and tie his son in a cell.’
The military ruler of our town later explained:
it was necessary for law and order,
that is, for love and peace!

Armed soldiers gherraoed his house:
the serpent’s coil came full circle.
The bang at the door was but an order —
‘evacuate, damn it!’
And generous as they were with time, they could say:
‘in an hour, yes!’

Hamza opened the window.
Face to face with the sun blazing outside,
he cried: ‘in this house my children
and I will live and die
for Palestine.’
Hamza’s voice echoed clean
across the bleeding silence of the town.

An hour later, impeccably,
the house came crumbling down,
the rooms were blown to pieces in the sky,
and the bricks and the stones all burst forth,
burying dreams and memories of a lifetime

of labor, tears, and some happy moments.

Yesterday I saw Hamza
walking down a street in our town —
Hamza the ordinary man as he always was:
always secure in his determination.

The Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan, who has died aged 86, forcefully expressed a nation’s sense of loss and defiance. Moshe Dayan, the Israeli general, likened reading one of Tuqan’s poems to facing 20 enemy commandos. (more. . .)‘in this house my children and I will live and die for Palestine". . . An hour later, impeccably, the house came crumbling down,

‘in this house my children and I will live and die for Palestine”. . . An hour later, impeccably, the house came crumbling down,

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