“. . . They’ve looted the oil jars and the flour sacks, too?. . .” (Mahmoud Darwish)

Refugees, UNRWA workers and teachers held a sit-in at UNRWA's offices in Amman on Wednesday  (Nisreen El-Shamayleh/Al Jazeera)

Refugees, UNRWA workers and teachers held a sit-in at UNRWA’s offices in Amman on Wednesday (Nisreen El-Shamayleh/Al Jazeera)

phot o

❶ From: MA’AN NEWS AGENCY
4  KILLED,  DOZENS  INJURED  AS  ISRAELI  ORDNANCE  EXPLODES  IN  GAZA
August 6, 2015
GAZA CITY ― At least four Palestinians were killed on Thursday and over 30 injured when an unexploded ordnance from last summer’s Israeli military offensive went off while clearing rubble from a destroyed house in the southern Gaza Strip, medics said.
____Palestinian medical sources at the Abu Yousif al-Najjar hospital in Rafah said four bodies and multiple wounded Palestinians arrived at the emergency room.
[. . . .]
____Over 7,000 unexploded ordnance were left throughout the Gaza Strip following last summer’s war
(More. . .)

❷ From: MA’AN NEWS AGENCY
ARAB  LEAGUE  TO  DISCUSS  DRAFT  UN  RESOLUTION  ON  SETTLER  VIOLENCE
August 5, 2015
CAIRO ― An Arab League follow-up committee on Wednesday recommended further talks to discuss putting forward a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council to protect Palestinians from settler violence, officials said.
[. . . .]
____The Arab Peace Initiative meeting in Cairo ―chaired by Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri ―called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to create an international mechanism for protecting Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories.
[. . . .]
Palestine remains the “primary issue for Arabs,” Shukri said.
(More. . .)
Related 
ABBAS: ISRAELI GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE FOR SETTLER VIOLENCE

❸ From: PALESTINE NEWS & INFORMATION AGENCY – WAFA.
UNRWA  FINANCIAL  DEFICIT  DEPRIVES  HALF  MILLION  REFUGEE  STUDENTS  OF  EDUCATION
NEW YORK – Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour warned Wednesday that, should UNRWA’s financial deficit remain unfulfilled, some half a million Palestinian refugee students will be deprived of their right to education, development, and dignity.
____Mansour’s statement came as he sent identical letters to the United Nations Secretary General, the President of the UN General Assembly and President of the UN Security Council, addressing them on the current financial hardship that the UNRWA has been recently seeming.
____Mansour stressed that the current financial shortfall to UNRWA’s core budget, which exceeds $100 million, and the chronic structural underfunding endured for decades by the Agency, are seriously threatening the viability, continuity and quality of UNRWA’s vital education, health, relief and social services in all of its fields of operation.
(More. . .)
Related

❹ From: THE MIDDLE EAST MONITOR (MEM)
ABU-MARZOUK:  HAMAS  VISIT  TO  SAUDI  WAS  ‘SUCCESSFUL’
August 5, 2015
Hamas’s visit to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan was “successful”, a senior Hamas official said yesterday.
____The group’s official website carried an interview with senior member Mousa Abu-Marzouk, who said: “The visit achieved its planned goals; therefore, it was successful.” He also said that any future plans would be carried out “based on joint agreement and cooperation.”
____He noted that Hamas hopes to forge good relationship with the East and the West and “is working to evade obstacles” in this regard. . . .
____Regarding the relationship with Egypt, he said that Egypt stopped its efforts regarding indirect talks with the Israeli occupation about a year ago.
(More. . .)

❺ Opinion
From: PALESTINE CHRONICLE
“ISRAEL  HAS  NOT  CHANGED  FOR  THE  WORSE,  IT’S  ALWAYS  BEEN  BAD”
August 4, 2015
By Alan Hart
The quote above is from a Mondoweiss article by Avigail Abarbanel with the headline “It’s time for American Jews to recognize that they have been duped (by Zionism).”
____This very courageous Jewish lady who now lives in Scotland is a psychotherapist . . . . She was born in Tel Aviv in 1964. During her two years of compulsory service with the Israeli army in which she became a Staff Sergeant, it invaded Lebanon. In 1991 she left Israel to make a new life in Australia. . . . In 2001 she renounced her Israeli citizenship.
____That done she became an activist for Palestinian rights. She supports a one-state solution and a full right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants. She says: “To state it clearly, I no longer believe that Israel has a right to exist as an exclusively Jewish state at the expense of the Palestinian people.”
(More. . .)

“WAITING  FOR  THE  RETURN,”  BY  MAHMOUD  DARWISH
The huts of my beloved on the sand―
I am staying awake with the rain.
I am the son of Ulysses who waited for the mail from the North;
A sailor called him, yet he didn’t go.
He anchored the boats
And took to the highest mountain.

Rock! On which my father prayed,
Shelter revolutionaries.
I will not sell you for precious pearls,
Nor will I ever leave.

The voices of my beloved stride over the wind,
And overrun castles.
Wait for us, Mother, at the door,
We are coming back.
The time is ours;
The wind blows as the sailor will,
And the ship overpowers the tide.
What will you cook for us, Mother?
We are coming back.
They’ve looted the oil jars
And the flour sacks, too?
Then bring us the corn of our fields.
We are hungry.

Translated by Dr. Yehia El-Ezaby, American University in Cairo
From: A LOVER FROM PALESTINE AND OTHER POEMS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF PALESTINIAN POETRY. Ed. Abdul Wahab Al-Messiri. Washington, DC: Free Palestine Press, 1970. Available from Amazon.
About Mahmoud Darwish

An explosion rocks the Gaza Strip on August 6, 2015, killing at least four. The cause was not immediately known. Screen capture, Ebrahim Jihad/Yousif Facebook

An explosion rocks the Gaza Strip on August 6, 2015, killing at least four. The cause was not immediately known. Screen capture, Ebrahim Jihad/Yousif Facebook

“My brothers . . . have not been to prison. They have been imprisoned. . .” (Claudia Rankine)

My school in Kearney, Nebraska?

My school in Kearney, Nebraska?

Kearney, Nebraska, is an old Oregon Trail town on the Platte River. On the west edge of town a replica of a covered wagon used to mark the halfway point between Boston and San Francisco. I don’t know if that’s true, but it was part of the local lore when I was in kindergarten and first grade.

The first house where my family lived in Kearney (1950―I was 5, my brother was 7, and my sister was about to be born) was a brick two-story duplex on a main street in town, a street with a “parkway” down the center.

I know the duplex is not a product of my “re-remembering” because somewhere I have a photo of my brother and me sitting on the front steps holding our newborn sister. My best friend then was Mary Martin (!) who lived down the street and whose older (much older) sister Coleen became my first grade teacher.

Somewhere, perhaps across the street from our duplex home, perhaps not, was a grand Romanesque-Revival schoolhouse where I went to first grade. If the photo above is not of that school, Kearney had at least two schools built in that architectural style. My memory from ages 5 and 6 is spotty but vivid.

After my sister was born, we moved to the “new house” out on the edge of town on 12th Avenue.

One of my clearest memories is of having pink-eye when I was in first grade and just beginning to learn to read. I remember it because my dad and I had pink-eye at the same time, and we were quarantined in the bedroom my brother and I shared. I don’t remember the actual physical arrangements except that we were together in that room for a couple of days.

Dad and I were supposed to be careful how we used our eyes (window blinds were closed to keep out bright sunlight). Reading was forbidden. One of the reasons I remember the experience so clearly is it’s one of the few times I was aware my dad was breaking rules. He could not then―or at any time in his life―have gone for 24 or 48 hours without reading a book.

Dad gave me one of his books to “read.” I remember clearly working my way through the book and finding words I knew from our Dick and Jane books at school. Then my dad read aloud from the book following the words with his finger for me to watch.

I don’t know how advanced our learning process at school was by that time, but I know without doubt that it was Dad’s showing me how he read that explained to me the mystery of reading. I may have learned words and eye movements at school, but Dad made sense of the process. Suddenly I was the best reader in my class.

Don't blame the victim.

Don’t blame the victim.

These days, some 65 years later, I tutor young men, university student athletes, for the most part members of the football team. I tutor them in college writing. They need tutoring almost desperately. We chat. Eventually I ask all of them the same questions, beginning with, “Were there books in your house when you were growing up? Did you ever see your dad reading a book?”

With (what is to me astounding) regularity the answer to those questions is, “No,” for whatever reason, often beginning with not living with their fathers.

I’m no sociologist or neurologist or specialist in early childhood education, but I think I can say without anyone’s ability to question my observation that a boy who never sees his father reading a book is almost certain to be baffled by the idea, the process, of reading.

And the brain of a kid who is baffled by reading cannot develop an understanding of the thought processes associated with reading―memory of details, understanding of concepts, basic knowledge of information useful to functioning in our society.

I’m not going to complicate my thinking here by including the world of electronic gadgets and cyberspace. I can’t comprehend all of that.

Who are the boys who never see their dads reading?

Kids from the less-than-affluent communities of our country, I should think, although I don’t know that scientifically.

Kids who grow up in Owsley County, Kentucky, for example.

And kids who grow up in the Sandtown-Winchester Neighborhood of Baltimore.
(More. . .)
(And more. . .)

I’ll say it bluntly. These kids have no chance.

Don’t tell me I’m a bleeding-heart liberal or something. Don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Unless you have sociological/scientific proof I’m wrong, don’t bother me.

The lucky ones of these kids find something they can do that doesn’t require a family background of reading books, something such as sports, to help them out of the quagmire of lack of education. But my guess is most of them can do little else than perpetuate a culture of kids who never see their dads read a book.

This has nothing to do with intelligence or race or “hard work” or any of those other scapegoats we want to blame. It has only to do with our failure to find a way to break this cycle.

Anyone who might be reading this knows full well we have overwhelmingly trapped certain “ethnic groups” in this cycle. Is that because of racism? Xenophobia? Classism?

That doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we stop blaming the victims―least of all the fathers―and either teach fathers to read or find another way to do for these kids what my dad did for me.

Everyone knows this―I’m not saying anything new. I’m saying it because I don’t have many years left to see/help it happen, and my heart breaks for the kids I tutor.

“From Citizen, VI”  [My brothers are notorious], by Claudia Rankine

My brothers are notorious. They have not been to prison. They have been imprisoned. The prison is not a place you enter. It is no place. My brothers are notorious. They do regular things, like wait. On my birthday they say my name. They will never forget that we are named. What is that memory?

The days of our childhood together were steep steps into a collapsing mind. It looked like we rescued ourselves, were rescued. Then there are these days, each day of our adult lives. They will never forget our way through, these brothers, each brother, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

Your hearts are broken. This is not a secret though there are secrets. And as yet I do not understand how my own sorrow has turned into my brothers’ hearts. The hearts of my brothers are broken. If I knew another way to be, I would call up a brother, I would hear myself saying, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

On the tip of a tongue one note following another is another path, another dawn where the pink sky is the bloodshot of struck, of sleepless, of sorry, of senseless, shush. Those years of and before me and my brothers, the years of passage, plantation, migration, of Jim Crow segregation, of poverty, inner cities, profiling, of one in three, two jobs, boy, hey boy, each a felony, accumulate into the hours inside our lives where we are all caught hanging, the rope inside us, the tree inside us, its roots our limbs, a throat sliced through and when we open our mouth to speak, blossoms, o blossoms, no place coming out, brother, dear brother, that kind of blue. The sky is the silence of brothers all the days leading up to my call.

If I called I’d say good-bye before I broke the good-bye. I say good-bye before anyone can hang up. Don’t hang up. My brother hangs up though he is there. I keep talking. The talk keeps him there. The sky is blue, kind of blue. The day is hot. Is it cold? Are you cold? It does get cool. Is it cool? Are you cool?

My brother is completed by sky. The sky is his silence. Eventually, he says, it is raining. It is raining down. It was raining. It stopped raining. It is raining down. He won’t hang up. He’s there, he’s there but he’s hung up though he is there. Good-bye, I say. I break the good-bye. I say good-bye before anyone can hang up, don’t hang up. Wait with me. Wait with me though the waiting might be the call of good-byes.

Claudia Rankine
Born: 1963, Kingston, Jamaica
Awards: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry
Education: Williams College, Columbia University

Don't blame the victim.

Don’t blame the victim.

“. . . it is basically fear that prevents Bishops and governments. . . from taking a stand against the rich and powerful and on behalf of the weak and marginalized. . . “ (Rev. Naim Ateek)

St. George Episcopal Cathedral,. Jerusalem.  Not a mirage.

St. George Episcopal Cathedral,. Jerusalem. Not a mirage.

Some time ago I was getting onto the elevator at a favorite Dallas movie theater, when another old coot who couldn’t manage the long staircase said to me, “Does such a place even exist?”

He was referencing my T-shirt, which was from St. George’s Anglican Seminary in Jerusalem. Yes, I explained. I’ve stayed there twice on trips to Palestine. The Cathedral and Seminary were founded in 1920, long before the state of Israel.

He obviously did not believe me. I have had the same reaction other times when I have worn the shirt.

This posting has nothing to do with my religious beliefs except that I must state the caveat that my theological ideas these days (as I have written before) have little to do with a belief in God, but have everything to do with the justice and mercy and ethics of what I perceive to be the essence of Christianity. I used to be a confirmed and (marginally) believing Episcopalian (Anglican), but to say that I am now would be stretching the idea to the breaking point.

So I have no standing for any of what I am about to write. So be it.

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church USA recently voted not to proceed with divesting itself from stock in companies that profit from the illegal “settlements” of Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem, internationally-recognized sovereign territory of the Palestinian people. (A description of the bishops’ vote is here.)

An aside: I believe we should be exact in our language and call the settlers what they really are: “squatters.” (dictionary.com: squatter, “a person who settles on land or occupies property without title, right, or payment of rent”). But that’s an issue for another day.

Surprisingly (at least to me) the American bishops took their stand at the urging of the Episcopal Bishop of Jerusalem.|
I am happy to correct this because this is Apparently not true, but is a misrepresentation by the Episcopal News Service.  See this article.

“. . . it is basically fear that prevents Bishops and governments. . . from taking a stand against the rich and powerful and on behalf of the weak and marginalized. . . “ (Rev. Naim Ateek)

The Rev. Naim Ateek is a Palestinian Episcopal priest who in the 1980s was Dean of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem. In 1991 he founded the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, which is now an international organization working for justice for the Palestinian people.

The Rev. Naim Ateek

The Rev. Naim Ateek

In response to the vote of the American Episcopal House of Bishops choosing not to antagonize such groups as AIPAC in the US or the Knesset in Israel, Naim Ateek has written letters to the House of Bishops and to the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina.

Both documents are detailed statements describing the theological issues raised by the Bishops’ vote.

I suggest that anyone interested in either justice or theology read Naim Ateek’s statements.

I was annoyed when the stranger on the elevator questioned the existence of an institution in Jerusalem that is not Jewish (I assume that was his disbelief).  I’ll have to suggest that FOSNA create t-shirts to sell.

Naim Ateek’s responses are available here.
Click on the links:

  • Naim Ateek’s letter to PB-elect Michael Curry
  • Naim Ateek’s response to the Episcopal Bishops’ vote

Another discussion of  the vote of the House of Bishops, Episcopal Church USA.
Biographical sketch of Rev. Naim Ateek.
Daily news from Palestine not available in American media.

Episcopal House of Bishops Annual Meeting Voting Down BDS, 2015

Episcopal House of Bishops Annual Meeting Voting Down BDS, 2015

“. . . small nightmares that I hope will develop into great dreams. . .” (Mourid Barghouti)

Ali Hassanein, a 54-year-old oud maker works in Ramallah. Every day life in Palestine. (Photo MaanImages)

Ali Hassanein, a 54-year-old oud maker works in Ramallah. Every day life in Palestine. (Photo MaanImages)

I’m going to stop saying I’m retired except as part of my quirky attempt at a sense of humor. It’s not true.

Dictionary.com:
retire v.
1. to withdraw, or go away or apart, to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion
2. to go to bed

Yesterday morning I played the organ at First Presbyterian Church in Plano, TX, went to lunch at a famed Dallas barbecue spot with a friend, saw the exhibition of “The Abelló Collection: A Modern Taste for European Masters” at the Meadows Museum in the afternoon, had dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant, and spent the evening packing and preparing for my week-long excursion to North Carolina with my friend.

We have movie and museum and other loosely-formed plans to spend the week “out and about.”

Because I’ll be in the Great Smoky Mountains, I will miss tutoring at the university Academic Development of Student Athletes where I do the most important teaching of my 35-year career I’ll miss my regular schedule with my trainer, and square dancing next Sunday, and my meetings of that anonymous secret society I belong to, and playing the organ next Sunday, and. . .

Hardly seems like going “away or apart, to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion.”

In a sense, however, in my mind I live in a place of privacy. I privately reject doing anything I don’t want to do. I’m learning to say “No” when that’s what I want to say and to say “Yes” to the activities I want to participate in.

Most of us don’t worry about leaving a “legacy.” If I had children and grandchildren, I’d have a somewhat different take on that idea. However, the legacy of family is a personal matter that has little to do with what anyone else thinks. I do have a few interesting, if not valuable, things I hope my nieces and nephews will enjoy having to remember me by, but that’s about it. I’m not the rich uncle.

Then there’s all this stuff I’ve written and posted for the past 12 years that’s floating around out there in cyberspace. I’m told it’s there forever, or at least until climate change finally does human society in.

All this stuff I’ve written is one of the most important aspects of my not going “to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion.” This is, however, not as obvious a statement as it might seem. I’ve written recently about all of this and posted it in “the cloud.”

I’m 70 years old. Never in my life have I been ambitious, physically fit, “driven” accomplishing much with my time here. No, I’m basically meek and weak and (perhaps?) lazy. That I am not the rich uncle is testimony in itself to my being a part of Henry David Thoreau’s “mass of men [who] live lives of quiet desperation.” I feel desperation from time to time―but I’m too often not quiet about it.

A couple of “causes,” however, inspire me to work and participation. They keep me from going to a place of privacy and seclusion.

One of those is the Aberg Center for Literacy in Dallas, about which I’ve written here several times.

The Aberg Center offers ESL classes and GED preparation to adults. The Center is, I believe, the most important place where I practice being neither secluded nor desperate. I feel more joy as a volunteer teacher there than in anything else I do (with the possible exception of tutoring football players). Sentences that are not a “run-on” sentences that students from Aberg write 20 years from now are part of my “legacy.”

The stuff I’ve posted in Cyberspace is part of my legacy. That is not obvious.

Preparations are underway in the Old City of Jerusalem for the holy night of Laylat al-Qader on Monday.

Preparations are underway in the Old City of Jerusalem for the holy night of Laylat al-Qader on Monday.

I have other blogs than this one. One is an exercise in what might look like futility or grandiosity. Perhaps that is more than a perception.

However, I post it―almost daily―for the sole purpose of posting it. That blog is not really my own. It’s a small collection of news stories other people have written brought together in a digest often related (at least tangentially) to a poem I have discovered.

I spend the time (up to a couple of hours daily) compiling that blog simply for the sake of doing it. Simply because someone must do it.

The poems the news stories (peripherally) relate to are by writers from Palestine or who are Palestinians living in the Diaspora of displaced Palestinians.

I collect the poetry and the news stories because it has to be done. It is necessary that there is a tiny edge of Cyberspace devoted to telling daily real-life stories from the point of view of Palestinians and trying to relate them to expressions of the inner life and experience of the Palestinian people, i.e. relating news about life in Palestine to snippets of the 1,000-year literary tradition of the Palestinians.

Someone has to do this, and I have the time and skill for the job. (I hope you will check the blog, Palestine InSight .)

It does not matter if no one or one person or a thousand people read it daily. It must exist in Cyberspace. On the day someone needs it, for whatever reason, it will be there. If I do not do it, no one will. It’s that simple.

I spend a few minutes (nearly) every day not being secluded or desperate by simply giving myself to a necessary task and having no desire or belief that I am accomplishing something. I don’t know. What I do know is that it has to be done because some day in some way I can’t know, someone will need it.

“Retirement” could well be going “away or apart, to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion.” Or it can mean going away or apart to do one’s most important lifework.

“I Have No Problem” by Mourid Barghouti

I look at myself:
I have no problem.
I look all right
and, to some girls,
my grey hair might even be attractive;
my eyeglasses are well made,
my body temperature is precisely thirty seven,
my shirt is ironed and my shoes do not hurt.
I have no problem.
My hands are not cuffed,
my tongue has not been silenced yet,
I have not, so far, been sentenced
and I have not been fired from my work;
I am allowed to visit my relatives in jail,
I’m allowed to visit some of their graves in some countries.
I have no problem.
I am not shocked that my friend
has grown a horn on his head.
I like his cleverness in hiding the obvious tail
under his clothes, I like his calm paws.
He might kill me, but I shall forgive him
for he is my friend;
he can hurt me every now and then.
I have no problem.
The smile of the TV anchor
does not make me ill any more
and I’ve got used to the Khaki stopping my colours
night and day.
That is why
I keep my identification papers on me, even at
the swimming pool.
I have no problem.
Yesterday, my dreams took the night train
and I did not know how to say goodbye to them.
I heard the train had crashed
in a barren valley
(only the driver survived).
I thanked God, and took it easy
for I have small nightmares
that I hope will develop into great dreams.
I have no problem.
I look at myself, from the day I was born till now.
In my despair I remember
that there is life after death;
there is life after death
and I have no problem.
But I ask:
Oh my God,
is there life before death?

Translated by Radwa Ashour
From Barghouti, Mourid. MIDNIGHT AND OTHER POEMS. Trans. Radwa Ashour. Todmorden, UK: Arc Publications, 2008.
About Mourid Barghouti

Israeli forces raided Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem early Monday and threatened locals, witnesses said. Every Day Life in Palestine.

Israeli forces raided Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem early Monday and threatened locals, witnesses said. Every Day Life in Palestine.

“. . . When our grand passion had not yet become familial. . .” (Thom Gunn)

Boston, 1991

Boston, 1991

Somewhere in a box or pile or a file or a stack is a musical creation of mine (or not―it most likely met the same fate as most of my compositions), a small song cycle, a setting of three poems by Thom Gunn from his 1966 collection, Positives. I wrote the cycle in about 1970.

I don’t remember the poems or the music. I wrote the music as part of the work for my MA degree in music composition at what was then California State University at Los Angeles. I chose Gunn’s poetry because I found his book at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, and it was the first collection I owned by a poet I knew was gay.

Yesterday I wore an old lavender T-shirt, shapeless and faded―like me―from the Boston Gay Pride Parade in 1991. My first Gay Pride Parade was the 20th in Boston—1990. For it I had a T-shirt that proclaimed in black letters nearly covering the front, “Nobody knows I’m gay!” In 1992 I had a T-shirt with the logo of the Boston Aids Hospice as I marched with the other volunteers from the Hospice (it closed in 1997, after I had moved to Dallas).

A member of the AA group I most often attended in 1991 had been present at the Stonewall Riots in 1969. I used to own a book about the riots which contained a picture of her (yes, women were involved in the riots). She was uncomfortable with what she saw as the flippant use by the gay community of Stonewall as a rallying point. She remembered that night only with horror and fear. She could not bring herself to march in Pride Parades.

I was married at the time of Stonewall, but I remember watching the coverage on the national TV news and thinking I should have been there. My wife knew I was gay. Those were the days when many of us―my wife and I included―thought that getting married would somehow end my being gay. (Or, more likely, I thought it would provide “cover” for being who I knew I was.)

I wore my “Together in Pride, June 8th, 1991, Lesbian and Gay Pride” T-shirt yesterday to attend the celebration at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. I’m not sure why I didn’t take a selfie wearing it at the event.

Trying to sort out for myself, much less for anyone else, the complexity of my feelings throughout the day yesterday, and especially at the celebration, is seeming to be impossible.

First observation. I was (as I have become accustomed to being) one of the oldest people in the group of 2,000. My guess is there were fewer than 50 of us 70 or older.

Second observation. I was alone.

Third observation. It all seemed too easy.

Fourth observation. My tears over and over again yesterday were of joy, relief, fulfillment, jealousy, longing, and grief simultaneously and progressively, impossible to sort out.

Of course I am elated, overjoyed, and ecstatic at the Supreme Court decision, relieved that that step on the journey to civil rights is taken (I wonder if the LGBTQ community ready now to tackle racism, poverty, and xenophobia in this country).

The only man I have ever wanted to marry died in 2003 after we had been together 12 years. I sometimes long to be with him, and I grieve that we were never able to have a legally recognized relationship.

I grieve—yes, that’s the correct word—for the relationships I have had, beginning with my marriage to Ann. I grieve also that I am alone, that meeting a man I would want to marry, now that I could, seems improbable, if not impossible.

Hugged by the man I would have married

Hugged by the man I would have married (taken 1993)

Most of the crowd of people younger than I that gathered at the Cathedral of Hope yesterday—this is not sour grapes but a statement of fact—cannot know how much I treasure that 24-year-old lavender T-shirt (many of those wonderful folks were not even born in 1991). Or the pictures of my second partner and me taken in about 1985.

Or the memory of my “coming out” in my university newspaper in 1965—4 years before Stonewall.

I have never done anything “important.” Other than be something of a role model for (sometimes frightened and depressed) gay college students for 30 years. And volunteer at the AIDS Hospice. And march in parades. And write some pieces that have been published over the years. And try to be a good partner. And maintain a career viable enough to take care of myself.

One of the men I love and admire most these days was part of the Lambda Legal team that brought Lawrence v. Texas to the Supreme Court. One of my closest friends was a leader in ACT-Up in Boston in the ‘80s. A friend was the founder of the Gay group that still exists in the American Baptist Convention.

I’ve never done anything publicly important for the cause of LGBTQ rights. I’m not one of those the speakers last night acknowledged they were “standing on the shoulders of.”

Except I’ve persevered. I’ve lived a life of quiet (sometimes) desperation, desperation that may or may not have had anything to do with being a gay man (that’s a topic so complicated seven psychiatrists and three neurologists have never been able to untangle).

And now I am alone.

I’m not asking for anyone’s pity. Only some acknowledgement and understanding that my feelings yesterday were justifiably complex and contradictory. Which means they were (are) like my feelings my whole life long. My passions were my passions when they “had not yet become familial.” Could not become familial in the most basic sense.

“THE HUG,” BY THOM GUNN (1929-2004)
It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
Half of the night with our old friend
Who’d showed us in the end
To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
Your instep to my heel,
My shoulder-blades against your chest.
It was not sex, but I could feel
The whole strength of your body set,
Or braced, to mine,
And locking me to you
As if we were still twenty-two
When our grand passion had not yet
Become familial.
My quick sleep had deleted all
Of intervening time and place.
I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.
―(From Selected Poems by Thom Gunn. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.)

The First Gay Pride Parade in Boston, 1970.

The First Gay Pride Parade in Boston, 1970.

“Time has grown up on its own without me. . .” (Yousef El Qedra)

Their companion piece is missing.

Their companion piece is missing.

The color blue is not apparent in my apartment. The first noticeable color is the red of the fake Persian rug straight ahead from the front door. The two deep blue Palestinian glass pieces I wrote about a couple of weeks ago are now on the shelf of the table straight ahead, but they are below eye level.On the table in front of the living area window are two (I think) lovely pieces of blue glass, each of a different not-real-Waterford that Waterford sells under its name. I like them. I paid more for each of them than I should have, but they are blue.

For a year or so I had another piece of decorative blue glass, a small many-faceted blue bowl made by Jim Bowman of Bowman Glass in Dallas. His wife Mary Lynn, who is also an artist in glass, is an acquaintance of mine. The bowl sat on the table by the window with my two pieces of marginally Waterford blue glass.

However, I have lost Jim Bowman’s bowl.

How does one lose a blue art-glass bowl? I don’t know. It’s simply gone. Non-existent. Probably not non-existent, simply not in its assigned location, and not where I can find it.

I could blame its disappearance on old age. I’ve put it somewhere and don’t remember where. I doubt that. Besides, I couldn’t blame that sort of forgetting on my old age. It would not have been out of character for me 40 years ago to have misplaced a decorative piece I like very much. Forgetting, misplacing, losing have been my constant companions my entire life.

That’s probably because I don’t pay attention. It’s no mystery. I go through life floating just a tad above reality, never quite putting my feet down, never quite sure I know where I am. That’s hyperbole. But it’s closer to the truth than I wish it were.

It’s not because I am so otherworldly or preoccupied with important ideas or have too much on my mind. No, I simply don’t pay attention. I will give myself the benefit of the doubt and say I don’t because I can’t.

If one of the symptoms of aging is forgetfulness, I am destined, I fear, to be (or already am) that confused little old man everyone finds either pitiable or comical. But how will anyone be able to tell? Anyone who knows me well knows this is not a problem of aging for me. It was a problem when I was 12.

From time to time I have blamed my spaciness on TLE. I don’t know if that’s medically accurate or not. I fear it’s probably a simple matter of my not paying attention.

That the husband of my friend made the blue glass bowl is not only reason my losing it is weird.

Blue is my favorite color.

I remember the exact moment I realized blue is my favorite color.

I was at Anna Bleyle’s home in Scottsbluff, NE, playing with marbles she gave me to keep me occupied while she was looking after my siblings and me. I was in third or fourth grade. She was our favorite adult, a few but not many years older than my parents. Her husband and his brother owned a jewelry store. Her niece became a Methodist Bishop. Her nephew was the only boy we ever knew who was high school cheer leader (in the dark ages of the `50s).

The blue ones are best.

The blue ones are best.

I remember thinking, “Wow! Those blue marbles are the best ones. I love that color!”

My question: how can I remember those details (and many more) about those wonderful people from 60 years ago but not remember where my beautiful blue art glass bowl made by Jim Bowman is that was on the table by front window for about two years until sometime in the last few weeks when I did something with it I can’t remember?

I know. I know. “The short-term memory is the first to go.” Well, perhaps.

Now a jump from one topic to a totally unrelated one.

I’ve become fascinated by Palestinian poetry, both old and current. I may, after 30 years of teaching college English, have found my “specialty.”

The Gazan poet Yousef El Qedra and I have so little in common it’s almost absurd for me to say that I find my own experience in his work.

But listen. Listen to these lines.

Then I found myself suspended in nothingness,
Stretched like a string that doesn’t belong to an instrument.
The wind played me.

Can a 70-year-old Caucasian American man who has never wanted for anything, whose most difficult moments have been tiny seizures and a bit of discrimination because I’m gay possibly relate to a young Arab Palestinian trapped in the hell-hole that his home has been turned into through dehumanizing Israeli onslaught after onslaught?

The total of what I know about Mr. El Qedra is that he

is a poet and playwright who lives in Gaza. He has a BA degree in Arabic Literature from al-Azhar University in Gaza. He teaches drama, literature, and writing. He has written, directed, and acted in several plays. He has published four collections of poetry and some of his poems have been translated into French and Spanish.

(Banipal, Magazine of Modern Arab Literature 45 – Writers from Palestine.) Banipal has published several of his poems.
He knows from experience what I begin to know from age.

I was a run of lost notes that have a sad, strong desire to live.

What does that have to do with the color blue? Or a small piece of blue art glass. Only this. Loss does not necessarily mean despair or even depression. Viewed with hope (and perhaps humor) it can impart a sad, strong desire to live.

My inconsequential hope―to find that blue bowl. Silly? Yes. But a manifestation of my need to catch up with the time that has grown old without me.

“I HAVE NO HOME,” BY YOUSEF EL QEDRA
I saw clouds running away from the hurt.
I have no language.
Its weight is lighter than a feather.
The quill does not write.
The ink of the spirit burns on the shore of meaning.
The clouds are tears, filled with escape and lacking definition.
A cloud realizes the beauty she forms—
beauty which contains all good things,
for whom trees, gardens, and tired young women wait.

I have no home.
I have a night overripe with sweats caused by numbness all over.
Time has grown up on its own without me.
In my dream, I asked him what he looks like.
My small defeats answered me.
So I asked him again, What did he mean?
Then I found myself suspended in nothingness,
Stretched like a string that doesn’t belong to an instrument.
The wind played me. So did irresistible gravity.
I was a run of lost notes that have a sad, strong desire to live.

Translated by Yasmin Snounu and Edward Morin
From BEFORE THERE IS NOWHERE TO STAND: PALESTINE ISREL POETS RESPOND TO THE STRUGGLE. Ed. By Joan Dobbie and Grace Beeler. Sandpoint ID: Lost Horse Press, 2012.

Our house in Scottsbluff (2005), six blocks fro Anna's. A fortuitous blue car in front.

Our house in Scottsbluff (2005), six blocks from Anna’s. A fortuitous blue car in front.

“. . . the future remains translucent and unambiguous. . .” (Philip Schultz)

An ostentatious mirror and some dried funeral rose petals.

An ostentatious mirror and some dried funeral rose petals.

—our sober, recalcitrant houses—
are swollen with dreams that have grown opaque with age,
hoarding as they do truths
untranslatable into auspicious beliefs.

In the 48 years since I graduated from college, I have lived in 11 houses or apartments. I lived with my late ex-wife in three. That is an odd formulation—late ex-wife—perhaps as odd as our relationship sometimes feels. We were married from 1967 to 1975, and she died from the ravages of breast cancer in 2002. She had been married to a Canadian writer, divorced in about 1990. In the time since our divorce, I had had three male partners. The last of those relationships was my only healthy one. Jerry died a year after Ann died, of melanoma.

Ann and I owned a home in Upland, CA. We sold it when we moved to Iowa for my doctoral program at the University of Iowa.

In 1977 I moved to Boston without having secured a job to be with my first partner (an irrational and addictive move). Seventeen years later I moved to Dallas to be with Jerry—but a year after he moved there, that year spent reshaping my career to be a self-supporting grownup when I moved. I didn’t reshape my career for him, but figured out how to do what I had always wanted to do.

Through all of the years after we were divorced, Ann and I were in amicable contact with each other. After her second divorce (she told him he could have the bimbo and she’d have the Palm Springs condo) we rekindled the friendship we never should have interrupted by getting married.

Ann with a friend of her Canadian writer's, on a movie set in Iowa.

Ann with a friend of her Canadian writer’s, on a movie set in Iowa.

I began writing this piece about Ann on May 28, the 48th anniversary of our wedding. I don’t know the exact date in 1975 our divorce was finalized. In those days (perhaps still) Iowa had a no-fault, do-it-yourself divorce procedure that, when approved by a judge, cost us $40 for the filing fee.

How we remember certain details of our lives is a great mystery to me. I remember our wedding—the music surely. We chose the wedding party on the basis of their singing ability—we had to have a six singers for the William Walton motet “Set me as a seal upon thine heart.”

The text is from Song of Solomon 8, KJV:

Set me as a seal upon thine heart,
as a seal upon thine arm:
for love is strong as death.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.

Fortunately four of our best friends were accomplished singers and completed the ensemble. Mine was the weakest voice in the bunch—Ann’s was the strongest. My best friend was a tenor voice major.

I have thought many times since 2002 that I had no idea what “love is strong as death” meant when I was a foolish young groom. I was with Ann in Canada two months before she died and returned for her wake. I was with Jerry when he died.

Suddenly
everything feels afterwards,
stoic and inevitable,
my eyes ringed with the grease of rumor and complicity,
my hands eager to hold any agreeable infatuation
that might otherwise slip away.

The feeling that everything is afterwards did not come upon me suddenly. It has been an awareness developing since Jerry died. Everything is afterward. I live alone in an apartment of my own choosing. The furnishings, what might pass as a décor, is stuff that I am “eager to hold [with] any agreeable infatuation.” The 1880s-vintage highboy chest of drawers Ann and I bought in about 1968. The china closet and the ostentatious Victorian mirror I inherited from Jerry. The painting of a sea storm by my uncle’s late partner (of 60 years). My mother’s ladies’ afternoon “circle” coffee cups and cookie plates. The pipe organ built by my steady friend (and Ann’s) for 50 years from college, Steuart Goodwin.

Everything IS afterwards.

Both Ann’s and my fathers were Baptist ministers. They looked forward to a kind of afterwards that I cannot fathom. I think, now and then, about the afterwards Ann and Jerry and our fathers and mothers are experiencing. I wonder. That’s all. I wonder. I’m not certain what Philip Schultz means by

The sky,
however,
appears unwelcoming,
and aloof, eager to surrender
its indifference to our suffering

but I look at the sky and think it’s unwelcoming, indifferent to my suffering.

My thinking about all of these people is heightened because I’m going through old photos and other memorabilia, so when I’m in the afterwards, my brother and sister won’t think they need to. And in the middle of this process I, as executor of her estate—some 13 years later—received notice that a house lot Ann owned atop a hill in the Ozark foothills in Oklahoma was about to be sold for the back taxes. Oops! So I pulled together the funds from her estate to pay the past-due amount.

The hill is the home of the “esoteric Christian” community Ann was part of the last few years of her life. People whose sense of “afterwards” is, as far as I can tell, that nothing is ever “afterwards.” In some form, a variety of forms, we all go on and on and on forever.

My “sober, recalcitrant [house—is] swollen with dreams that have grown opaque with age.” I refuse to commit to whether that is good or bad. The light used to penetrate my dreams. It seldom does now. My truths are “untranslatable into auspicious beliefs.”

And the future is totally “unambiguous in its desire to elude” me. Will the future be different if I get rid of Jerry’s ostentatious mirror, his picture looking down on it, or the toy xylophone my mother gave me for my fifth birthday? Or save the vase of brown rose petals from Ann’s funeral wreath?

“Afterwards,” by Philip Schultz
Suddenly
everything feels afterwards,
stoic and inevitable,
my eyes ringed with the grease of rumor and complicity,
my hands eager to hold any agreeable infatuation
that might otherwise slip away.
Suddenly
it’s evening and the lights up and
down the street appear hopeful,
even magnanimous,
swollen as they are with ancient grievances
and souring schemes. The sky,
however,
appears unwelcoming,
and aloof, eager to surrender
its indifference to our suffering.
Speaking of suffering,
the houses—our sober, recalcitrant houses—
are swollen with dreams that have grown opaque with age,
hoarding as they do truths
untranslatable into auspicious beliefs.
Meanwhile,
our loneliness,
upon which so many laws are based,
continues to consume everything.
Suddenly,
regardless of what the gods say,
the present remains uninhabitable,
the past unforgiving of the harm it’s seen,
while
the future remains translucent
and unambiguous
in its desire to elude us.

(Philip Schultz [b. 1945] is the author of The Wherewithal [W. W. Norton, 2014] and received the Pulitzer Prize for Failure [Harcourt, 2007]. He is the founder and director of The Writers Studio and lives in East Hampton, New York.)

On a trip to the Glimmerglass Opera

On a trip to the Glimmerglass Opera

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