Friday, September 30, 2005

Robert Pinsky

If you weren't at nextbook last night, you missed a treat. Pinsky. What a mensch!

Read his newest The Life of David (Schocken/Nextbook) and buy season tickets to nextbook. It's a great series and should be supported by the literary community. Next is Ariel Dorfman. Check out the rest of the line up!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dahlia Ravikovitch


by Dahlia Ravikovitch (translated from the Hebrew
by Chana Bloch and Ariel Bloch)

After they all leave,
I remain alone with the poems,
some poems of mine, some of others.
I prefer poems that others have written.
I remain quiet, and slowly
the knot in my throat dissolves.
I remain.

Sometimes I wish everyone would go away.
Maybe it's nice, after all, to write poems.
You sit in your room and the walls grow taller.
Colors deepen.
A blue kerchief becomes a deep well.

You wish everyone would go away.
You don't know what's the matter with you.
Perhaps you'll think of something.
Then it all passes, and you are pure crystal.

After that, love.
Narcissus was so much in love with himself.
Only a fool doesn't understand
he loved the river, too.

You sit alone.
Your heart aches, but
it won't break.
The faded images wash away one by one.
Then the defects.
A sun sets at midnight. You remember
the dark flowers too.

You wish you were dead or alive or
somebody else.
Isn't there a country you love? A word?
Surely you remember.

Only a fool lets the sun set when it likes.
It always drifts off too early
westward to the islands.

Sun and moon, winter and summer
will come to you,
infinite treasures.

-Dahlia Ravikovitch (1936 - 2005)

She died of suicide on August 30, 2005. She was 69 and might have been just starting. Read The Guardian's obituary

I took Ravikovitch's poem above from Eric M. Selinger's blog.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My Sister’s Death: Brother

Let the County bury her
is what he said
his youngest sister
four hours

he said:
let the County
bury her

and turned
his head.



-Esther Altshul Helfgott

(the poem above

found wri-
from Jan 1, 2005
on a sliver
of yellow-
piles of pa-
in my study



I worry
about turning
when I might have
turned left,
letting him
of getting him up
for breakfast,
following his lead
when I might have
stood firm
in my instructions
to shower, dress,
eat, go for a walk
with Hassan,
the Kenyan caregiver
who watches over him
and the house
when I'm gone.
He is
as he used to be
all the while needy
for old times: he cries
for mother,
gone fifty years
There is no
in this man,
not this morning
not today. Really,
my mistakes
don't matter.

-Esther Altshul Helfgott

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Cynthia Ozick

Last night at Seattle Arts and Lectures.

I don't appreciate her cute and false attempts to put herself down or, as she says, drop names, but her literary gossip's delicious when not ridiculous (She made Susan Sontag cry. Ho hum) and some of her writing is the finest I've ever read. Try, for instance:

Cynthia Ozick : The Shawl
includes: "Rosa” from The New Yorker, March 21, 1983

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Peanut Butter

According to today’s PI Zone page (for students with active brains),
If you’re average you eat about 4.5 pounds of fruit spread each year – and by the time you graduate from high school, you will have eaten 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (p. A8)

As I figure it from first grade through sixth, 20 days a month x 6 months = 120 sandwiches x six years = 720 sandwiches (cream cheese and jelly made me gag).

Add the weekend sandwiches, including those I carried in a brown paper bag to the Avalon Theatre and ate in front of a movie screen every saturday afternoon, and we're up to, say, well, I didn't go every Saturday, so let's just add 45.

That makes 765 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (didn't start eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches until later and not with peanut butter (minus the jam), raisins and bananas until later still.

Now onto junior high school. Same thing: 720 sandwiches, plus 45 = 765, bringing the pre-high school grand total to 1530.

This doesn't include the peanut butter and jelly saltines- or ritz cracker-sandwiches-on-a-plate-next-to-a-monopoly set on the living room floor, either. Or, the high school or college years.

Or the peanut butter on melba toast years or the peanut butter on celery sticks years, or the eating it with a spoon straight out of the jar (these) years. Doesn't matter what kind: creamy, crunchy, Skippy's, Jiffy's, natural.

No Ritz crackers, no Saltines, no Wonder Bread or lunch box. Just good old fashioned peanut butter.

Thank you, George Washington Carver, my favorite inventor (next to my father, whose inventions, unfortunately, never panned out; but that's another story).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mean Spirited

Garrison Keillor's pick, "poetry readings," by Charles Bukowski (not my favorite poet) for Sunday, Sept. 11th, 2005

Friday, September 09, 2005

Like Mother, Like Son?

And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.

-Barbara Bush

I can't believe she would say such a thing. What's the matter with that family? Is a gene loose somewhere?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pesha Gertler, Poet Populist!


I wasn't crazy about the competition among poets, but I love the outcome; and from what I saw, everyone had a good time.

Congratulatons also to Frank and Nick of the Seattle City Council for making this work.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

No slack for Bush, not from me

A response to: Give him some slack.

I am astounded when citizens of our Republic, our democratic union, do not hold Bush responsible for homeland security, I think he calls it. Born into the presidency illegally, exhalted for his swift presence at Ground Zero, he made a place for himself in history as a War president. Could George W. Bush have been any other kind of president? I don't think so. I don't believe that George W. Bush would know how to fill his presidential time if not for a war, if not for vacations with cronies on his Texas ranch; if not for ignoring war resisters whose children have been killed in a war he started.

Unfortunately for Bush, but not for our nation, Bush can not make a war out of natural disasters; he cannot blame natural disasters on foreign countries or terrorists. In the case of natural disasters, along with equality between the races, along with poverty, a president must pay attention to food in the kitchen, a roof over the kitchen, good schools, a national health care system; conversations on racism and poverty in America, as well as geologic engineering and global warming. Yes, Mr. President these problems are before us.

Have you not seen poverty and racism in the news recently, in those places your helicopter flew over, in our destroyed Southern cities? Tell me Mr. President what does your gaze take in? What do your eyes see? What registers in your particular idiosyncratic Caucasian mind? In order to deal with domestic issues, our homeland if you will, you must show yourself to be a mensch, Mr. President, a human being.

To accomplish this feat of becoming a mensch, and it is a feat - it takes a lot of work - you must not show arrogance or the pretense of kindness by kissing African American heads in front of televison cameras; instead, you must demonstrate that you have the public good at heart, that you are concerned about everyday ordinary people, whether they are living in the Louisiana Bowl, in urban neighborhoods, on farms or on a fault line in the Pacific Northwest. You must demonstrate, Mr. President, that you are concerned about service, about really serving your country.

Perhaps our current catastrophe will lead you on a path to righteousness, as you are wont to say in church on Sunday mornings. Perhaps in learning to deal with domestic issues, you may even learn something about neighborliness and interacting with citizens of other countries, say Iraq.

Until then, you get no slack from me, Mr. President. Nor do your supporters. Nor does FEMA or any other government agency that has not been doing its job. And doing its job means, among other things, not killing people by instructing them to evacuate when they have no cars or money to evacuate. It means not blaming the victim!

Mr. President, you created No Child Left Behind, but you left the children behind, along with their friends, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. You left them to die on roof tops and in stinking contaminated water turned cesspool, which you created by your lack of efficiency and, most of all, your lack of caring for all of our citizens.

Mr. President, you and your team dishonor us. You and your team, including the head of FEMA, Michael Brown, who had the nerve to say, When evacuation warnings go out, people should realize it's for their own good, dishonor us. You and your team dishonor all of us. Shame, Mr. President, shame. You've brought shame inside our communities, into our kitchens and living rooms. I know this isn't the first time ... but, somehow, tonight, it's especially hard to sleep ...

Esther Altshul Helfgott

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Mike Moore to George W

Subject: Vacation is Over... an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush:

Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag.

Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers are? We could really use them right now for the type of thing they signed up to do like helping with national disasters. How come they weren't there to begin with?

Last Thursday I was in south Florida and sat outside while the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over my head. It was only a Category 1 then but it was pretty nasty. Eleven people died and, as of today, there were still homes without power. That night the weatherman said this storm was on its way to New Orleans. That was Thursday! Did anybody tell you? I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fundraisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. You sure showed her!

I especially like how, the day after the hurricane, instead of flying to Louisiana, you flew to San Diego to party with your business peeps. Don't let people criticize you for this -- after all, the hurricane was over and what the heck could you do, put your finger in the dike?

And don't listen to those who, in the coming days, will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer for the third year in a row. You just tell them that even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees, there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix them anyway because you had a much more important construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ!

On Day 3, when you finally left your vacation home, I have to say I was moved by how you had your Air Force One pilot descend from the clouds as you flew over New Orleans so you could catch a quick look of the disaster. Hey, I know you couldn't stop and grab a bullhorn and stand on some rubble and act like a commander in chief. Been there done that.

There will be those who will try to politicize this tragedy and try to use it against you. Just have your people keep pointing that out. Respond to nothing. Even those pesky scientists who predicted this would happen because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is getting hotter and hotter making a storm like this inevitable. Ignore them and all their global warming Chicken Littles. There is nothing unusual about a hurricane that was so wide it would be like having one F-4 tornado that stretched from New York to Cleveland.

No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!

You hang in there, Mr. Bush. Just try to find a few of our Army helicopters and send them there. Pretend the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are near Tikrit.


Michael Moore

P.S. That annoying mother, Cindy Sheehan, is no longer at your ranch. She and dozens of other relatives of the Iraqi War dead are now driving across the country, stopping in many cities along the way. Maybe you can catch up with them before they get to DC on September 21st.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Excuse me?

The president has wanted to visit the area as soon as possible," [White House press secretary Scott] McClellan said. "We didn't go sooner because we didn't want to be disruptive of efforts on the ground.

Bush Taps Father, Clinton for Relief Help
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
52 minutes ago, comcast news

Or, perhaps, he didn't go sooner because, unlike with Sept. 11th, he couldn't blame a foreign country, thus, fill his presidency with another war.