I wrote a letter to a friend

I wrote a letter to a friend today and inside that letter — which was not a letter but something like a letter sent by electronic mail — I composed my feelings into something like feelings. And it’s a pattern, my tendency to compose somethings like. It’s not a pattern but something like a pattern, something I do again and again, with or without noticing, with or without intention. Mine is not a compulsion, but something like a compulsion, for I am compelled to be something like me so that people like me. Not just people but something like people — specific persons who specifically like me but might not if I was anything else but something like me.

Something about this is unsettling, and settling.

For although there is something like disappointment every single time, something like failure; there is something like relief because something remains; this something is due, in fact, only to the space between the letters.

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Color of

“War is what happens when language fails.” — Margaret Atwood

* * * * *

This is the color of my voice these days … Almost Silent.

Imagine it there

in a box of 64 crayons.

In my mind’s eye, Almost Silent is wrapped in Ecru

Courtesy http://www.art-paints.com/Paints/Body/Ben-Nye/Color-Cake/Ecru/Ecru-xlg.jpg

But its waxy innards are sea green.

Almost Silent, when taken to paper,

magically scribbles in a shade of blue

known only to the indigenous people

of an island yet to be discovered.

But I recognize it instantly when

I see the child’s drawing of a

heart within a heart within a heart within a heart.

Once, I remember, I fingered gel

that shade on my way out of the womb.

 

 

What the world needs now

I spent the morning with my father-in-law in a cafe in Kfar Tavor.

He was generous enough to be an interview subject for me in regards to a creative writing project I’m preparing for a class called “Art, Atrocity, and Truth.”

My father-in-law is a child of the Holocaust. He is, in a way, art born of atrocity. His story is fascinating, as are the stories of so many whose parents survived the Holocaust, either in camps or in hiding or in brave revolt in the woods of Poland.

But his story is not my story today. My story is brief and bubbled up for me this morning on the drive home from the cafe.

My story is in response to the despair I often feel in this world; and the despair I feel specifically right now in this region.

I woke up this morning with a headache, and with a swelling I get in the hollow of my neck where sadness lurks. The news, the last thing I read before falling asleep last night, still lingered there.

But two hours later, after a spinach quiche and cafe hafooch at Cafederaztia, after taking 8 pages of notes, after probing my father-in-law for details about the small Polish village, about the time in Lublin, and the after time in Germany, and the time after that in Lod and in Petach Tikva, and eventually Newark, NJ …

I felt alive again.

The headache is still there a bit, but the hollow less congested. And if I had to say why, I’d say it was the listening. It was the act of being a vessel — even temporarily — of someone else’s story. Someone else’s past; someone else’s meaning. I bet if you asked my father-in-law immediately after our conversation, he would probably say he felt lifted up too. For having been actively and intentionally listened to.

It’s not the first time I’ve listened. It’s something I enjoy. It’s something of myself I want to give to others, if that makes sense.

I sense they need it. And I sense I do, too.

I know this is a luxury — drinking coffee, listening. I know it’s a luxury of living here in the Lower Galilee where, for the time being, war is more a headline than a reality. I know this is not a luxury for those in shelters in Southern Israel or others whose life stories are characterized more by war than by living.

I am not naive, though this is an accusation sometimes leveled on people who still suggest conflict may be resolved by talking and listening.

But I repeat, I am not naive.

I am just open. A vessel.

And there are more like me. A lot more.

We could band together. Form our own little revolution of listening. Create art not out of, but instead of atrocity.

 

 

 

 

The after-taste of a dream

My dreams are poems

Righting themselves upside down

in Not-for-long Ville.

 

Still fresh with relief

when I wake I take a pen

so I may keep them.

 

But the poems fade

faster than the dream even

when I whisper, “Don’t.”

 

What’s left then, but last

night’s dream, which will never be

anything more than