Sunday, December 10, 2023

Thought for the Day

Be grateful, be father and mother, /
Be teacher, sister and brother /
In all that you dream and do, /
Against the day your ledger /
Is opened to you.
~ Robert McDowell 

Quoted from Robert McDowell, "Grateful" from On Foot, In Flames (University of Pittsburgh Press) in Robert McDowell, Sweet Wolf Selected & New Poems (Homestead Lighthouse Press, 2021), p. 96

Robert McDowell, Poet, Author (Fiction, Criticism, Translation, Creative Nonfiction), Editor; Co-Founder (with Mark Jarman) of The Reaper Magazine and Story Line Press; Founder, Rural Readers Project; Co-Founder, Poets Prize; College and University Educator; Social Activist; Public Speaker

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Staying Ahead of the Danger (Poem)

Staying Ahead of the Danger

Drone-dropped leaflets float down
like so much manna from heaven:
warnings with QR codes for
downloadable color-coded maps
outlining the "dangerous combat
zones" in the killing fields of Gaza.

There is no electricity to charge
the phones the IDF is calling.

Texts follow anyway. Evacuate,
those first ones order; stay inside

"known" shelters and schools,
command others. An official

spokesperson fails to see
the contradiction, estimates

that for every one Hamas militant
eliminated, two civilians die.

Let's be clear: This is the calculus 
only his government can live with,

the toll now "something more"
than the losses recorded yesterday,

and still "more than acceptable
compared to other armies

facing similar challenges 
in urban battlefields." After all,

what choice is there? "We
didn't start this war," he argues. 


The quotes in this poem come directly from an Israeli military spokesperson's explanation of his country's warning system, which uses air-dropped leaflets, drone broadcasts, telephone calling, texting, and Internet communications to warn Gazans to move out of harm's way as the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) advances its war against Hamas militants. Displacement in one area flows from displacement in another. As this Washington Post article makes clear from interviews with Gazans and humanitarian aid officials, there are no safe spaces for the Palestinians, not in homes, schools, hospitals, churches, or other shelters, especially where all essential services have ceased to exist. (See "Israel touts civilian warning system, but for Gazans, nowhere is safe".) The spokesperson's additional comments about the number of civilians killed compared to the number of militants are appalling, though the individual hastened to add – too late, in my opinion, to register a sense of compassion – that "any loss" is unacceptable. Numbers are telling. Facts are facts. We must all drop the scales from our eyes if we are to see this war, and this horrendous crisis for Palestinian civilians, in clear light and at last acknowledge those unlike ourselves as the human beings they are. (See also this New York Times coverage and, in particular, "An Airstrike hits Rafah, where Israel had urged Gazans to seek safety," (December 6, 2023):

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Thought for the Day

[. . . ] I lived in the present, which was
that part of the future you could see. [. . .]
~ Louise Gluck

Quoted from Louise Gluck, "Landscape," The Threepenny Review, Winter 2005

Louise Gluck (April 22, 1943 - October 13, 2023), American Poet and Essayist; Winner, Nobel Prize in Literature, 2020; United States Poet Laureate, 2003-2004

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Thought for the Day

[. . .] I have come around to understand the fact that in promising
us an afterlife, we are being given a chance to take care of
unfinished business. Because who, except the greatest 
of saints and the most innocent of persons, 
doesn't have unfinished business? [. . .]
~ Denise Levertov


Quoted from Emily Archer, "Conversation with Denise Levertov," Image, Issue 18, Winter 1997-1998

Denise Levertov (October 24, 1923 - December 20, 1997), British-Born Poet, Writer, Translator; Teacher; Political Activist

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Uprootings (Poem)


Ungloved hands once plucked ripe olives,
Palestinian symbol of resilience and pride.
They harvest now no more than branch
and bone, sprayed hectares amid grove fires.
In Khan Younis, beyond the border fence,
no one dances dabka. In Nablus, a farmer
hugs her tree, and cries; another watches,
his grape vines crushed, his fingers broken.
A city center's oil spills. A boy's toy
plane soars from a concrete balcony
just seconds before the blast
of a white phosphorus bomb.
Love of the land, for the land:
even the natural history of the soil
is denied, crops confined behind iron
gates, earth mounds, secure checkpoints.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Thought for the Day

[. . .] Peace, not only /
the absence of war. [. . .] 
~ Denise Levertov

Quoted from Denise Levertov, "Making Peace" in Breathing the Water (New Directions Press, 1997)

"Making Peace" in The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov (New Directions, 2013), pp. 757-758

Denise Levertov (1923-1997), British-born American Poet, Writer, Translator; Teacher; Political Activist

Denise Levertov Profiles at Academy of American Poets, Image Journal, New Directions, The New York Times

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Thought for the Day

Eat the cake!
~ Hadley Vlahos on Advice from the Dying
Quoted from "Biloxi Native Writes WSJ bestseller 'The In Between'," Interview on WLOX (Video), June 27, 2023

 Hadley Vlahos, Hospice Nurse; Author, The In Between (Penguin Random House, 2023)
David Marchese, "A Hospice Nurse on Embracing the Grace of Dying," Interview, The New York Times, October 21, 2023

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Thought for the Day

. . . if your moral compass is attuned to the suffering of only one
side, your compass is broken, and so is your humanity.
~ Nicholas Kristof
Quoted from Nicholas Kristof, "Opinion: Seeking a Moral Compass in Gaza's War" in The New York Times, October 11,  2023 (Online)

Nicholas Kristof, Columnist, The New York Times; Pulitzer Prize Winner; Author

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Thought for the Day

It is not because spring / is too beautiful /
that we'll not write what / happens in the dark.
~ Etel Adnan


Quoted from Etel Adnan, "The Spring Flowers Own" in The Spring Flowers Own & The Manifestations of the Voyage (Poet-Apollo Press, 1990)

Etel Adnan (1925-2021), Lebanese Poet and Artist

Etel Adnan Profile at Poetry Foundation

Monday, October 23, 2023

A Poet's View (Poem)

A Poet's View


Explosions settle
dust on the table,

the last of the bread
in orbit, saucers

overflowing with
black tea, stains spreading

from here to there and
a mother, crying

between screams. Her
child, motionless.

Beit Lahia was warned.


The children have no
room to run, no pitas

to calm their asking
for juice. No biscuits.

No mangoes to toss
like footballs. Olive

trees: splintered. Water
erupting old pipes.

Books - by Gibran and
Darwish and Shihab
Nye - floating past as
another shock wave
works its way through the
electrical grid.
Thirteen floors tumble
to garden level.
Drones yet whirred like flies.
Numbers. Begin with
one thousand four hundred
news-worthy names shared
world-wide. Not Beit Lahia's.
There, leaflets, like birds,
still fall from the sky,
where the cries of dogs
become lullabies;
pots and pans, rockets.
Stones or bombs:
what's the difference?
All going south.

This poem was inspired by poet Mosab Abu Toha’s essay in The New Yorker, “The View from My Window in Gaza,” October 20, 2023. Online: