Sunday, March 31, 2024

Thought for the Day

Nobody will give you freedom . . .
you have to take it.
~ Meret Oppenheim 


Quoted from Meret Oppenheim, Acceptance Speech, City of Basel Art Award, 1975

Meret Oppenheim (1913-1975), Swiss Artist, Photographer, Poet

Note: See The Loveliest Vowel Empties: Collected Poems of Meret Oppenheim, trans. Kathleen Heil (World Poetry Books, February 2023).

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Thought for the Day

Love is convinced that it is the source of life,
and life is convinced that without it, love is
nothing. And in fact, nonhuman life on Earth,
which is most life, has no need for love. Love
is necessary for humans, because without it 
we are destroyers of worlds, and with it, we
still struggle not to be destroyers.
~ Fady Joudah

Quoted from Aria Aber, "Fady Joudah: The poet on the war in Gaza changed his work" in The Yale Review, February 28, 2024 (Online)

Fady Joudah, Award-Winning Palestinian-American Poet, Writer, Translator, Co-Founder/Co-Editor, Etel Adnan Poetry Prize, Physician in Internal Medicine

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Flour Massacre (Poem)

 Flour Massacre

        This bag of flour [. . .] it's
            the most expensive food ever made.
            ~ Mohammed al-Simry, father of four

On Leap Year Day, aid trucks at last
arrive, and the crowd, having gathered
in al-Rashid Street the night before,
makes for the goods.
Once, what came before the trucks
with their sacks of flour, 
before the bread to be baked
and then heaped with hummus,  
before the fattoush salad,
the soups of lentils and fava beans,
the eggs or chicken,
the copper pitchers of sous,
was the anticipation of taste,
the clarity of a satisfied stomach,
eyes delighting at the sight
of knafeh and date-filled ma'mool

It is four forty-five a.m.,
the morning of February 29,
and the trucks arrive.

So, too, do the soldiers.
Look: they are anywhere,
even everywhere, 
the aid trucks are.

But these soldiers,
they make no exceptions
for the food-deprived.
They feel the hunger.

Dropped sacks of flour
dust the heads  
of hundreds, there
in al-Rashid Street.

No one clamors now
for bread. 
No bread
will be made this day.


For articles on the event that has come to be known as the "Flour Massacre," see Zaina Arafat's essay "Fasting for Ramadan While Gaza Goes Hungry" (The New Yorker, March 11, 2024) and Simon Speakman Cordall, Mohammed R Mhawish, and Mat Nashed's reporting, "When Israeli Soldiers Shot at Hungry Palestinians" (Aljazeera News, March 5, 2024).

Fattoush is a type of Middle Eastern (Lebanese) chopped salad that uses, among other ingredients, pomegranate molasses, sumac and other herbs, mixed greens and vegetables, and toasted pita chips.

Sous, or erk sous, is a licorice drink typically imbibed during Ramadan.

Knafeh is a cheese-filled sweet made with filo dough and ma'mool are sweet cookies, often stuffed with dates.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Thought for the Day

I think self-promotion is a really bad idea for
a couple of reasons – the greatest of which is 
that you start thinking that public attention is
how you know your work is good. Applause and acclaim
 are not how you know something has quality.
~ Scott Cairns

Quoted from Ben Palpant, "A Conversation with Scott Cairns" (Online), The Rabbit Room, February 26, 2024

Scott Cairns, Poet, Spiritual Writer and Memoirist; Professor of English and Director, M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Seattle University; Blogger and Podcaster

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Thought for the Day

[. . .] We must learn how to be surprised,
not to adjust ourselves. [. . .]
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

Quoted in Tali Sharot and Cass R. Sunstein, "Why People Fail to Notice Horrors Around Them" (Guest Essay), The New York Times, February 25, 2024

Dr. Tali Sharot, Neuroscientist, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London and Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cass R. Sunstein, Law Professor, Harvard University; Founder and Director, Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy, Harvard Law School

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), Jewish Theologian and Philosopher; Author

Arnold Eisen, "The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel" at On Being, September 21,  1917

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Thought for the Day

The correct response to uncertainty is mythmaking.
~ Martin Shaw

Quoted from Martin Shaw, "Navigating the Mysteries," Emergence, May 12, 2022

Dr. Martin Shaw, Mythologist and Storyteller; Author, Translator and Poet

Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, "Mud and Antler Bone: An Interview with Martin Shaw," Emergence, June 4, 2018

Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Children / We See (Poem)

 The Children / We See

            What childhood does /
            a destroyed childhood beget?
                    ~ Fady Joudah
We see them –
the children
rummaging through the fallen
fortress that once was Gaza
Their urge –
to eat, sleep, play
to wake as if free
like the kites
they fly in hope
their dreams
of so many seeds
their grandfathers sowed
when the land was theirs
to harvest
and they could
taste the white cucumbers
the figs and the olives
Battiri eggplant, gourds
with necks like swans'

These children –
we see them
what they've become
what they would give
for a taste of khubeezeh
a drink of cold water
a wash in the Red Sea

They push their steel pots
their plastic bowls
to the front lines
their eyes on those
with the stronger arms
the longer reach
the elbows out and ready
They are children –
we see them
know what they teach us
what war does
how power takes
on a life of its own
delivering back
their small bodies
into the arms of their fathers
borne too early of their mothers
denied them


The epigraph is from Fady Joudah's poem "[. . .]."

Khubeezeh, as locally known in Gaza, is cheeseweed. It has become, according to the United Nations, a major food source for Gazans. A plant, it typically has been used in recipes for side dishes.