Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Month: July, 2010

Two Quotations I Culled from a Book I Was Reading

1.

“I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun and keeps on shooting.”
–Che Guevara

2.

” Love is the most important ingredient in nonviolent work.”
–Cesar Chavez

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The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins…

My friend Randa seems to know everyone in St. Louis
I’ve seen her legal pad of lists of people she must see
Within a time span that doesn’t seem humanly possible
I could be sitting outside at 6 North Coffee
And I’d see her in her red VW
Blazing down Laclede Avenue
Talking on her cell phone
Buzzing to her seventh meeting
Out of 12 that day

We manage a visit from time to time
I always leave invigorated
To see yet another of Blake’s human forms divine

But let me smash that pedestal
Here’s something she won’t put on her Curriculum Vitae

I asked if she could help us out with our Palestinian olive oil project
She said, Sure

And so Randa phoned the mosques
Patiently explained
Attended the necessary meetings
And within weeks sold $1,700 worth of olive oil
That would benefit Palestinian children in the refugee camps
She’d say, I’m glad to do it
And she’d acknowledge that
In the grand scheme of things
It was no big deal

Yes, I’d think
It’s so little
But it’s something

The Way It Is

There are hundred thousands of stems linking us to everything in the cosmos,
Supporting us and making it possible for us to be.
Do you see the link between you and me?
If you are not there,
I am not here.

–Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of Understanding

Haitian mothers

photo by Mev Puleo

Easy To Forget

As long as we are motivated by the desire to punish each other, there will be no end to the hostilities and there will be no happiness in me, in you, or between us.
–Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist teacher

It might be satisfying
For a little while
To score a verbal hit
To show somebody up
To point out their racism or ignorance
To speak words that appear calm on the outside
But inside jeering is having its day

But, like everything else,
These little pleasures of “victory” or “superiority”
Come, linger, and dissolve
And my words, looks, and tones
May have set into motion any number of karmic consequences
I may have watered the seeds of fear
Or reactive righteous indignation
Or mistrust
In the other person
Who then goes on to share words, looks, and tones
With those she comes into contact
On and on
Beyond a single human being’s ability to calculate and consider

“But I don’t want to appear weak!”
“I have to challenge his lies!”
“Somebody has to take the side of the victims!”

My mother used to say:
It’s not so much what you do.

It’s how you do it.

 

Laura, thank you for today’s sharing at 6 North Coffee.
Becca, thank you for our early morning stroll last week in Forest Park.
Sandhya, I wish we could have a nice, long chat. You are missed.

Bearing Witness

for Sandra Tamari

Yet it was plain to us that by reckoning with Taha’s exceptional personality and poems, many of these American audiences were also reckoning for the first time with a Palestinian—not as a menacing or pitiable abstract concept but as a complex individual human being and a genuine artist who was, of all things, directly speaking to their hearts.

–Adina Hoffman, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, 387

I know what you are going to say.
“I’m not even a poet!”
And you may be right (on one level)
But I am also right (on another level)
And I think Adina Hoffman would agree with me:
If she had had the pleasure of hearing you speak to the senior citizens
Or had lunch with you amid hundreds of SIUE students
Or witnessed you stand up to that moral fraud Elie Wiesel
Or inspected the photos of you exuberant and steadfast in Cairo
Or sat with us at any of those planning meetings of our fledgling group of concerned citizens for all the peoples of historic Palestine
Or saw you attending to your children
Adina would say—
“Yes, Sandra can do in her own way what Taha has done in his own way!” Read the rest of this entry »

“There’s Just a Meanness in This World”

On Charles Reznikoff, Testimony, v.2 The United States (1885-1915):  Recitative

I can’t say I was tremendously impressed with this “broken-up prose” (wife Marie Syrkin’s label). Maybe it’s the dating—it’s way back in US history, and it’s hard to relate my experience in many respects. (Maybe in 70 years, someone reading Weinberger’s What I Heard about Iraq will feel similarly.) I wasn’t impressed, either, with the style: OK, this is classic Rez, but it really is plain, and not too mesmerizing. Plus, with a whole volume, you pretty much know after thirty pages, someone is going to be shot or stabbed, raped or beaten, taken advantage of or lost a finger in a factory or is run over on the railroad track (I wonder if Ralph Nader read this in his formative years). No surprise, really—just wait for the worst to materialize.

There’s no Alyosha in this book, no Sonia. Read the rest of this entry »