Hold It All

Month: July, 2014

Fifteen Iraqi Poets

So we need poets to challenge received notions, tell us what we don’t know, ask the questions we can’t answer, and wake us up to both doom and Utopia.

— Translator and essayist Eliot Weinberger


Over the decades, the United States has caused extreme damage in Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Iraq. In each of these nations, the populace esteems poetry in a way that U.S. citizens  could scarcely imagine.  While in a Chinese prison, Ho Chi Minh wrote poetry, while Minister of Culture Ernesto Cardenal and his associate Daisy Zamora sponsored poetry workshops all over the country after the revolutionary triumph.

Dunya Mikhail, author of The War Works Hard, has edited a short and powerful collection of poems, Fifteen Iraqi Poets, published by New Directions, famous for its promotion of international modernism.  The collection proceeds chronologically from Badr Shakir al-Sayyab (born in 1926) to Siham Jabbar (born in 1963). Mikhail acknowledged, “It was a nearly impossible task trying to pick only fifteen grains of sand from a shimmering desert.” Read the rest of this entry »

Dear _____________________

Dear Netanyahu,
Thank you. You’ve reminded me of my capacity to experience immense rage.
Mark Chmiel

Dear Frenchwell,
Thank you for passing on the wisdom and skill
of your Israeli genius-teacher.
You practice right livelihood with brilliance.
Sparkwell Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful Friendships by Clara Takarabe



I’ve been ruminating on your last email.

There are a few things that come to mind really strongly when you asked that question, “what is important and what am I responsible for?”

The first word that comes to mind is “presence.”  Presence to what is, especially to oneself. That means, not giving up one’s instincts, being present to one’s own health, emotional and mental, and bringing one’s most holistic self to the world.  How many activists come to activism because they are simply angry people, and activism is a sanctioned way of being eternally angry and indignant? How many people show up to the table, but cannot follow through on any needed task, and hamstring a greater movement because they lack integrity? How do we move forward without a great deal of honesty, presence, and also respect and love for one another? Do we really want to move forward with righteous indignation? How much of the Left is marked by the same emotional diseases as the establishment?

I have definitely seen projects imbued with great ideas and great organization, beautiful cooperation—these projects are filled with people who are pragmatic, who possess a certain kind of emotional clarity–that is what they bring to the table. There is nothing that is hidden, there is nothing that can’t be questioned, there are no strange lacunae, no strange black holes or vacua, no glaring silences.  Hope, which is important, doesn’t come from covert rage. I don’t think real hope and a path forward come from the lack of openness or from a stomach of fear.

I have sensed profound presences of individuals, you included, where there is a huge force at the table. That is the force of being, of presence. Not the presence of fear, or skepticism, or indignation.  Of sheer presence, of being seen, and of seeing. Of being taken in and received and met with a whole response, coupled with respect and openness.

Bringing one’s whole presence, shed of all anxiety, even when there is war, bloodshed, poverty, hatred in this world—bringing one’s presence to the table with openness, I think, would be a new way to proceed.

I have experienced several profound friendships, open, exploratory, raw and fearless, filled with tenderness, lovingkindness, filled with mystery and discovery.  And those friendships are a model to me of how I would like to proceed, individually and socially.  Maybe that is not realistic, but how can we make this a better world, without these qualities? Is it possible? I don’t mean a world with more alliances of nefarious reasons, but beautiful friendships.

That’s my first thesis. I think the Left could only reject that first thesis, as totally loony and hokey and New Age.





Share the Wealth: “Walking in Beauty: Our Time with the Navajo” with Patrick Cousins

Patrick Cousins has been invested in the life of the Navajo Nation for nearly twenty years, including two years teaching in a Navajo high school and leading roughly twenty immersion groups to the reservation. Patrick and several SLU students will discuss some of the experiences and insights they have gained from their time among the people of the Navajo Nation.

Join us
Sunday 27 July
Potluck begins at 6:00 pm
Patrick and friends begin sharing at 6:45
At the home of the Oleskeviches
4026 Magnolia Place
St. Louis 63110


Free Palestine

Over the weekend
(Scores of Palestinians being killed)
The pro basketball player tweeted
Free Palestine

The president of the Zionist Organization of America stated
“Anyone who uses the phrase ‘Free Palestine’ is either ignorant of the situation
or hates the Jewish state of Israel
It’s a hateful position”

Badia is not ignorant of the situation
Amal is not ignorant of the situation
Hala is not ignorant of the situation
Sharifa is not ignorant of the situation Read the rest of this entry »

Communities of Resistance

Dear Sangha,

I’ve been rereading book I first encountered back in the 1980s, The Raft Is Not the Shore.  (This title will remind some of us of our recent sutra readings.) It’s a dialogue between Thich Nhat Hanh and his friend, Jesuit poet and antiwar resister Daniel Berrigan.  The subtitle is “Conversations toward a Buddhist-Christian Awareness.”

Thay was living in France in 1974 because he could to return to South Vietnam unless he was ready to face a very grim life, whether in prison or not.  Berrigan had spent many months in a federal petitionary for committing an act of civil disobedience in 1968: Pouring home-made napalm on Selective Service files in protest of the U.S. aggression in Vietnam that became ever more hideous year after year.  Each, then, could value the other’s company, calm, and clarity during those evenings together in Paris. Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Savannah Sisk: Universal Design & Health Literacy

I know you all have had that moment where you wake up in the middle of the night and think, “I wonder what occupational therapy and universal design and health literacy and healthcare reform all have in common.” Or at least, “I wonder what all those things are.” Or maybe, “Why is it that figuring out how to get around a hospital and understanding what the doctor is saying and decoding how to take my medicine is just as stressful as being sick?”

Join me in reflecting on what it means to design healthcare environments that are actually healing and empowering. And if you have a horror story about a confusing or stressful experience with the healthcare system, bring it!

I’m originally from Michigan (and Pennsylvania and Tennessee), but am now a grad student at Washington University’s Program in Occupational Therapy. I am really passionate about disability rights, so I love what I am studying! When I’m not in school, which is to say, when I’m not breathing, I’m usually doing things for my church, Pilgrim Congregational UCC, like helping to plan a conference we’re having in the fall about multiracial families, or I’m catching fireflies because I’m just that good at it. Read the rest of this entry »

The Thread of One’s Anger — Jean-Paul Sartre

I always felt I had to stay in contact with the world, with my world.
Ever since Marx, philosophy must lead to action.
Otherwise it is irrelevant.

So a philosopher does what he has to do,
then sits down at his desk, wherever it is,
and “retakes the thread of his anger,” as Valéry once said.

The distractions don’t matter as long as I could retake the thread of my anger,
angers against this system, against all those who believe that they have a right to be greedy,
who feel they are superior to others,

like the French in Algeria, in Madagascar,
the Americans in Haiti, in Puerto Rico, the whites in black New York,
the Dulleses in Guatemala or Egypt.

Philosophers must be angry, and in this world, stay angry.

–Jean-Paul Sartre
Adapted from John Gerassi, Talking with Sartre



Metta Aspiration by Penny Smith & Mark Chmiel

Metta upon waking up in the morning
Metta upon waking up in snaked snarky traffic jam

Metta toward the beloved
Metta toward the janitor

Metta for those sitting in jail cells
Metta for your boss

Metta for all carpenters
Metta for all nurses

Metta upon yourself
Metta upon the earth Read the rest of this entry »

Interstate Vision

Headed toward Indianapolis
See exit for Ronald Reagan Parkway

I think of 1980s
See a small mountain

Of Central American corpses
Women & children & men

The slaughtered
The disappeared

At the hands of contras, Atlacatl Battalion, G-2
Courtesy of the Reagan administration