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? Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Summer Share the Wealth Chicago: Welcome to Insanity: The Challenges of a Psychiatry Residency, with Dr. Nima Sheth

I am starting my third year of psychiatry residency training. During this Share the Wealth,  I would like to share some eye-opening experiences I have had with patients during my training. I would also like to share some of the challenges that exist when trying to create space for social justice in the field of psychiatry. I will share some stories and poems intermittently that I hope speak to some of all of your experiences as well. Most of all I hope that all of you share your stories and challenges in your respective work too!

Join us
Saturday 26 July
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 pm.
Nima begins sharing at 6:45
At Nima and Matt’s home
5256 S. Drexel Ave.
Unit #3D
Chicago 60615



For almost two years, we have been meeting on Sunday nights in and around our Forest Park Southeast neighborhood in Saint Louis for  potluck dinners, presentations by friends of mine and lively discussions.  I call it “share the wealth” because while most of us do not have lots of economic wealth, we all have the wealth of our questions, experiences, passions, travels.

These evenings often have their origin at cafes where I visit with friends and in the course of our discussion, I will see a brightness about someone’s face as he is telling me about what he holds dear.  It’s hard to resist asking, “Would you be willing to share with us sometime?”

I know many wonderful people whom I got to know through SLU who live in the Chicago area.  I would like to have such share the Wealths every season (summer, fall, winter, and spring).  July 26th with Nima will get us started.

I would love to see you come and join us, if your time permits, and also consider sharing with us at some point.  And feel free to bring a friend or two.

I can guarantee you will be meting some of the best people I know.

If you want to see the range of what we’ve talked about in Saint Louis, go here.