Hold It All

Month: February, 2015

To Hold the Heft of Your Words in My Hands

OK. I Confess:
I’m afraid I won’t live long enough
To hold in my wrinkled hands
A nasturtium-colored book entitled
The Collected Writings of Bella Levenshteyn (v. 1, much less v.1-7)

But on the bright side
I can tell people right now–
Strangers on Euclid
18 year-old Actuarial Science  majors
Jesuit priest/felon who’s spent 15 years in federal hospitality–

“Bella Levenshteyn
Will always be in my heart
For admitting to me
When she was far away in Brooklyn–
‘I miss yr ink-stained hands'”


Face to Face

“If  only we could see ourselves through the eyes of the people who adore us…”
–Courtney Barrett, Improv Wisdom Writing class, Spring 2014

Right now
Are deeply present
Blessing me

Right now
Am adoring
Blessed you

Nicaraguan Slogans from Yesteryear

“Che lives in our consciences”

“Long live Father Camilo Torres”

“Free Homeland or Death”

“Sandino means liberty forever”

–from Marc Zimmerman et al., Nicaragua in Revolution: The Poets Speak


De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum

It’s true

There’s no cottage industry feeding off of your collected poems
There aren’t 15 young scholars writing dissertations from various disciplines on your life and work
There’s not been a single academic conference on your intertextuality
In the worlds of the University and Poetry you are a nobody

You simply write like you talk
You live close to the edge
You radiate cheerfulness and candor
Your verbal vibrations enter me and grow there

I’d much rather read your poems than Thomas Merton’s

So What

Dear Srimatiji

So what if David Harvey’s Marxist analysis is verified by each day’s dispiriting news?
“Full effort is full victory.”

So what if the interlocking system of oppressions appears stronger with each passing month?
“Be here now.”

So what if the work  feels crushingly overwhelming and gratitude for the work is depressingly underwhelming?
“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work.”

So what if we wake up some mornings and in world-weariness want to stay in bed all day?
“Wherever you are, immerse yourself totally in one-pointed sadhana.”

So what if samadhi often feels like a million years away?
“Concentration is consecration.”

So what if the daily grind is wearing down our faith and kicking our hope into the gutter?
“Love is the strongest medicine.  It is more powerful than electricity.”

So what if you are 750 miles away and I only get to see you twice a year?
“You and I aren’t ‘we’; you and I are One.”


Line 2:  Mohandas Gandhi

Line 4:  Title of Ram Dass’s 1971 spiritual manual

Line 6:  Bhagavad Gita, chapter 2, verse 47

Line 8: Last words of  Sri Anandamayi Ma

Line 10:  Sri Eknath Easwaran

Line 12: Neem Karoli Baba

Line 14:  Meher Baba

–from work-in-progress, Namaste Forever

With Anandamayi Ma at Gelateria

for Dr. Amy Afanasevich

After meditating way past midnight
I went to my mat and fell asleep
And soon in a dream
Sri Anandamayi Ma and I are having a  tête-à-tête

She looks mid-twenties
She is wearing a tie-dye t-shirt
And is sitting across from me
Outside at Gelateria

The curious passers-by
Might assume she is a medical student
Taking a break from her books
That would account for the light emanating from her

She’s wearing a faint smile
And I’m a little nervous
She obviously knows this too
And tries to put me at ease Read the rest of this entry »

Why Didn’t I Think of This Before? (The Answer Will Be Right There in Your Heart)

You have this huge decision to make
There’s this stellar opportunity
And that challenging path and six more besides

Sure, you could consult the Jesuits
With those time-honored techniques of discernment
And maybe you’re headed to them even now

But all you need is three uninterrupted hours
During which if you can keep your heart open
You’ll surely know what to do

After watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

from on-going work-in-progress, Namaste Forever

Going for Broke

I had been pushed
as far as I could stand to be pushed
and decided
that I would have to know
once and for all
what rights I had
as a human being
and a citizen.

Adapted from Rosa Parks, as quoted in Charles Marsh, The Beloved Community:How Faith Shapes Social Justice from the Civil Rights Movement to Today

The Roles That Made It Possible

Neither superhuman nor subhuman
Neither God
Nor animal
Nor monster.

But always simply
Additional kinds of humans:
The bomb droppers
The capo
The body burners
The throat slashers
The exterminators in the forest
The scalpers
The guards
The architects of the camp
The physicians
The transport escorts
The oven lighters
The grave diggers
The engine drivers
Types of human beings.

–Adapted from Adi Ophir, The Order of Evils: Toward an Ontology of Morals

I Love Self-Righteous People!

Dear Bella Levenshteyn
I’m astounded on a daily basis:

The hand-written letters I receive
From dear ones via the USPS!!!

In my circle of near and far-flung friends
We are keeping alive this art form

The following is from Marvin
(You remember, from my Beserkley days

He’s part of a sangha out there
That meets twice a week!)

I am happy to share his ode with you
Perry Schimmel Read the rest of this entry »