Hold It All

Month: March, 2016

Walt Whitman and Dear Layla

Dear Rebecca, Sarah, Matthew and Patrick,

Joanie French and I took the Amtrak train to Texas in the summer of 2005 for a family wedding. Along the way and back, I read the Library of America edition of Walt Whitman, Poetry and Prose. Ten years later, I published Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine.

I was simmering, simmering, simmering. Whitman brought me to a boil.

References to Walt  appear in the following chapters:
Roads/1, p. 11
Reading/1, p. 28
What Nourishes Active Rebellion (A Little Taste/4 [Subversive/1]), p. 60
Anti-American, p. 192
Scenes beyond the Classroom, p. 206
One Person Can Change Everything for Us, p. 221
Glocal Comrades, p. 234
Roads/4, p. 254


Safety First

Royesha told me
Since her brother’s come back from Iraq
He’s been having nightmares

At family gatherings, parties
He always positions himself in the far corner in the biggest room
To be able to see everything that’s going on

The Lesson of a Tree by Walt Whitman

for Ale Vazquez

Sept. 1.—I should not take either the biggest or the most picturesque tree to illustrate it. Here is one of my favorites now before me, a fine yellow poplar, quite straight, perhaps 90 feet high, and four thick at the butt. How strong, vital, enduring! how dumbly eloquent! What suggestions of imperturbability and being, as against the human trait of mere seeming. Then the qualities, almost emotional, palpably artistic, heroic, of a tree; so innocent and harmless, yet so savage. It is, yet says nothing. How it rebukes by its tough and equable serenity all weathers, this gusty-temper’d little whiffet, man, that runs indoors at a mite of rain or snow. Science (or rather half-way science) scoffs at reminiscence of dryad and hamadryad, and of trees speaking. Read the rest of this entry »


20 years old
She was in the Adult Learning Academy
To brush up on reading, writing, and math skills
I offered feedback and encouragement on her writing

After graduating from the ALA
She wanted to train as a Certified Nursing Assistant
Then in her mid-20s work toward becoming a nurse
Maybe one day even become a doctor

She’d been working the graveyard shift
At a North County White Castle:
“CNAs start out at two dollars more an hour!”
She had the kindest eyes

For K. L.

After his own New York show in 1988, his work dried up. He moved many times and every time he moved he dumped what little work he had produced. But he didn’t stop thinking of himself as an artist. The abiding lesson he took from Duchamp was that being an artist was about living as an artist, rather than producing some product, some work of art for a gallery, or even for oneself.

–Barnaby Martin, Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei Arrest

How One Person Saw Hồ Chí Minh

In Hồ Chí Minh, everybody finds the noblest, most simple, and dearest member of his family… Compared with weapons, that does not yield to all the weapons of the Seventh Fleet… Hồ Chí Minh’s image is the perfect combination of Buddha’s wisdom, Jesus’s fraternity, Marx’s philosophy, Lenin’s revolutionary genius and the feeling of a master of a family, all that wrapped in a most natural manner.

—French journalist Hélène Tourmaire
quoted in Phạm Văn Đôǹg, Hồ Chí Minh: A Man, A Nation, An Age, and a Cause

Guest Speaker

You came to class to tell your story
As you surely had done many times elsewhere

How you became a serious Muslim
While at a West Coast Jesuit university

I’d heard many stories about you
From students who were on-goingly inspired by you

So I wanted students that spring morning
To be face to face with you for 75 minutes

Smiling, you sat in front of us
Sharing the steppingstones on your path

Opened yourself to our questions
As if there was no place you’d rather be

Mentioned casually you were in your residency
Had worked 110 hours the past week

It was a mystery then
And remains so all these years later—

You were the most radiant and serene person
I had seen in years

Be in Love with Yr Life

“Neighbors, friends, colleagues, students, fellow poets, and artists all came to her home where they were greeted with exuberance, shared in her bursts of full-bodied laughter, and were sent off with her signature Buddhist bow. Her gift in friendship was to share her endless curiosity and delight in the world. A rapid intake of her breath and a clasp of her hands were her signature responses.”

–from Dana Green’s biography of Denise Levertov



Support a Gaza Cancer Center

It’s an honor to know Dr. Zeina Kiblawi; please consider making a contribution to this project. She writes:

“Hi everyone! On April 1st, I’m running in the Palestine “Right to Movement” Marathon (I’ll be doing the 10K!!) in Bethlehem, Palestine to raise funds for building the first and only children’s cancer deptartment in the Gaza Strip. In the U.S. we are able to effectively treat most childhood cancers, with a survival rate of almost 90%. Early treatment is crucial, but due to the Israeli military blockade, children fighting cancer in Gaza are unable to access standard of care treatment. The “Right to Movement” Marathon is a perfect way to symbolize the challenges that our children fighting cancer in Gaza face.  Instead of sending them abroad, PCRF plans to bring services to them that will save lives and help reduce the suffering of these poor children and their families. PCRF has already successfully built a cancer treatment center in the West Bank and construction is currently underway in building an even better facility in Gaza   I hope you can make a donation on behalf of my run so it can go towards building this vital pediatric oncology department in Gaza. Thank you!!

Birthday Greetings to Matthew Hyde

Thich Nhat Hanh says
“Interbeing means

You don’t have a separate existence
You inter-are with everything else”

Happy birthday,

Matthew Hyde birthday