Hold It All

Category: Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

Putting Marginalia to Use

for Danielle Mackey

Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces
31 Saturday October 2009

I reread this book for one reason:  To see if it could help me generate some ideas as to form and content for my third book, which still will deal with Palestine.

So, all I scribble below is from marginalia—ideas, chapter or unit titles, possibilities—I  have made as I read these short, lyrical, lightly dense meditations that still make me think: Ah, this is my form, too!

Today as I finished the book in Borders waiting for Sharifa and Dania, it occurred to me: 10 themes each with 10 chapters, fractured and sequenced, with the ten chapters on Hedy being the “spine” of the work: a link between Shoah and Nakba. This is reflected below in the end of these notes.

It really will be a meditation on history.

Lexicon entries
The Occupation
What Prison can do to a Man [Hitler story]

Ghadeer, 400 words [tell me your story]
Different fonts of Arabic words…. Calligraphy
Reading Chomsky/1/2

Take a quotation and revise it to tell my story
Transformations/1 [Halper]

People I Know: The Actor
People I Know: The Survivor
People I Know: The Professor Read the rest of this entry »

Two Ways of Looking at a Plague…

Ernesto Cardenal, Zero Hour And Other Documentary Poems
New Directions, 1980

Dear Chase & Liz,

The Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal died on March 1. I’m going back over his works this spring under quarantine. I first read Zero Hour in 2008, and it was a godsend, a goad, a glory. A little more than 100 pages, Cardenal’s exteriorismo invites you into a world of injustice, resistance, and revolution, the last of which the U.S. government was determined to kill off, and did by the late 1980s. Translator Robert Print-Mill has this to say: “Cardenal’s recording of the present or the past is aimed at helping to shape the future—involving the reader in the poetic process in order to provoke him into full political commitment, thus fostering the translation of the poet’s more prophetic visions into sociopolitical fact.” Without Cardenal, without this book, I could not have written Dear Layla [see therein, Reading/5 (Subversive/3)]. The following are some passages from several poems that caught my attention…

The Brazilian miracle
Of a Hilton Hotel surrounded by hovels.
The price of things goes up
And the price of people comes down.

We cut through the canyon of windows [in Manhattan] and trillions of dollars

Who is that other monster rising up in the night?
The Chase Manhattan Bank screwing half of humanity.

THE EARTH BELONGS TO EVERYBODY, NOT THE RICH Read the rest of this entry »

Think Small

Today my friend Lucy, an ICU nurse in Idaho, sent me a text expressing her gratitude for the solace she received from a very short chapter in my book, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine.

 

Six Short Chapters from Forthcoming Book, “Dear Love of Comrades”

The Affordable Care Act Won’t Help Me Here

Dear Nima
I have three appointments–

In cardiology, cardiology
Hematology–

In the next two weeks
But there’s no doctor I can see about missing you

“This Is It” by Eileen McGrath Mosher

Shim-dawg (lovingly named),

My mantra this past week, “This is it,” without knowing it, consciously, it has been on your FB wall. I wondered but without a lot of curiosity what that meant to you. Here is why it has been so important to me.

I have to tell myself every minute that this is my new reality… my brain can only seem to recall it for a mere moment that this is it: This is life, this is my home, my job, my kids, my family but not as it has ever been before. It is not my dreams, my forecast, my hope, my desire.

But it is full of love, children laughing, neighbors calling, family supporting, community praying. Moments of pain so deep and literally body numbing and moments of laughter so full that my muscles ache, moments I feel the air leave my body requiring a painful deep breath as if I just broke the surface of the after after nearly drowning. This is it.

Right here, right now, it is all we have. So despite all of it, be kind, live consciously, aware of your breath, the trees CO2 exchange and your neighbors’ inhale. All of us sharing intimately this shared NOW.

This is it.

Eileen (I-dawg)

 

With the Barakats

Last night, Sharifa Barakat and I had dinner at Central Café (along with Imman Musa and Dania Saffaf Atienza). Sarah Dwidar had introduced me to Sharifa her freshman year at SLU on sunny day on West Pine. Later, she took a Social Justice class with me, and we were part of SLU Solidarity with Palestine. I have long been impressed with her humor, love of literature, and keen sense of responsibility. A while back, she led us in a close reading of Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun, and Other Palestinian Stories.

After dinner, the two of us walked to Left Bank Books to hear author Ibtisam Barakat (no relation to Sharifa) share her philosophy and read from her new book, Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine. Someone asked her a question about the political solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian people, culture, and land, and she said, point-blank, there’s no solution politically, there can only be a “soul-lution.” Accordingly, her contribution is to tell the story of her life as a Palestinian in Palestine and the Diaspora. She has published two books so far, and she mentioned at least three others to come, insha’allah. Read the rest of this entry »

Internationalista (Daydream/2)

It’s Nablus spring 1989
The intifada is in full bloom
And there’s always something happening in and with and from the resistance
International delegations come and go
10,000 photos are taken of David
(A Palestinian teen-ager with stones)
Squaring off against Goliath
(An Israeli tank)
The leaflets and communiqués everywhere
The women come into public space and assert their voices
And the mighty State of Israel has a major PR problem
Unnoticed is the older man with wavy grey hair
Like so many non-Palestinians, he, too, adopts the kaffiyeh
He studied some Arabic in Beirut and Sāo Paolo
He’d always been thinking of how to make “it” happen
To birth the revolution
Here, there, and everywhere
He wasn’t as talkative as he was in his thirties
He listened far more intently
Suffering can do that to a person
He’d seen so much misery
No, he wasn’t religious at all, but he found himself saying “crucifixion”
A fate he had several times narrowly escaped himself
He arrived with a Brazilian passport: “Joāo Azevedo”
He came on fire for the people living under a dehumanizing system
He came, thinking, once again: If I’m going to go out
(translated: to die)
Better to die in the struggle
Than being interviewed for the 200th time by a cynical, smug journalist whose specialty is retro features
Better to be with the rock throwers than those who blithely and brainlessly pay their taxes to support the occupiers
Better to go and blend in and enjoy every bite of falafel and hummus and
Say “gracias, uh, shukran”
To every Palestinian grandmother, wife, or teenager who offers sustenance
Better to connect the blood red dots once again
From the Guatemalan Highlands to Ramallah
From Santiago to Gaza City
From San Salvador to al-Quds
Better to recognize the Palestinians as sisters and brothers
Compañeros and compañeras
And offer them one’s silence
One’s experience
One’s impatience
One’s indignation
One’s stories from crisscrossing a planet crucified by capitalism
Better to join the demonstration
Tear gas won’t faze him
Beatings—even at his age (61)—don’t evoke fear
In the afternoon near the sooq
He meets a new resister
(They are everywhere)
The older man extends his hand to the youth,
Smiles and says,
“Ismii Che…”

OK, Henry
I’ve got some down time over here
I wrote this for your pleasure

Hasta la Intifada Siempre

Perry

–from Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

Where the Tortured and the Torturer Shook Hands

How many of our most famous novelists, for instance, have bothered to take the two-and-a-half hour flight from Miami and see for themselves what’s going on here?
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

I first read Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre in the mid-eighties; Ferlinghetti and I had both visited Nicaragua in 1984 (I on a Kentucky Witness for Peace delegation). I looked at the book again ten years ago, when Becca Gorley and I were reading from the City Lights Pocket Poets series. At that time, I was, still, trying to write something about our times in the West Bank and Gaza, and Ferlinghetti’s account was one of several books I read for provocation and inspiration. Many things, you can’t force; Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine was self-published in summer 2015.

A man of the Left, Ferlinghetti saw Nicaraguan history this way: “What has happened here, rather, is the overthrow of a tyrant (Somoza) supported by the U.S., and the attempt to overthrow the economic tyrant of colonialism in which Latin America has been for centuries the cheap labor market for North American and multinational business.” Many U.S. citizens may suffer amnesia about this appalling history but Latin Americans have a long memory. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pithy, the Necessary, the Clear, and the Plain

Charles Reznikoff: Man and Poet, edited by Milton Hindus
National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine at Orono, 1984

Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling.

— A.C. Graham quoting a Chinese poet from long ago

 

This thick volume is a collection of reminisces, literary analyses, and appreciations of Charles Reznikoff: Objectivist, American-Jew between two worlds, New Yorker, walker, miniaturist, transformer of documentary mass of data into free verse art, survivor of mean anti-Semitism growing up, self-published devotee to his own writing, lawyer who never practiced, maker of a preferential option (in writing, anyway) for the humblest, and chronicler of the Jewish history.

I first learned of Reznikoff from writings by Eliot Weinberger and Allen Ginsberg. In the summer of 2010 I plunged into his works and Hindus’s volume during the generation of what became Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine. Read the rest of this entry »

Like Staying up All Night with Your Best Friend

Allen Ginsberg, Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness, edited by Gordon Ball

There are many influences that went into my creating Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, and Allen Ginsberg was a major one. Here are quotations from reading Allen Verbatim in 2006, with my comments relating to subsequent Dear Layla project in brackets…

So what I do is try to forget entirely about the whole world of art and just get directly to the most economical—that is, the fastest, not most economical—the fastest and most direct expression of want it is I got in heart-mind. 107 [The chapters in novel are certainly economical!]

Start with what you desire, heart, instead of what you think you are supposed to do. 124 [E. once told me after she received my correspondence, “That’s the best love letter I’ve ever received.” That became the end of the novel many years later.]

… in which the prose sentence is completely personal, comes from the writer’s own person—his person defined as his body, his breathing rhythm, his actual talk. 153 [This is why this book of correspondences worked best for me.] Read the rest of this entry »

To Contend, To Enliven, To Distance, To Advocate, To Investigate, To Rally, To Prioritize, To Surprise

I’ve read Anne Waldman since 2001 (Fast Speaking Woman: Chants and Essays got me started). Her epics, poems, interviews, and edited anthologies (from the Kerouac School at Naropa) stimulate and open up possibilities. One of her most engaging books is OUTRIDER: Poems, Essays, Interviews. For you, friends in the writing sangha, I offer the following passages:  May one or more of these be a goad, an encouragement, an invitation.

Worry the essential library. Write what you would want to read. Utopian poetics, what you want to read. 15

A good idea: Contemplative education. Non-competitive education. 17

Maker of books she might be. Maker of schools. 23

Encourage street corner culture. What happens below the radar. 27

Nowhere to go again but the library. 29

To contend, to enliven, to distance, to advocate, to investigate, to rally, to prioritize, to surprise. 31

To vocalize. To mouth the impossible. 31

I have declared in one manifesto, a writing beyond gender, and have tried to inspire a poet’s Bodhisattva Vow, in which one becomes a bridge, a path, a shelter, whatever is required, for others. And one reads and studies and performs… for the benefit of others. 46 Read the rest of this entry »

Short, Savory, and Sound: Aitken’s Miniatures

In fall 2000 I first encountered Robert Aitken Roshi with his book, The Dragon Who Never Sleeps, a collection of scores of four-line poems, or gathas.  Nine years later, I read his Miniatures of a Zen Master, which served me as a model text —compressed, no excess verbiage, just the pith.  Among Aitken’s inspirations were Thoreau’s journals, and  Bashō and Kenkō’s prose works. In my journal, I wrote “Merge Aitken  with Galeano.  This is the path.  Write one book, 130 chapter titles….His table of contents is an inspiration, for a terse, spare next book.”

The result  several years later was  Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine.  While Aitken wrote in short paragraphs, I typically  composed in short stanzas: transfigured recollections, meditations, lists, stories I carried around for thirty years.  He was a beneficent influence in the generation and shaping of the novel.

Here are some of my favorite Aitken miniatures …

_____________________

A lot of us start out on the practice because we don’t accept ourselves fully. Under good tutelage we find ourselves in a process of forgetting ourselves, and realize that this is really the way to uncover the unique one that has been there all along. Give the Tao a chance. Give yourself a chance. [17] Read the rest of this entry »