Hold It All

Category: No Time for Poetry but Exactly What Is

Sometime, Somewhere, Someone’s Saying…

Dear Bella Balaban

“That higher-up in the Vietnamese Politburo who died of cancer—what a decent guy!”

“I miss—I really do—our last dictator. He was so intelligent and really tried to make la Guardia more diverse.”

“Sure, he was an elite of the S.S., but he was a master of civility in those difficult times.”

“My prof told me that he has relatives in several prominent Putin-approved positions; his readings of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are sans pareil.”

“Did I dream this, or did First Lady Trump say her ‘partner-in-crime’ was Harvey Weinstein?”

Live and let live, right?
(The Algemeiner will go to their shul, I’ll go to mine.)

Just like the Yemeni children
And the Iraqi
And the Pakistani
And the Afghan
And the Vietnamese
And the Libyan
And the Chilean
And the Salvadoran
And the Laotian
And the Nicaraguan
And the Gazan
And the East Timorese
And the Guatemalan
And the Navaho children …

We all wanna be happy,
We all wanna avoid suffering.


–from work near completion, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

Looking Ahead to a Spring Trip to Washington, D.C.

I want to listen to your tales of triumph and disaster

I want to massage your feet, long oppressed by heels

I want to be present to all you cannot say

I want to be restored by seeing your samadhi in the flesh as you whirl around in the kitchen (darshan)

I want to buy you three books (at Busboys and Poets) you will actually want to read before 2020


The Last Few Pages of “The Poetry Deal” by Jessica Flier

Jessica is taking my Diane di Prima class, and posted this at our class blog. She gave me permission to share with whomever I wished. Enjoy!

The last few pages of The Poetry Deal are enchanting, filled with so much truth and wisdom, DiPrima captures the essence of the meaningfulness of art.

Reading this part of the book inspired me to share a poem, which I composed in my head one day on a hike. My weekly hikes are a spiritual practice for me. They center me, offer me refuge in the life-giving, healing presence of trees. I enter an enhanced soul-state, my mind cleared after another week of feeling mostly like a mind-numbed hamster-on-a-wheel.

I’m tempted to choose a selection that is my favorite from those few pages and include it here, but it’s all so damn great that it’s impossible to choose. So I’ll share with you the passage relevant to my reflection here:

“When spoken, the poem cuts a shape in time, when written it forms itself in space. It often dwells there in paper or parchment before you pick up your pen. At those times all you have to do is trace what is hidden in the page. At other times you may hear the poem broadcast, spoken like a radio in your head & you can write it down like taking dictation.” Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Get Rattled by Samsara

So many of my brilliant former students—
Their families from Gujarat, Bijar, Delhi,
Kerala, West Bengal—
Would pity me
Or express incredulity

That I, their erstwhile quasi-prof,
Hang on the words
Of Sri Anandamayi Ma
Listen to circa mid-80s recordings
Jai Ma Kirtan

Memorize chapters of the Gita
Chant Hare Krishna when raking leaves
When they’ve left all that behind
(What their grandparents wanted continued
Even amid the maya malldom of America)

Live and let live, Shimmelstoy
Meditate and let not meditate
But one day, if I hear through the mangovine,
One of them is in that predictable predicament
Of the arriviste Richard Alpert at Harvard

I’ll shell out twenty bucks
Track down her address
Put in the post a simple investment
In the next hundred years–
A timeless copy of Be Here Now

For PG, on Her 68th Birthday

I celebrate yourself
And sing yourself
And what I absorb from the Western canon you can absorb from the Western canon,
For every classic belonging to me as good belongs to you


“But how come those Palestinians can’t be like Dr. King?”

Well then…

“So, Rabin, did he make it even through a third of Gandhi’s Collected Works?

And did Shimon Peres invite Gene Sharp to give workshops to the IDF elite, with handouts  for all on the  198 methods of nonviolent action?

And when Begin came to the U.S. did he arrange a tête-à-tête with Diane Nash? 

And does Netanyahu take practical  inspiration from the life of Badshah Khan?

And do the teachings of the Besht get ample time in the training of the paratroopers?

And the Air Force pilots, do they learn to recite gathas from Thich Nhat Hanh?

And for the Palestinians did  Dov Weinglas cultivate compassion like  Aung San Suu Kyi?

Wait a second, scratch that last one”

After Reading Brecht’s Galileo

We want heroes, role models, saints, exemplars
Keep looking!

Ramakrishna had his soft spot for the young lads, didn’t he?
Howard Zinn had affairs

Gandhi slept in his old age along side young Hindu relatives
Brecht’s Galileo, too, likes the delicious things in life and fears the instruments shown him

Yes, Ramakrishna loved Kali
Zinn loved the power of the people

Gandhi loved the struggle
Galileo loved science

The message for us
We little, ordinary people (in Easwaran’s terminology)–

Andrea: “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero”
Galileo: No, Andrea: “Unhappy is the land that needs a hero” —

We must take over
The heroship

–February 2013

I Was Sitting Outside at 6 North Coffee

I bought tea for my friends
Shams and Rumi
Another intoxicatingly sunny day
70 degrees
They were cutting up the way they always do
But they could see in my eyes a request to quit horsing around.

“Friend Mark,” Rumi began, “Tell us what is on your mind….”

I knew how to ring their bell. Read the rest of this entry »

Bella Levenshteyn Gives Me an Opportunity to Practice

“I’ll be filling two backpacks, and then I’m headed to Warsaw”
My heart sinks

Three deep breaths in and out
My heart expands

When I Am a Supreme Practitioner of Self-Care

Having a rejuvenating ninety-four minutes
On the phone when all alone
With Bella Levenshteyn