April 20 – Shez “Literary Rationalizations”

UPDATE: see revision at The Excuse of Literature


תירוצים ספרותיים




כְּשֶׁיַּגִּיּעַ יוֹם הַדִּין לָאָבוֹת הָאוֹנְסִים
לֹא תַּגִּידוּ אַף מִלָּה
סוֹפְסוֹף תֵּשְׁבוּ בְּשֶׁקֶט
וְתִתְּנוּ מָקוֹם לְזַוְעוֹת בְּכְיָהּ שֶׁל הַיַּלְדָּה


אֲבָל עַד שֶׁיַּגִּיעַ יוֹם הַדִּין תַּמְשִׁיכוּ לִסְתֹּם לי אֶת הַפֶּה
וּלְחַיֵּךְ אֵלַי בְּנִימוּס
לֹא תַּדְפִּיסוּ אֶת הַשִׁירים שֶׁלִּי בִּמְקוֹמוֹתֵיכֶם
וְתַמְשִׁיכוּ עִם תֵּרוּצֵי סִפְרוּת.


Literary Rationalizations
Shez, translated by Elliott batTzedek


On judgment day for fathers who rape
I do not say a word,
finally sit, quietly,
in the place where the girl’s weeping from the horror
is permitted

But until that day of judgment, my mouth continues merely
to smile politely,
I do not print my words in my hometown
and continue with the stop-gap of literature

April 19th – Afikomen/A few things I’ve broken

Afikomen/A few things I’ve broken


my father’s car, trying to swing wide      and fast
       around the first curve on Stuart Road,
       south of 104, trying to impress
       Janina Hendricks

my Schwinn, bouncing off the back
       of Kathy Hodgson’s father’s 72 Buick,
       north on Prospect Street, worth it
       when she ran to save me

the double-wide safety glass door, east wall of
       Waverly Grade School, kicked in by
       the horrible grief of knowing I had failed
       by losing my father’s hammer

my right arm, trying to tag Mike Bray,
my left, trying not to fall on my sister

a pony I loved dearly, foundered when I forgot
       to close the hayroom door

several favorite toys, two keyboards, a pricey
       ergonomic mouse, jewelry, a phone,
       a midden of things shattered
       when, feeling helpless, my temper
       slammed hard as hail

every glass and plate I then owned
       on Gorham Street, Madison, WI,
       on a night when the sound of shattering
       was the only comfort I could find

two hearts, each one loving me
       as I was just as I was
       trying to find who I might be

and each breaking has thrown shadders, sharp,
through my worlds, into my body

and if I now go searching, sifting,
       how many bones will need be rebroken,
       how much blood will flow?

April 16 – back to translating Shez

the house didn’t have internet from Saturday night until this morning after I left for work, so the posting backlog continues…..


אמא 2



קְחִי אֶת הַיַּלְדָּה וּתְנַגְּבִי לָהּ
אֶת שְׂרִידֵי הַוֶּרַע מִסָּבִיב לַפֶּה וְעִם
מַטְלִית רְטֻבָּה בְּתוֹךְ חֲלַל הפֶּה וְהֵיטֵב
אֶת הַשִּׂנַּיִם הַקְּטַנּוֹת
וְתָשִׁירִי לָהּ שִׁיר-עֶרֶשׂ לַקְּטַנּה וְתַצִּיעִי לָהּ לַחֲלֹם
עַל דֶּשֶׁא – יָרֹק, שָׁמַיִם – תְּכלֶת, צִפֳּרִים – צִיּוּץ

Mother 2
Shez, translated by Elliott batTzedek



Take the daughter, dry off
the saliva from around her chafed mouth,
with a wet rag wipe thoroughly inside her desecrated mouth
The childhood years
Sing her a song – in the cradle of her childhood make a bed for her to dream
about grass (green), sky (blue), birds (chirping)

April 15 – Oranges

Internet’s been down at my house since the big storm Saturday night, so I’m backlogged posting. Here goes…


Oranges: An Intellectual Biography


1.
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Banana
Banana who?
Banana banana

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Banana
Banana who?
Banana banana

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Orange
Orange who?
Orange ya glad I didn’t say banana?


2.
In third grade I noticed
that orange was both name and color
and I couldn’t let go of knowing.
I tried this with other foods.
I called grapes purples.
Good.
I called red apples reds
but then what about tomatoes
or cherries?
Yellows – bananas, but also yellow
apples
Greens – apples, again, but also maybe
spinach
Peach – yes!
But why only oranges and peaches?
Where had these names come from and who
decided and why did it stick? In another language
what would they be called?
I couldn’t let go of the asking and as it turns out
I never did.


3.
Laura got an orange as a present
at Nellie’s birthday party
and took it home to share
with her little sister.

I got a dollar
for every A on my report card
and went to the dime store
and bought my little sister
a stickhorse so we
could go riding together.


4.
Nothing rhymes with orange he said.

I tried orangutan. It worked.
On paper.
Say this for me!
O-rang-uh-tang

Oh.
Why is there no g at the end?


5.
Ha! he said. See, I told you!
I tried. Words are made of sounds
and some other word ought to have
that sound.
Nothing.
I started reading aloud words
in my dictionary and
the encyclopedia set I got
as a present when my dad
got the union job.
Nothing.
So I went on, as always, reading
every word in front me,
obsessively,
and one morning egg
caught my eye.
Why egg?
Why not egu-guh?
I said egu-guh for months because
that was how it should have been
and my brain could not
let it go.
Weird, but then I was already
that weird smart girl.
These days I would SO
be labeled autistic.


6.
Scurvy was the scourge
of the British navy. Now
we know to eat oranges.


7.
Tangerines!


8.
Oranges are called naranja
in Spanish, and the color orange
is anaranjado. My orange is
aorangedo?


9.
Sometimes an orange looks so good
and then you peel it and inside
it is withered, nearly hard,
and bitter


10.
My Heart

My heart is like an orange
you have peeled
and sucked dry.
I will not forgive you
because it was
so sweet
and so warm.


11.
The bus had been driving through orchards
for 10 minutes before I paid attention.
Oranges! Grove after grove of oranges!
On trees! Just like apples!
Ok, so it is ORANGE COUNTY.
But still—I hadn’t known
they’d look so familiar.


12.
Why grove and not orchard?


13.
Lesbian Concentrate
Lesbians for Our Justice
don’t cry for me, Sister Nita
life passin’ you by while rules enslave ya



14.
Clementines!


15.
Pumelos!

and now I understand the physiology of the orange
more clearly, as I better understood how my mouse,
Squeaker, moved her hands to wash herself after observing,
years later, my rat Bubonic do the same. As tigers show us
house cats, as love shows us like.


16.
too many carbs


17.
too much acid


18.
can’t take with fexofenadine


19.
My heart was an orange,
so sun-ripe and sweet,
and she did rip its peel
and then rip each segment free
suck it dry
and throw it out.

She did not leave a note
asking for
my forgiveness.


20.
can one have scurvy of the heart?


21.
Why is an orange called orange?
I’ve never found out. I could google it
on my G1 and have ten answers
in two minutes.

But I think I’m smarter
for the not yet knowing.

April 14th – Pain poem #3

After pain has taken you


After pain has taken you, conquered you, kidnapped you,
drug you over the border, forced you to beg
to be converted to that region’s religion

you can never fully escape. After you’ve been there,
even only once, your body will betray you
so stunningly easily: one twitch, one cramp, a single
bright shadow when you blink an eye

and the border police have you, your own language
now alien to you, your body bending in a devotion
revolting to you but so familiar, so known.
If you escape, return home

people around you may say only, you look
so tire
d, but your dog will sniff you,
hackles raised, sensing you are not the same,
will never be the same again.

Grace – rewrite

Grace

Not divine, not rare, perhaps unexpected,
not unearned—
our brightest courage shone back at us.

She learned to trust by trusting this horse,
hurtling together over fences and walls

and when Rosie died, she found, when her own knees
refused to push her up from the barn floor,

hands, so many hands, reaching for her. Rosie’s friends,
people who paused at the pasture nearly every day,

people she had never suspected, stopping their cars to say
I’m sorry, she was so beautiful, we loved her.

Grief thrusts a rigid laundry basket of bricks
into our arms. Grace stretches stranger’s hands to pluck

some of them, to make bearable the crippling bulk.
Old wives tell the truest tales—a shared load is lighter.

So light it can come to shine out
nearly as bright as spring sunshine

across a chestnut mare’s back.

April 12 – a poem for Alexine

Grace

Neither divine nor rare, perhaps unexpected,
rarely unearned, Grace

is our brightest courage shone back at us.

She learned to trust by trusting the horse
hurtling both of them over fences and walls.

And when Rosie died, she found, in her grief, she was
not alone. Rosie’s friends, people who came to the pasture,

people she had never suspected, stopped their cars to say
I’m sorry, she was so beautiful, we loved her.

Grace, too, is how the cumulative weight of these
awkward laundry baskets of bricks grief thrusts
into arms after arms is lighter

than gravity’s unbearable bulk each, separately,
knows could not be borne.

So light it can come to shine out
nearly as brightly as spring sunshine

on a chestnut mare’s back.

April 10th – I’m always trying to explain the world

I’m always trying to explain the world


such a sham!        when I can’t explain
even the simplest things
like for example gravity, everything
always falling, falling
and I can’t begin to say why

when I was a child I believed I could fly
if only for one instant I could forget to fall

which should have been easy, considering all
I have forgotten       for several years I forgot
to breathe, forgot who was supposed to answer
when my name was called

forgot how my tongue moved to say home

forgot hundreds of the slowest hours of speech
therapy       staring into mirrors, hands gripping my jaw,
holding my lips open       like this   like this

such reversion back
to my youngest self       a world of menacing shadows
I could begin to banish      if I could remember how
to shape my mouth to say their names

April 11 – found poem, NYTimes follow-up story

Megan Waterman, 22; Melissa Barthelemy, 24; Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25; and Amber Lynn Costello, 27


vanished drew little or no notice—prospect of a serial killer
four more bodies—that changed

Shannan Gilbert, 24, a prostitute but much more
aspiring actress oldest daughter of Mari Gilbert

Mari Gilbert said police failed to take her seriously until
Long Island’s latest serial-killer case

Look at them: throwaway, margins, anonymous, addiction,
invisible, vulnerable, prey

[average age girls enter prostitution: 13]

estrangement from their families

[57% of prostitutes report sexual abuse as children,
by an average of 3 perpetrators
]

few notice

Joel Rifkin, an unemployed landscaper, 17 prostitutes
Robert Shulman, a former postal worker, 5 prostitutes
Kendall L. Francois, 8 prostitutes
Gary Ridgway, 48 prostitutes:

I picked prostitutes because I could kill as many of them as I wanted

Evidence: brush and grassy dunes, bodies of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of murdered prostitutes — women, men and transgender people

Message: “They should be very careful with their contacts”

April 9th – a Beloit prose poem

a revision, because the first ending was far too simple.

On the 4th day of Bio 101,
Elliott batTzedek

sitting in a hall with more students than my entire high school the professor read to us from a medical journal update about the first person to have died of tetanus in the U.S. in many years. “She was poor, rural,” he said, then read from an article about it, “she’d stepped on a fishing hook in her back yard and when her leg became infected and swollen she had not sought medical attention. Neighbors and friends reported that she felt that her foot was a long way from her heart and that Jesus would save her.”

Laughter from all around the hall.

4th day lesson object attained – the triumph of scientific, logical reason over ignorance and out dated belief systems.

Her name was Hazel Miner. She was 48. She left behind her husband Harold and her son Eugene who loved her. Her backyard had tools and fishing gear and hunting gear scattered everywhere, for they were a busy, self-sufficient family. Her house was small, but the kitchen door was always open for neighbors to sit and have Sanka. On the floor between the small living room and kitchen was a Charlie The Tuna rug which I had loved to play on when my mom brought me three houses down the block to visit.

She belonged to my Grandma Dorothy’s church.

I didn’t go to her funeral last week because I was here, in Chamberlin, in Bio 101, in my semi-elite private liberal arts college.

8th day lesson object attained—I was smart enough to get in, but I could only belong here if I became ashamed of who I’d been. Which was easy—I hated that church with all its bigotry and hatred of others, I hated the racism, the fear of anyone or anything different that defined that little town, I hated that no one there seemed to care about Bigger Things, I was learning that I ought to hate the food, the music, and those short nasal vowels that hang there for second and second in the middle of a word.

I needed to belong here. I did not yet get that my being ashamed of them did not mean these new peers would ever see me as one of us.