Tuesday, and after: 2001

Tuesday, and after
Elliott Femynye batTzedek

9/11 Tuesday

if you are going to play a practical joke
on your co-worker
first thing in the morning, it would be better
to say something believable

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

all of your chickens come home to roost,
all of them
Judy Grahn

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

someone finally showed those arrogant,
nuclear weapons developing
assholes in the pentagon.
Am I evil if my peace-loving heart
did an initial little jig
before the body counts began?

9/12 Wednesday

what happened to the children2009
waiting at school
with no one coming to get them?
what happened?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A documentation:
Today they are announcing2002
that they’ve found, in the parked car
of some of the bombers,
a Koran, and flight manuals
in Arabic.
Odd, for I didn’t know
that the US flight schools
these fluently-English speaking men attended
used flight manuals
in Arabic. But today, September 12,
our government announced
that these are what they found.

9/13 Thursday

200 firefighters dead. 200.2005
200       firefighters         dead.
200 firefighters, the only
male-bonding club I know
that actually channels macho
to a clear social good. 200 firefighters

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

there’s no such thing
as a random act of terror.
every story has a beginning, middle, and end.
every story has a plot.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Physics 101—
for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

3 times over the witches say
3 times over
. Lierre Keith, “Curse Song”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, Bibi says to the New York Times
that this destruction is good for the Jews.
And Sharon is using the lack of spotlight
to invade Jericho. And Rosh Hashana is next week
and there is nothing new about this year.
And the flight that sweetness was taking into 5762
will not be arriving.

9/14 Friday,

my brother-in-law, Harvard MBA ad agency man,
says his job feels utterly meaningless this week
and he wants to toss it aside and go to New York to volunteer
and what I want to say is “Yes, go!
Go help, go pick up the body parts
go be in the stench. Go, and work until you come to understand
exactly how ugly violence is.
Go, and while you’re sitting for hours waiting,
talk with the other men there.
Talk about video games
talk about why you can’t seem to cry
talk about telling your sons that real boys don’t cry
talk about G.I.Joe
talk about all those endless blow-em-up movies
just talk. Talk.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

my brother-in-law, Harvard MBA ad agency man,
says his job feels utterly meaningless this week
and he wants to toss it aside and go to New York to volunteer
and what I want to say is, “Give me a fucking break.
For the first time in your life you feel powerless
and out of control of your own life
and afraid
and the only way you know how to respond is to want to go be hero,
go risk your life for the cause
when you have children at home
and absolutely no training or skills for the hard and ugly work at hand.

Grow up! You feel powerless and afraid?
Welcome to the rest of the fucking world!
And now you want to make a difference? A few suggestions—
know how you’ve turned off the TV to protect your boys
from the horrible violence?
Leave it off, don’t let them get so accustomed to watching violence
that thousands of people have to be obliterated in front of them
before they feel anything.

Your ad job is meaningless? So go work with peace and civil rights groups
and use what you know about swaying public opinion to help them stop
the monster of attack and counter-attack bearing down on us.
You want to be doing something real, something immediate, something
You live by the Pentagon—go volunteer to do support work
for the family members of those survivors
who are in burn units.
Sit with them, listen to them, come face to face with the brutal honesty
of learning what the hell to say to people
whose lovers and parents and children may
well have been better off dying immediately.

Learn to live with how you feel. Resist the urge to be a man,
to channel this pain into being the hero, the rescuer, the cavalry
the white knight, the Macabee.
Don’t channel, just feel. It’s terrifying, but you’ll survive it. And without it,
I don’t know how any of us will survive.

9/15 Shabbat

from last night before dinner until sunset tonight,
no tv, no radio no newspapers, no email, no web sites.
no news watching, but then again,
there is no news, only conjecture
racist hate-mongering passed off as analysis,
reports of arresting one, ten, twenty, fifty, two hundred
dark-skinned bearded men who were clearly terrorists
and then reports that the one, ten, twenty, fifty, two hundred
dark-skinned bearded men were actually just
dark-skinned bearded men.
last night at synagogue we had Palestinian speakers
so there was a police car parked out front to ensure our safety.
police cars do not make me feel safe, for even though I’m white
I’m also a woman, a lesbian, a Jew, a peace activist, a sincere if sometimes dense
anti-racist who pays attention to who and what police protect.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A Shabbos Psalm

Justice Not Vengeance
Justice Not Vengeance

say it three times:
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance
    Justice Not Vengeance

say it three more times:
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance

say it loud:
     Justice Not Vengeance

say it soft as a lullaby:
     Justice Not Vengeance

say it with the rhythmic clicking of a rosary:
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance

say it in the hushed, mumbled lilt of the amidah:
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice No-o-ot Vengeance

say it bowing three times to the East:
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance

say it holding hands and walking in a circle widdershins:
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance

say it like a high school cheer:
     Give me a J     J!
     Give me a U     U!
     Give me an S     S!
     Give me a T     T!
     Give me a I     I!
     Give me a C     C!
     Give me an E     E!
     What’s that’s Spell?      Justice
     Louder      Justice
     Louder!      Justice!      Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah Justice!

say it like the tv ad of sleezy lawfirm:
     have you or someone you love been the victim of government malpractice?
     Our experienced lawyers are standing by to help!
     Dial 1-800-Justice Not Vengeance

say it like a valley girl:
     like, you know, justice not vengeance?

say it like a stoned slacker boy:
     dude, justice not vengeance, ok?

say it like you mean it:
     Justice Not Vengeance

say it like you aren’t entirely sure, but it’s the clearest thing
you’ve heard yet:
     Justice Not Vengeance

say it like white people trying to do rap:
     j-j-j-j-j-Justice, Not Vengeance
     j-j-j-j-j-Justice, Not Vengeance
     yeah bro, Justice Not Vengeance

say it like you’re dancing at yet another havah nagillah wedding:
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance
     Justice Not Vengeance

say it with the wisdom of advertisers:
     people only have to hear something three times
     for it to begin influencing their thinking.

Justice Not Vengeance
Justice Not Vengeance
Justice Not Vengeance

9/18 Rosh Hashana

What great relief, to see everyone
even though none I know are among
the unaccounted for.
All my friends, my community,
and haunted, Ellen most of all.
It’s in her eyes.
I ask, “how are you?”
She says, “I’ve been going up to the city
every day,
to counsel survivors.”
And everything this word has ever meant
passes between us
the wars
rushing rivers of women raped
and waiting all last Tuesday
and Wednesday
for the count of survivors
the count of bodies
only to slowly know
we had entered the realm
of theoretical mathematics
and no real numbers
would be forthcoming.

9/19 Wednesday

Operation Infinite Justice.
That’s what they’re calling this.
Even after the lie of their omnipotence
has been blown open for the whole world to see
they still think they are gods.

9/20 Thursday

My mind keeps going over and over
that quote, “This is good for the Jews.”
Today I spoke with my boss, a peace-teaching vietnam vet,
about how the word crusade keeps popping up
as some kind of middle ground between “war” and “operation.”
Now, who am I to lecture the ex-prime minister of Israel
on Jewish history, but still, one small question—
can you name a single crusade that has ever been GOOD for the Jews?
Can you name a single time that christian governments
have gone after Muslim governments
that did not involve, at some point, dead Jews?
Maybe, Mr. Netanyahu,
you’re confusing what’s good for Israel with what’s good for the Jews.
Or maybe you’re confusing what’s good for the US military machine
with what’s good for Israel.
I myself confuse many things right now,
but even I don’t confuse sadistic terrorism
with my best hopes for my people.

9/21 Friday

Bush said, or at least convincingly lip synched,
“We will bring our enemies to justice
or justice to our enemies.”2006
And I want that so badly, so badly,
I want that from someplace deep,
from the same place that makes me keep hoping2008
we can all just wake up
and last week will be a nightmare.
A man who imposes and approves the death penalty
on people with the emotional culpability of young children
dares speak of bringing justice?
I want to bring justice to our enemies.
Real, living, breathing justice.
Justice you can eat.
Justice that will teach you to read.
Justice you can kiss.
Justice you can touch with soft and loving fingers
until your mutual pleasure begins to heal these wounds.
Justice that will give you everything you need to run your own life
and then, like a wise parent, back away and let you run it.
Justice that will make every nation—EVERY nation—
accountable for how it treats woman and all minority groups
and children
and the poor
and those who commit violence
and those who suffer from violence
and the homo, hetero, bi, a-, multi- and anti-sexual
and the earth
Where is the recruiting office to sign up for
bringing this kind of justice? I know it is draped in no national flag.2007
I know it contains no posters implicitly promising to make anyone a real man.
Where is the door to this office?
If I could only find it, I’d enlist immediately.

9/22 Shabbat

Only 11 days have passed
and I am already sick with hearing
about America’s lost innocence,
about America’s lost virginity,
about the end of America’s childhood
and on and on and on.
There is innocence,
and then there is denial.
There is lack of knowledge,
and then there is the utter refusal to know.
Hey Ted and Dan and Peter—want a metaphor?
Try this one:
America now is like the wife
of a plantation owner running screaming, clutching her bosom, from her burning mansion,
“How could they do this?
How could they hate me so much?
I gave them a roof over the heads and food
and I saw that they were only whipped
if they set bad examples for others.
I took care of them!
I made them christians instead of heathens!
Why do they hate me, why?
And why do so many of them
look like my husband?”

9/23 Sunday

We’re all so afraid. National, even international, PTSD.
Jump at unusual sounds. Startle and gasp
over nothing.
We’re all so afraid of—of what? Of who?
The terrorist willing to kill himself to get to us.
The general willing to order the troops to a death
he knows he will not face.
The president, or the prime minister, or the king
who praises his own restraint or patience
while looking for anyone to bomb as soon as possible.
Himself, he, his own.
Tell me, when you picture your fear,
do you ever picture a woman opening a coat to reveal a bomb2003
or a woman ordering young men to certain death
or a woman considering the option of nuclear weapons?
Does this mean it is men we are afraid of, even
if this must never be mentioned?

Or, if it is fundamentalism we must fear,
not individuals of a certain nationality or religion,
is it then not men
but masculinity
that threatens to destroy us all?
Want a good laugh?
Imagine watching a woman president2011
for the sake of national and global security,
a war on masculinity.
Try not to let your throat burn raw
from swallowing the bitter irony
of trying to picture
as utterly separable things.

9/24 Monday

“We will bring our enemies to justice
or justice to our enemies .”
It’s a good phrase, good writing,
and I can’t get it out of my mind.
But the warships and special forces and bombers and reservists—
what kind of justice are they packing to take with them,
and to which of “our” enemies are they traveling?
If I found out tomorrow that Osama bin Laden,
that the entire Taliban, had turned up mysteriously dead,
I would, like Mary, neither weep nor mourn
over the drowning of Pharoh’s army.2011
But suppose instead of timely divine intervention
our armies find him, and kill him.

Suppose this is so, and then watch how, as a martyr,
he inspires hundreds and thousands of men
to be willing to kill anyone at any time in any place.
Charismatic leaders are hand grenades
and killing them is like pulling the pin.
The only way to defeat hate
is to change the lives of those very same men
and keep changing them
until they can see for themselves and their children
a future better than what bin Laden offers.
Hate and fear can not conquer hate and fear.
Hate and fear have never conquered hate and fear.
Hate and fear will never conquer hate and fear.

9/25 Tuesday

I watched an interview on tv this weekend
with the spiritual leader of Hamas.
When pressed by the interviewer, he agreed, at least
in the running translation across the bottom of the CNN screen,
he agreed that, yes,
He had taught, correctly so, that the Koran teaches
that martyrs have a special place in paradise
and that, yes, this does include the promise of being met by 72 virgins.
72 virgins.
The men who blow up themselves and anyone they can take with them
die believing they will get to fuck 72 virgins.
72 virgins, which means 72 young girls.
Kill your enemies, and you’ll have the ultimate male fantasy—
fucking virgins in paradise.
Call me anti-sex, anti-civil liberties, anti-free speech if you want,
but this is exactly what I mean when I say that pornography is violence.2004
This is exactly what I mean when I say
that pornography is what the powerful
hold out to men
in the place where they should have dignity, empathy, equality,
control of their own lives.
This is exactly what I mean when I say
that pornography takes what is ordinary
and shapes it into the most lethal of weapons.

9/26 kol nidre

9/27 Yom Kippur

Never has this liturgy
of communal accountability
and teshuvah
felt more necessary.
Never has sitting and standing
and sitting and standing again
through a long day
felt more useless.
So much silence, all around
so few voices
have the strength left to sing
as if it might mean something. I
look to the stage
and see our cantor’s eyes
and I know what resolve is.
She will carry us all through,
she, alone, will give voice for all,
if she must.
She will find the strength,
rising up on her toes, to lift
the entire world
and make it kadosh
Word count: 2667


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