NaNo(inPo)WriMo – B’kirbi


The question of what dwells inside
of inside goes on forever, for
nothing is full of only
nothing, for everything
is inside god’s body and god’s
body, inside

Source Text
שְׁמַת חַיַּי/ Morning Blessing Marcia Falk

Nishmat hayay t’vareykh v’kerev libi yashir נִשְׁמַת חַיַּי תְּבָרֵךּ וְקֶרֶב לִבִּי יָשִׁר:
Kol od n’shamah b’kirbi modah/modeh ani מוֹדָהּ\מוֹדֶה אֲנִי כָּל עוֹד נְשָׁמָה בְּקִרְבִּי

The soul of my life will bless, and the innermost part of my heart will sing.
As long as breath is in my innermost being, I give thanks.


NaNo(inPo)WriMo – Blessed are our aging bodies

Blessed are our aging bodies

Let us bless the creation from the earth of these bodies of wisdom made of open openings, of holy holes. Unconcealed, revealed, we face the judging of our dignity: if wrongly open would be one of these, or wrongly closed another would be we could not again rise to stand. Broken though this flesh might be, still we live and we last.

Source Text

נְבָרֵך אֶת עֵן הַחַיִים אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים חַלוּלִים חַלוּלִים.
גָלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ שֶׁאִם יִפָּתֵחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְהִתְקַיֵם וְלַעַמוֹד לְפָנֶיךָ.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעַשׂוֹת.

N’varech et ein hachayim asher yatzar et ha’adam bechochmah uvara vo
nekavim nekavim chalumim chalulim. Galuwi veyadu’a lifney chisey chevodecha she’im yipate’ach echad mehem o yisatem echad mehem i efshar lehitkayem vela’amod lefanecha. Baruch ata Yah rofey chol basar umafli la’asot.
Let us bless the source of life, who shaped the human being with wisdom, making for us all the openings and vessels of the body. It is revealed and known before your Throne of Glory that if one of these passage-ways be open when it should be closed, or blocked up when it should be free, one could not stay alive or stand before you. Blessed are You, Miraculous, the wondrous healer of all flesh.

NaNo(inPo)WriMo – אָנָא אֵל נָא רְפָא נָא לָה

On how we tend to the body of our beloved

For every prayer for hope god’s body sprouts a feather
for every prayer for vengeance, a wound from a feather plucked

Once and again every now and then on god’s body
there are feathers enough to fly

but mainly god’s body sinks and swells and
oozes puss while we cry out אָנָא אֵל נָא רְפָא נָא לָה

NaNo(inPo)WriMo #3 – Conjugation


In the night
god’s body swims past
and my cilia, tiny organs which are said
to be 99% less efficient than long legs yet serve
to move me happily enough through this life,
reach out and out and pull
god’s body in and anchor it
firmly to my own

and where we touch our armor
dissolves, our bodies begin to prepare
their generative disintegrations. The many souls
our bodies hold – the soul of the mind, the soul
of the heart, the soul of the blood, the soul
of the ears, the fingers, the tight clusters of nerves
that explode into pleasure – the many souls of our bodies
dissolve into only one soul, each, which is the soul
of the gut, where our animal knowledge breeds rampant
through our lives, and this soul

then divides itself into four pieces and then how slowly,
how exquisitely god’s body and mine slide one piece each
through the dissolution of our boundaries and into the body
of the other where it will join with one piece to become a new whole
that then re-invents each self, sending new code, new waves, new orders,
new breath to each of our bodies and then we part, each utterly,

irreversibly pulsing with what we created together. Now I can choose, can’t I,
whether to stay this being god and my old self created, making copies of copies
of what came from that capture, or whether to signal my cilia
to pull in others to again split into four and share one to make two
who are new. But what, you might ask, of the three not shared, and not
necessary to construction of new bodies? At the moments of separation, before
the holes in borders close tight once more they fly out, they become
poems, or songs, or dance or color, for nothing is wasted
in creation, nothing is extra in this world.

NaNo(inPo)WriMo – bit’hilah


חַכְמוֹת נָשִים

Let us praise now
this one woman’s body, how
it crackles and jerks, more lumber
than stride, how these two upper arms sling
pounds of loose flesh, how this face decades past
puberty and years past periods still sprouts pimples and
blackheads and little red dots that seem to have no names of
their own. How the weight it carries keeps her face full and soft and smooth,
so few wrinkles beyond the worry furrows of a forehead inherited from her father how years
of honorable dyke laughing have insured against lines from frowns yielded as weapons by
those women who forced fake smiles at the hest of imperious men.

בָּנְתָה בֵיתָהּ

Let us now praise praise because praise
is the hardest-won right.

בֹּאוּ שְעָרֵיהָ

Let us praise now these calves in their cellulite glory, these fingers so slight they startle, these toes, one bent already by arthritis and both littlest ones crooked from speeding
on roller skates or bikes, these thin blue veins exposed and throbbing
at the wrists, this mole at base of the back of the right hand,
this mole every doctor has wanted to remove,
this mole from which I learned to defend my body
as it is from those who pry and cut, this mole
without I would not know
left from right.


Can you praise that which you do not love? Can you build a gateway
of praise and throw open wide its doors? Can you build of a desire to praise even when
you cannot yet praise a courtyard whose hard-packed earth glistens with the shining
of Wissahickon schist?

חַצֵרֹתֵיהָ בִּתְהִלָה

Let us now praise this woman’s body because the wisdom
of this woman’s body knows how to live with dirt for a floor and knows how
to open gates and knows how to live as if worthy of praise, as if praise
were a birthright and not a commandment.

NaNo(inPo)WriMo – to enter into the body of god

To enter into the body of god

נְבָרֵך אֶת עֵן הַחַיִים

To enter into the body of god
is what sex wants to be, all that clanging
and need           all that wanting
to know everything knowable through the electric charge
leaping between skin and skin           that single second
everything knowable is your kin is
an entire universe           without strangers

מְקוֹר הַשְׁלֵמוּת וְהַתֹּהוּ

to enter           to enter            to enter into where
there is no exit            no going back            to turn and turn and turn again
but never to be turned around            never to be turned off            never
to be turned down            in the heart of the body of god is a room
with 1000 doors and all of them are yes and while half are locked
there waits a key with your name and all you have to do
is want

מְקוֹר הַטּוֹב וְהָרָע

It has been imagined that the body of god must be a mountain
or ocean or cave as ancient as rock            but I tell you now            the only way in
is the desire rocking the dreams you have            when you aren’t stopping yourself
when you aren’t asleep but are awake Oh! awake            when you face
the solid rock of your life and desire a door and one appears           its shape
the very shape of the body of god that only you
could invoke

מְקוֹר כָּל יְצִירָה

One more Black man shot down – found poem 07/06/2016

It should be noted that Louisiana is an open carry state, just like Ohio where Rice and Crawford were killed. Possession of a firearm without a permit is permissible under state law, by anyone who is at least 17 years of age legally able to possess a firearm under state and federal law.

It should be noted that noted that noted that

It should be noted that
                                          that unless you are less
                                          than white
Louisiana is an open
                                          that is, unless, unless
                                          you are less, Tamir, and you, John
Louisiana is an open state
permission permissible
by anyone
                                          that is unless, unless
                                          you are less
                                          than white
Louisiana, just like Ohio,
like Ohio, just
                                          unless you are less, unless
                                          you are Black
Louisiana, just like Ohio,
you are legally able
                                          that is unless you are less
to possess
                                          you are Black
                                          it should be noted


Elliott batTzedek


This is the story we tell:

We were a small tribe, extended family, really, in a small part of a small land. Drought came. We followed the rumors of food and water, immigrated to where a family member had set already a footprint.

We stayed there, had children, intermarried, took on parts of the culture we lived in. Some of us spoke only our own language – Ivrit – some were bilingual, some lost our language completely. We didn’t look so different, especially after generations there, but neither language nor look mattered when The Troubles came, when warring and monument building ate the extra money of the rulers and they turned to forced labor so their lives could go on unchanged. One generation we were all but inseparable from our neighbors, the next generation most of us were no longer being paid, no longer trading, no longer running our small shops, the next generation we were by law and custom slaves outright. The next generation we no longer looked the same – the work, the bad food when we had food, the clothing worn until there was nothing left to wear, the sun – we were turned into the Dark Strangers they now feared. Forbidden from speaking any language but our own, we stopped being able to communicate, grew utterly separate.

Except for the secrets of the new moon nights, when those who remembered they had been family would gather far from the palaces and brick pits, when everyone spoke every language, even if harsh and slow and thick of tongue. But what odd families – never any children, for a single story, a single word spoken to a friend, would put all of our lives in danger. Imagine, then, the day a child became an adult, the day he learned that the Dark Strangers he’d been taught to rule were his very own family, the day she learned the truth of how the well fed and well-dressed came to rule over every part of her life.

And in those days from among us a warrior arose. And was killed and flayed in front of us. And then another. Each generation, a new rebel leader, a new mystic, a new prophet, and some came close, so very close, that our rulers would tear into our community, slaughtering, raping, terrorizing.

And then from among THEM a warrior arose, much to his own surprise. Maybe he was fully Hebrew. Maybe he was half-breed, half-blood, child of forbidden love, child of rape – the legends are many and the facts are few. But from the boundary where he dwelled a revolution could arise, we could all discover our own fearlessness, slaves who hauled water found they could drain it, slaves who tended flocks found they could spread disease, slaves who grew cops found they could fail, slaves who delivered babies found they could lie, slaves kept in houses, regarded as nearly one of the family, found they could, all on one bloody night, kill the firstborns in their soft warm beds.

And we all found that, fearless now, we could simply lay down our slavery and walk away. That we could run to our New Moon families and that they would lay down their privilege and walk away with this. That we could pack wagonloads of reparation-goods and take these with us. That every way they had not seen us until we took action meant they could not understand the calm logic of our actions so believed us to be holders of a dangerous magic.

This is the story we tell, how, no longer an extended family, a single tribe, a single language, a single culture, the fact of leaving together could not unite us. Every second or fifth or sixth week of hunger, every bitter cold night sleeping exposed on rock, every fear of water running out, every disagreement about a sheep, every moment other than the glory of the leaving, tore into us, tore us apart, scabs that could never heal before being split and split again. How some of us had still the family story of the small area in the small land that an ancestor had purchased. How some of us were never part of that family and couldn’t see how any small land could be a home to this crowd. How some us wanted only the home we had just left, dreamt every night that somehow the idea of Ruling Over could be destroyed and we could go back. How some of us lashed out in violence at anyone who used the word “back.”

This is the story we tell, of forty years of following weather and seasons and rain and rumor. Of disease and disturbance and disagreement leaving dead by the dozens or dozens of dozens.  Of how the generation who dreamed of “back” fell into the silence of their final dreaming and spoke no more of that home. Of how the cult of The Land of Our Father Abraham waxed and waned. Of how a class of Priests arose from that cult, claiming a magic rod, two magic stones, a god who could not be seen but could and did demand endless wealth and sacrifice and could and did punish brutally. Of how that cult and its priests swayed and cowed enough of the crowd to push all of us over the river and into a campaign of slaughter and appropriation, justified by forged documents of a sale of land so many generations back the world was all but new. Of how our god slayed the troops before us with his mighty right hand and we settled peacefully into what was rightfully ours and created a community where all were priests and holy.

And then there is the story we tell about the story we tell, or rather the thousands of stories we have told about the story we tell.  For sometimes the story is triumphalist, sometimes a warning, sometimes a yearning, sometimes a myth told only for the comfort of the telling.  In every land, in every time, the story we tell is told in different tongues and with the new words come new foods, new rituals, new ways for the details to shift and sift and come out so samely different. Or differently same.

In every land, in every time, every generation was inexorably shaped by the world we lived in, making it impossible to know how the story had meant before. After the destruction of Jerusalem none could comprehend what it had meant to tell our story when the city still stood. After the Expulsion from Spain none of us who told the story could tell it without the shudder of knowing that in each generation a Pharaoh will arise. After immigrations, exiles, mass conversions, decades upon decades of good and peaceful years, after ghettos, after blood-libel slaughters, after messiahs failed and communities disintegrated, after after after – the story we tell is always the same story and can never ever be the same story.

The story we tell, here, tonight, is an after, after, after story. After the Holocaust. After the nation state. After a global rebellion of women. After a despair too huge to have any words to describe it other than itself. After a violent triumphalism that saw the story’s ancient real-estate deal again put forward by the cult of the Land of Our Father. After a generation that noticed there were no women in our story as we told it and went looking for whoever they could find. After a generation who, still not satisfied by the limits of text and memory,  began to invent, to add more after what little was there had won, grudgingly, a few words in the story we tell as it was then told.

The story we tell is always the story told after the generation before us and always this will be true. The story we tell is always more complicated, more complex, more contradictory, more cantankerous, than the story we tell about the story we tell. The story we tell has no one people, no one god, no one agreed upon set of rules, no one agreed upon text. The story we tell about the story we tell may have that false unity, but the story itself is a story of resistance that resists being made clear, made simple, made clear for the simple.

The story we tell is that we tell the story. The story we tell is that we tell the story, and that the we that tells it is large, is vast, contains multitudes. The story we tell is more accurate than history and more mythic than myth. The story we tell arose before the concepts of myth and history were invented.  The story we tell will go on being told, and we who tell it this year, in this place, have no idea what our story will mean in ten years, in a hundred, in a hundred hundred.

The story we tell is our story, and we are its storytellers.

Women in Translation Stats – it ain’t pretty

Over at Biblibio: Life in Letters, Meytal Radzinski has been analyzing the (dismal) stats of the percentage of translated works by women writers published each year in the U.S.

I knew the odds weren’t good, but didn’t know they were THIS bad. Two publishers, Pushkin Press and Archipelago, managed ZERO books by women last year. Yale, Knopf, Penguin – they all came in at about 10%.

One of her graphs is below – follow the link to read the whole story.