Friday, May 8, 2020

Life during the Pandemic Lock-Down - Weeks 1 & 2

Sunday, March 8, 2020 – Sunday, March 22, 2020

    I believe our first personal concern began around 2 weeks ago.  The preceding week had been a cultural / entertainment splurge of incredible proportions.  We had gone to see the Met film of the opera Agrapena, the James Baldwin play Amen Corner, and the Saint Saens opera Samson and Delilah.  Sunday the 8th was also a socially rich day.  Bonnie went shopping with our good friend Elsie, and then we had a fine social with a visiting ex PhD student (and friend, coauthor), Steve.  Steve insisted on no hugs, no hand shakes, and thus began our very gradual withdrawal. 

    A friend, Eileen, was visiting  from out of town and stayed at our place Monday the 9th, Tuesday and Thursday nights.  Bonnie went out to eat lunch with her and a group of friends on Monday and Tuesday.  Wednesday we normally go to a poetry group.  The leader of the group was thinking we should discuss its cancellation.  Bonnie, getting nervous given a compromised immune system, said she wouldn’t go.  I went.  Jenny, the leader of the poetry group was reluctant to set up a virtual group, but said she would continue to give reading and writing assignments and comment on our poems.  She handed out assignments for the next week.  She suggested we write longer serial poems.

    Thursday the 12th Marita Golden was to visit my VA writer’s group in the large DC VA hospital.  My co-leader, Bernard, and I decided to cancel it.  Instead, we agreed to set up a ‘Skype’ group for coming weeks.  Our Thursday Meetup Writers’ group similarly needed cancelling and I decided to set up another Skype group.  While I was at it, I tried to get our neighborhood book group to move to Skype.  

    We cancelled all future meetings and appointments, such as lab tests, PT and doctor appointments.  I set up a small (3 house) shopping collective.  When a neighbor came to volunteer shopping efforts for us, we expanded the shopping collective to include his family. 

    The handholding needed to get people up and running on Skype was surprisingly time consuming and difficult.

Week 2:
    Sunday I spent beginning a long serial poem on a couple moving to an assisted living facility. Bonnie began a poem on coping with the viral outbreak.  I will include her segments with each week’s entry.  Here is the first:

Bonnie Oppenheimer
A Viral Response

                Dear Claire,

For sure, Chocolate is a panacea
the tool I choose to use for anxiety
so I made brownies and thought of you
as I took out the Hershey cocoa.

Recalling how we shared chocolate cake
at age 25 from our apartments across the hall
and how after you moved away
we met by accident both big with child

For the past few days I’ve tended old
plants and new rootings
from our split-leaf Japanese maple
they thrive and leaf with certainty

If they had voices my cuttings would sing
I think with gusto
In Italy the quarantined sing together
 notes of hope from their balconies 

Before leaving for home college students
celebrated themselves with orgies of liquor
and laughter knowing without really knowing
how their lives have altered

I’ve been warned to not leave home
but am allowed to walk so I do down
paths forsythia lined
canopied with pink flowers

    We also had reading to do.  For the poetry group it was Galway Kinnel’s Book of Nightmares, a set of poems about the Vietnam War.  And for the neighborhood group it was Erik Larsen’s The Splendid and the Vile, about the first year of Churchill’s reign, 1940-41, a year of fear and courage. 

    Sunday I tried all sorts of food delivery options.  But none were available.  So Monday I went shopping for our home and one of the others in the co-op.  We also began our walks around the neighborhood.  Stopping many times for chats (distanced, of course) these prove to be fun socials. 

    When the weather permits, I also plan to do biking. 

    At home cooking and meal time have become more prominent since we don’t go out to eat.  Monday, night the poets were to deliver  their poems: only Bonnie and I did. 

    Noticing that, I uploaded the poems to our Thursday Skype writers’ chat.  I invited others to do so. 

    Tuesday the poets were to deliver their comments on the Kinnel book.  One person besides Bonnie and I did.  The leader did not do her part.  Wednesday there was no poetry group.

    Thursday I was nervous.  What would work?  I put out a notice for the Skype meeting of the VA group.  At noon, we went live.  My co-organizer and I, then a long absent member, Jenine joined.  Then up popped Denise - a vital contributor.  As we bemoaned our much reduced space George sent a message he was detained but would definitely be active in the future.  John joined.  Maxine joined.  No one had done any writing, but they wanted this meeting.  They wanted this thread of connectivity.  We opened up the power to call meetings.  Said anyone in the group should use the  group to call for others to connect at any time for any reason.  90 minutes later the meeting ended.  Soon thereafter it served as a platform for John to invite people to a virtual celebration  of the solstice that night.  I demurred.  Others participated.  I smiled at the community I created.

    Later that afternoon I looked at Skype to find others had posted their writingSaturday, March 28, 2020s for the Thursday night Meetup group.  We had an early supper, and got to the 7pm Skype meeting.  Kathy was there.  Karen and Will (who had submitted pieces for comments) were there.  Then Adam showed up (he too had submitted an item).  Then came Marilyn and Nora.  The meeting lasted two hours.  Again, I told everyone  to use the group any way they found useful.

    Friday, Bonnie and Carolyn had a long phone discussion of Austen’s Emma.  We decided that it was important to  Karen said let’s have a virtual happy hour!  Great idea.  But Adam had a virtual dinner invitation, and others were engaged.  Still  it was a fun discussion and ended up with a few of us having a good ½ hour of shmoozing on Skype over drinks miles apart. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Losing America (2)

    Secession was initiated by the South to insure continued slavery and the dominance of the white ‘race.’  They lost the formal war that ensued but have not lost the long social war for ‘white supremacy’ in America.  Years leading to the civil rights reforms of the 60's ended de jure apartheid in the United States.  Those reforms gave hope we were on a journey to realize values promised in our founding documents.  Since then, progress has been sporadic at best and recently reversed.

    It would be comforting to attribute the derailing of that journey to our President, or even to the Republican Party.  However we must point to ourselves.  It is we who have failed to embrace the values of the Declaration of Independence, the 14th and 15th amendments, and civil rights laws.  We citizens readily vote for candidates known to be bigoted, justifying our votes with some flimsy secondary policy name such as the ‘War on Drugs.’  Historians note that Germans voted for Hitler only after experiencing the terrible social shocks of defeat in WWI, hyper-inflation and the depression.  We Americans have not had such dystopian reversals.  Rather the foundation for our support of discrimination is far uglier.

    We in America have over, and over again, excused, endorsed, supported the introduction of methods to hold down those who are not white and Christian.  Voter suppression, white flight to private schools, massive incarceration, wide spread civilian armament, laws such as ‘stand your ground’ all combine to create great distortions to weighings on our scales of justice.

    After a week in which 2 people were shot for the crime of being black in a Kroger store, 13 liberals were sent pipe bombs, and Jews were targeted in a synagogue, it is time that we Americans rethink the political bargains we make.  Fortunately, there is soon to be an election and hence it will be easy for us to put our feet back on the path of righteousness, put our country back the journey to its proper destiny, and reassert our belief  “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

Friday, March 30, 2018

Passover 2018

50 years ago 

    1. the Freedom Haggadah was written to object

to American injustice

to police killing Black men

to the killing of MLKing 

to our endless war
to demand action from the FBI on the killing of civil rights workers
      2. Israel had won a war which gave them control of new land - the West Bank

It was to be used as a bargaining chip to bring it peace

Now, where have we come to?  50 years. 

    1. we are in an endless war

    2. Police are killing black men. 

    3. Our president has found that there are ‘good people’ among

neo nazis carrying swastikas, chanting Jews will not replace us. 

    4. Israel continues to occupy the West Bank

It has taken Palestinian’s lands, 

Treated its peoples without basic human rights 

Denied them equality under a regime of law.
    5. Our country is displacing (removing) thousands of people

Some have come here as seekers of asylum. 
If there was ever a time for the freedom haggadah it is now. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump’s Policies to End Pluralism – Losing America (1)

The attack on voting rights is but one of the elements in this administration’s strategy to hold together it’s coalition of old Jim Crow South, and anti-Hispanic and Native peoples in the West.  The strategy is shaping up as an attack on policies that disproportionately help those poorer minority populations.

This appears to be designed to reestablish the pecking order (not the power structure) of the Jim Crow South, and the anti-native American West.  It will enable poor whites to once again feel they are not at the bottom of the heap.  It is the old strategy of the Southern elites: splitting the poor so they can’t effect change.

To this end, three major tools are being crafted:

  • First, the taking away of voting rights of poor minorities.  Robert Barnes reported in yesterday’s Post that Chief Justice Roberts has clarified that his vote against the review of the NC voter ID case is not be understood as support for getting rid of those laws.  Further, Barnes reports Gorsuch is likely on the side of the new voter restrictions.

  • Second, Sessions efforts to reimpose tougher sentencing coupled with the end of DOJ review of police departments’ malpractice, will quickly reestablish our world record rates of incarceration of our minorities.  To facilitate this result, the DOJ is also relegitimating the use of private prisons.  That will increase capacity quickly.

  • Third, giving the states more control of America’s social safety net’s structure will permit the cleansing of many blacks, hispanics, and native Americans from the roles of recipients in states where these groups are not properly empowered.

Other aspects of the Trump presidency may be disturbing, but these strategic moves need to be discussed and fought openly for the preservation of our union. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Smart TV -- Progress in America (10)


In my plush armchair
edging toward sleep,
Old words sail to me,
Children weep, elders say
“Zwei Fahrkarten -
einfache nach Amerika –
tickets - one way.” 
I straighten up
stare at TV. 

The tube stares straight back; speaks to me.

Where will you run to Old Sinner Man?

    To the Bat Cave and Captain America if I can. 

See many brown shirts,
with many guns. Look there’s Trump!
With his followers dumb.
Guns in everyone’s hand.
Now what to do?
Where will you run to
old Sinner Man?

    I will run to Denmark if I can.

Danes take trinkets from refugees.
They won’t want a Jew who flees!
So where will you run to old Sinner Man?

    Is there no place to be
    no peace for me?
    Brown shirts leave me crazy with fright.

Donald’s next words float in the night:

    I’ll build the wall – Even if no one wants in.

    I’ll build the camp – Leave the bill for Jews to pay.
    Don’t lynch blackmen – we’re peaceful, it’s all in play
    Elect me Commander – Then the games really begin.
d4: Sunday, March 13, 2016

Saturday, April 4, 2015

3 Verses Inspired by Shelving Adam Zagajewski’s poems.

Trying to Shelve Adam Z


The Joy of Eating

Too sick to celebrate
but well enough
to eat what’s on my plate
I chewed on food for thought
and realized that such pleasure ought
to keep the poet at bay. 


Career choice

The laugh scared the poem away
and I was not sorry.
That must be why
I became – an accountant.


Adam’s Reprise

Under sheets and in the dark
threats of flames begin to spark –
envy, greed, lust consume us all as fuel
taken in as tyrants’ fools
leaving ashes on scorched, deserted plain
belying humanity with self-inflicted pain.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Considering Freedom on Passover 5775


Early spring morning, cold, East of the Med Sea
in the land where Abraham, the first temple used to be
where God sent Jesus, Joseph, and Abraham,
but hours from Jerusalem. 

Early spring morning, cold, in the past present or not at all
no longer on the green line but within the wall
somewhere specific between here and there
now reportable only as nowhere.

Early spring morning, cold, sun peaking over hills in the East.
Ari stands guard at checkpoint with his Uzi beast
loaded.  Two dogs there for just in case
means that his mind can adjust, not race
when problems come up.

Early spring morning, cold, still shadows where she walks,
Hajar – knows what to say but not to talk
Hebrew.  Under her black abaya Hajar’s mound grew
heavy, threatening, and out of view.
Up at the checkpoint now.

Ari sees the bulge, points and asks in his tongue
what under there might be slung.
She says, My baby!  I am now in labor.
Begs for help, asks for favor,
But he does not speak, Arabic. 

He barks for her to raise her gown
but all she understands is the frown.
Ari calls his officer over and Moshe
speaks, in Arabic – Raise your smock!
which she, for a man, certainly can not.

Feel my belly - is what she said
Don’t!  orders Moshe, If it’s a bomb we’re dead!
She screams in pain, turns around
walks some steps; kneels on the ground
prays to Allah for his help.

Late spring evening, cold, sun sets
behind a burned out vehicle she steps
delivers now without flair
her baby boy gasping for air.
Again she prays,  Allah, mercy.

Late spring evening, cold, some poor Arab screams,
Bastards! Don’t you see!  It’s just what it seemed!
The mother cries demanding care
The babe needs help but it isn’t there.
Ari, Uzi loaded, and with dogs

watches the infant gasp and die
goes home to forget, forgive and try
to understand the reason why occupation
is still imposed on this woman’s nation. 

Then celebrates freedom at his Sedar.