Yes, this is what I'm beginning to look like: recognized by a preconscient preternatural Albrecht Durer.
It's not cold tonight and hardly foggy.
I hope there will be no earth-shattering events tonight.
A few fireworks down on the Embarcadero by the Bay.
I'm home, laundry done, Ananda pretending a blanket is a cave:
Happy as a clam am I; happy and my heart content:
A bomb in San Bruno was discovered in a home not far from SFO;
Monday, the first day of 2007 is my last vacation day;
I watched Keith Barry tonight on CBS: pretty amazing fooling around
with celebrities, doing his Illusions, making them forget or confused
and liking it;
Can you name all the dead presidents? will you brave the elements?
sure, sure put in your two cents: I know what you're thinking
even before you think it: I'm my own worst enemy.
People are supposed to put off driving and not burn wood because
they say it's a save the air night; the Bay Bridge looks twinkley if a little
fuzzy on my TV; temperatures are 37 - 48 degrees over the Bay Area;
Sunny Pleasant temperatures are predicted for tomorrow but there
is a Storm out on the Pacific; cozy and warm here in the apartment;
I watched My Blue Heaven this afternoon; great Technicolor of soft gray tones:
Gray Grays, silvery grays, French Grays, green grays, blue grays; shades of
Navy Blue and very few blacks, all punctuated and accented with autumny
tones of greens and reds; beautifully lit; the story is so so; the cast: delightful.
I don't feel hell-bent; or full of incident; I feel like a fly in ointment; I wonder
if I've ever made a gentleman's agreement; I know I'm a glutton for punishment
and enjoy giving but not receiving left-handed compliments; I certainly
want to attain true enlightenment while in my element and don't ever
want to receive a capital punishment but most definitely want the red-carpet
treatment; and worry over people giving me the silent
treatment; from moment to moment I worry or fret; and on the spur of
the moment I get up and pour some coffee; time signs my death warrant; I'm the
heir apparent to failure; and in a weird halfway decent way I'm feeling
heaven sent and instead of having not one red cent I'd rather be
partying at Spundae or 1015 Folsom or sitting quietly receiving the future
like a horn of plenty with twenty-twenty hindsight.
Other than that city traffic moves smoothly, is light,
Let's see: what have I forgotten.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Yes, this is what I'm beginning to look like: recognized by a preconscient preternatural Albrecht Durer.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Gerald Ford's children used to play in Statuary Halll.
Now, there's a pause while his coffin makes the rounds.
I think it's moving.
The presidency means so much to Americans.
He's probably the nicest president we've had in the last half century.
It's a sight we've never seen before: an ex-President lying in repose in front of the open door of the House Chamber.
You can hear their heels clicking on the stone floors.
Ford served in the House for 24 years.
The stillness echoes too; the winter wreath with white flowers.
Next, the casket will proceed to the Rotunda.
His enormous ambition was to lead the House.
Now we're marking history.
Think of where you were when Ford proclaimed the long nightmare is over.
Many of these dignitaries have no dignity:
they stand around chatting and twitching and seem compelled to touch their
face or fluff their hair or simply fidget -- looking worried.
The overwhelming impression is one of frigid solemnity; Mrs. Ford chokes back a tear.
She looks so fragile and vulnerable. The hall has such a loud reverberation you can almost hear the power of
step, step, step, step, step,
For mighty is the hand that can turn a page of history.
Someone just collapsed in the crowd: a dignitary.
MOURNER COLLAPSES DURING CEREMONY
The stone floors of the Rotunda are not easy to stand long on.
There's nothing better than Live TV -- before all the awkwardness is edited out.
They're just dealing with it: just stand or sit and wait.
Remember Jerry Ford was 93 and many of these people are his contemporaries.
Waiting in the cold may have been too much for some of them.
Our long national nightmare is over.
Is that a question or a memory.
There's immediate sadness in the sky this morning.
A little bit warmer: the sky
bloody with hints of last words (unhooded).
The man across the street in front of the bus kiosk
is in handcuffs; a policeman is dancing in the streets.
All the monsters in hell are dancing in Deerborn
Michigan; I harbor hate and heat in my heart.
I've considered moving to Palm Desert to weep over
memories I have of the 70s but decide: precision
is the highest form of honor and will opt for giddy alliance
with a future involving comic books and super
heroes, transit bus crashes and continuing cold.
I promise to sleep better in the future.
I promise to feel a cup of coffee amounts to God
and will surely cinch my future fame.
It is better to sip champagne than keep global prices down.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
I always make the wrong decisions and end up investing mistakes with meaning.
I find it both exhilarating and dangerous waiting for ideas to fall into my mind.
In the movie: Just For You Ethel Barrymore knows more about outboard motors than Bing Crosby.
So far the winter season has been pretty sunny.
We've had a daily succession of earthquakes: mostly in the 3.7 or 2.8 range: unnerving events.
They only last about a second or two; death enters you as very real and then it's over.
Bob Arthur: fetching in a sleeveless t-shirt; shaving cream smudged around his ears.
Was Jane Wyman used when the director couldn't get but wanted Claudette Colbert?
My two week vacation is nearly over.
Ananda, curled up asleep on the mattress, exhibits trust, a voice of silence, skillfully harmonic sense of self and/or being, and endearing sensual presence. In other words, delight.
Bing Crosby has about seven moves: he can't really dance.
I believe absolutely every word that comes out of Ethel Barrymore's mouth.
Six college boys svelte in swimmer boxers are moping on the beach.
Sometimes it's easier to say something than to be in question.
There's nothing going on and I can't pretend there is.
You may want wish plead hope cajole or rant but it's not Technicolor.
I need to write to Michelle about Miu Miu and Mason.
I would prefer to be 25 -- the circuits through
I find it impossible to believe Matador pants were ever fashionable.
We both feel the same about each other: time will take care of everything.
There seems to be something within that observes but takes no part.
Love writes the sweetest songs or is it longing.
I love this urge to perform in public: I believe anything Ethel Barrymore says.
Unfortunately every time I fall in love I also develop a nasty head cold.
Flags are at half mast in SF for the next month: in memory of fallen police officer Bryan Tuvera.
Thousands turned out to bid farewell to the Godfather of Soul.
What are police doing to insure New Years Eve is safe?
It's chilly tonight. Dry weather is with us. That means blue skies.
Children of Men looks like the major big impact movie to see.
I find it nearly impossible to say anything about myself that doesn't involve food, sex or sleep.
Now that my mother's husband is dying I'm wondering what to feel about it.
To understand what it is I am feeling I would need to call in a German screenwriter with the sensitivity of a weatherman.
Sometimes I wonder if my biological father is still alive or who will let me know if he too is dying or already dead.
Ethel Barrymore once told me that at 60 parents should really have been dead for ten years.
I believe her, after all, like the world, she overflows with passion.
I am the son of an ascetic landscape severe by nature and often absent.
Like you I wait for the rain to fall in some kind of musical resonance.
I don't talk to a lot of people anymore for fear of making necessary journeys, decisions or responses.
"How are things going" "Great just great" "I wish I could believe you"
The night has an extraordinary way of passing unknown, on cue, just in time.
Winter is here. The year is ending. It's early. What depth the sky has.
Nowhere to go, no one phones, how does he do it?
Sunday, December 24, 2006
There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish - which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,
So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St.Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By "eightieth" meaning whichever is last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.
-- T.S. Eliot
Friday, December 15, 2006
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't a single place dark or unhappy
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
-- e e cummings
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Far from the Rappahannock, the silent
Danube moves along toward the sea.
The brown and green Nile rolls slowly
Like the Niagara's welling descent.
Tractors stood on the green banks of the Loire
Near where it joined the Cher.
The St. Lawrence prods among black stones
And mud. But the Arno is all stones.
Wind ruffles the Hudson's
Surface. The Irawaddy is overflowing.
But the yellowish, gray Tiber
Is contained within steep banks. The Isar
Flows too fast to swim in, the Jordan's water
Courses over the flat land. The Allegheny and its boats
Were dark blue. The Moskowa is
Gray boats. The Amstel flows slowly.
Leaves fall into the Connecticut as it passes
Underneath. The Liffey is full of sewage,
Like the Seine, but unlike
The brownish-yellow Dordogne.
Mountains hem in the Colorado
And the Oder is very deep, almost
As deep as the Congo is wide.
The plain banks of the Neva are
Gray. The dark Saône flows silently.
And the Volga is long and wide
As it flows across the brownish land. The Ebro
Is blue, and slow. The Shannon flows
Swiftly between its banks. The Mississippi
Is one of the world's longest rivers, like the Amazon.
It has the Missouri for a tributary.
The Harlem flows amid factories
And buildings. The Nelson is in Canada,
Flowing. Through hard banks the Dubawnt
Forces its way. People walk near the Trent.
The landscape around the Mohawk stretches away;
The Rubicon is merely a brook.
In winter the Main
Surges; the Rhine sings its eternal song.
The Rhône slogs along through whitish banks
And the Rio Grande spins tales of the past.
The Loir bursts its frozen shackles
But the Moldau's wet mud ensnares it.
The East catches the light.
Near the Escaut the noise of factories echoes
And the sinuous Humboldt gurgles wildly.
The Po too flows, and the many-colored
Thames. Into the Atlantic Ocean
Pours the Garonne. Few ships navigate
On the Housatonic, but quite a few can be seen
On the Elbe. For centuries
The Afton has flowed.
If the Rio Negro
Could abandon its song, and the Magdalena
The jungle flowers, the Tagus
Would still flow serenely, and the Ohio
Abrade its slate banks. The tan Euphrates would
Sidle silently across the world. The Yukon
Was choked with ice, but the Susquehanna still pushed
Bravely along. The Dee caught the day's last flares
Like the Pilcomayo's carrion rose.
The Peace offered eternal fragrance
Perhaps, but the Mackenzie churned livid mud
Like tan chalk-marks. Near where
The Brahmaputra slapped swollen dikes
And the Pechora? The São Francisco
Skulks amid gray, rubbery nettles. The Liard's
Reflexes are slow, and the Arkansas erodes
Anthracite hummocks. The Paraná stinks.
The Ottawa is light emerald green
Among grays. Better that the Indus fade
In steaming sands! Let the Brazos
Freeze solid! And the Wabash turn to a leaden
Cinder of ice! The Marañón is too tepid, we must
Find a way to freeze it hard. The Ural
Is freezing slowly in the blasts. The black Yonne
Congeals nicely. And the Petit-Morin
Curls up on the solid earth. The Inn
Does not remember better times, and the Merrimack's
Galvanized. The Ganges is liquid snow by now;
The Vyatka's ice-gray. The once-molten Tennessee s
Curdled. The Japurá is a pack of ice. Gelid
The Columbia's gray loam banks. The Don's merely
A giant icicle. The Niger freezes, slowly.
The interminable Lena plods on
But the Purus' mercurial waters are icy, grim
With cold. The Loing is choked with fragments of ice.
The Weser is frozen, like liquid air.
And so is the Kama. And the beige, thickly flowing
Tocantins. The rivers bask in the cold.
The stern Uruguay chafes its banks,
A mass of ice. The Hooghly is solid
Ice. The Adour is silent, motionless.
The lovely Tigris is nothing but scratchy ice
Like the Yellowstone, with its osier-clustered banks.
The Mekong is beginning to thaw out a little
And the Donets gurgles beneath the
Huge blocks of ice. The Manzanares gushes free.
The Illinois darts through the sunny air again.
But the Dnieper is still ice-bound. Somewhere
The Salado propels irs floes, but the Roosevelt's
Frozen. The Oka is frozen solider
Than the Somme. The Minho slumbers
In winter, nor does the Snake
Remember August. Hilarious, the Canadian
Is solid ice. The Madeira slavers
Across the thawing fields, and the Plata laughs.
The Dvina soaks up the snow. The Sava's
Temperature is above freezing. The Avon
Carols noiselessly. The Drôme presses
Grass banks; the Adige's frozen
Surface is like gray pebbles.
Birds circle the Ticino. In winter
The Var was dark blue, unfrozen. The
Thwaite, cold, is choked with sandy ice;
The Ardèche glistens feebly through the freezing rain.
-- John Ashbery
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious
as if I were French?
Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous
(and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable
list!), but one of these days there'll be nothing left with
which to venture forth.
Why should I share you? Why don't you get rid of someone else
for a change?
I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.
Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too,
don't I? I'm just like a pile of leaves.
However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of
pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of
perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the
confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes--I can't
even enjoy a blade of grass unless i know there's a subway
handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not
totally _regret_ life. It is more important to affirm the
least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and
even they continue to pass. Do they know what they're missing?
My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time;
they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and
disloyal, so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away.
Or again at something after it has given me up. It makes me
restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them
still. If only i had grey, green, black, brown, yellow eyes; I
would stay at home and do something. It's not that I'm
curious. On the contrary, I am bored but it's my duty to be
attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above the
earth. And lately, so great has _their_ anxiety become, I can
spare myself little sleep.
Now there is only one man I like to kiss when he is unshaven.
Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching. (How best
St. Serapion, I wrap myself in the robes of your whiteness
which is like midnight in Dostoevsky. How I am to become a
legend, my dear? I've tried love, but that holds you in the
bosom of another and I'm always springing forth from it like
the lotus--the ecstasy of always bursting forth! (but one must
not be distracted by it!) or like a hyacinth, "to keep the
filth of life away," yes, even in the heart, where the filth is
pumped in and slanders and pollutes and determines. I will my
will, though I may become famous for a mysterious vacancy in
that department, that greenhouse.
Destroy yourself, if you don't know!
It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I
admire you, beloved, for the trap you've set. It's like a
final chapter no one reads because the plot is over.
"Fanny Brown is run away--scampered off with a Cornet of Horse;
I do love that little Minx, & hope She may be happy, tho' She
has vexed me by this exploit a little too.--Poor silly
Cecchina! or F:B: as we used to call her.--I wish She had a
good Whipping and 10,000 pounds." -- Mrs. Thrale
I've got to get out of here. I choose a piece of shawl and my
dirtiest suntans. I'll be back, I'll re-emerge, defeated, from
the valley; you don't want me to go where you go, so I go where
you don't want me to. It's only afternoon, there's a lot
ahead. There won't be any mail downstairs. Turning, I spit in
the lock and the knob turns.
-- Frank O'Hara
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Poetry is I say essentially a vocabulary just as prose is essentially not. And what is the vocabulary of which poetry absolutely is. It is a vocabulary based on the noun as prose is essentially and determinately and vigorously not based on the noun. Poetry is concerned with using with abusing, with losing with wanting with denying with avoiding with adoring with replacing the noun. It is doing that always doing that, doing that doing nothing but that. Poetry is doing nothing but using losing refusing and pleasing and betraying and caressing nouns. That is what poetry does, that is what poetry has to do no matter what kind of poetry it is. And there are a great many kinds of poetry. So that is poetry really loving the name of anything and that is not prose.
-- Gertrude Stein
Monday, November 27, 2006
standing or curling rose — is not — rose (they rose)
subjectivity/language is — the delicate food system
disturbed famine reappears — ?
were killed practicing in the monasteries — shipped
to labor, dying, trains shipping them, ringed in by barbed
wire haul on dam sites tunnels exhaustion famine in lines.
the same figure repeated everywhere changes it there as if
changed by not either from within or without that
if the back’s constructed — and moves the light — is
subjectivity/language only — they’re not ‘speaking’
that is ‘speaking’ — social — both
subjectivity/language constructed also and those men
move the light — so —
social isn’t anything? there — walking — either
moon rose — that is — appears to
on or resting on mountain’s top — edge
men’s delicate backs standing move — is separate —
there at all — both
future — movement
is ‘not’ night — or
‘in’ ‘night’ — either yet
ahead — so there are not functions ever
the man standing and curling while the backs lying.
— in the place.
social — (is ‘getting along with’ people only?) or one
"doesn’t get along with people" — is functions only
(someone makes that occur — by ostracism —
one has no function then)
the man has kindness — is standing lying — or at
one holds his back
at ‘night’ — ?
must ‘accept’ death of others. — except them. except
him. (can’t) is them him also.
at ‘night’ any night is can’t
day. moon. rose. — is on a mountain -is one’s own
back — is any night — ( isn’t the same as night)
is can’t. their separation is there.
the flesh is not asleep while one’s sleeping. at any
time? -- no difference between ‘apprehension’ —
it’s the same in one?
— blossoming trees — outside — or ‘there not being
memory at all’ if the flesh is not asleep ever
or that’s rest as not sleeping
the relation between ‘no memory occurring’ ever
(only constructing — thought as motion — in anyone — is
and the flesh not asleep ever (even while one’s
sleeping) is blossoming trees ‘outside’, that is also
the relation between the dog’s crushed back and its
apprehension isn’t by itself even. both.
crushed isn’t by itself — either skittering from side of
hurtling car on flimsy countryside
some friend wanted faceless mother slaves. whatever
not to speak, is social as people being functions? they
‘think’ it is — not to see people’s faces — there — is no
inclination on their part.
— duty — is nothing — no functions as one. both.
is wasting — wanting — speaking — social
one’s subjectivity/ language is one’s back’s motion
he says — one suffering as is inferior then (free of
suffering being itself bliss, i.e. ‘indication’ that one is free)
and ‘that one is free’
(though it could just be — ‘materialism’ — social
acceptability. acting and speaking as ‘free of suffering’ being
that: social acceptability only)
but everyone is suffering — they’ve been killed
people’s feelings, one’s sufferings, is there wild. moon
rose and is people’s feelings wild
one’s suffering, one’s kindness — is ‘isn’t the same as
hemmed in streaming — being attached — as
conception also —
others streaming being attacked — all over the place
— she says ‘it’s never happened to her’
isn’t hemmed in streaming walking — there is no
‘outside’ — ?
she’s so protected — ‘it’s never happened to her’ —
and it’s everywhere — there’s no place. —
as their sense that ‘the flesh itself isn’t anything’ as
opposing others et al
then it’s only one — in their ‘social’ realm — neither,
as there’s no memory et al — and the flesh’s ‘memory of
being free’ ‘as’ ‘there’
— one’s subjectivity/language is their or one’s motion
seeing being only a motion even (in walking, say)
one has no back — yet. — not even ‘in’ ‘night’ —
not even past movements’ ‘night’ — either and is
where (?) no movement of one’s occurs — future is
same as one’s motions without extension now
one’s motion ahead — is only one now — nights rose
to find something out — one’s motions without
extension in this place — not even — past movements’
extension now —either — nights rose.
forward into a motion where?
subjectivity/language constructed also and moves the
light — so — social isn’t ‘anything’ ? — there. — walking —
he’s walking — hemmed in streaming — being
in the flesh not ever being asleep while (one’s)
sleeping — hemmed in streaming — also
at ‘night’ any night is can’t — he’s/one’s ‘outside’ in it
-- Leslie Scalapino
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Now the sea moves up the lawn for him as those nearby view his life passing before their eyes. Someone his own age lean in black pants and a white shirt sits on a plastic chair with a block of massive green light. Facing of someone else away (bluebird). This is not happening to him. Unaccountable ejaculation. Briefs halted at the knees alter his walk. The basement conceals a surplus of chairs while overground the yards remain square and trimmed to uniform length (clouds). This was written on his arm. Its words occupy a grid and move among cells at random with great speed. A car leaves a driveway and exclamations are made about wood left over and what could make it burn.
. . .
Stacked circles (rain down) say green it releases nothing. Bundled wires. Ellsworth Kelly strides from one red iceberg to the next. Each face projects onto antennae forging a domain expressed as a skewered pod. Transparency behind a desk elusive plunge. A dissection of thought into its components the weight of meat up the wrong street the wrong backdoor. The blazer missed too as the wiry one observed. Someone slipped him diet Orangina and he went ballistic. The whole staff crayoned their names onto the good luck card while unwitting partygoers waited for the elevator. Mogul and musician separated at birth one suggested. Hubris. The directions very specific and yet so many stood idle. She ravished in black. He charmed in lime.
Friday, October 20, 2006
A cold breeze smelling of seashells and rice
And then of trees arousing me
More than city life as I experience it requires
Is pushing back the curtains by the bed where I’m lying for a little while longer
That I’m a prisoner.
But I can’t pretend to sleep while writing this.
And if you turn from this to any other didactic poem you will see the contrast
Between adventure in the meditations of a woman and imagination in the speculations of a man,
The one depending on accumulation, the other on loss and gain
Which aren’t the same for everyone, enclosed in different circles
And in different skulls
And most of them guarded
Although things get in or out sometimes—the smell of blankets
Hanging in the dark, for example,
Or the story of the father who punished his daughter for being lazy because he didn’t understand her kind of work—
But those too are ideas.
Ideas contend with stories
And this is more worthy of consideration than the judgements which separate them into “good” and “bad”
I know the poet is vain who writes of paradise.
Experiences run together through transitions
Which are long and short at once
And so I watch the long leaves at the narrow window of my cell
Perhaps what is most amazing is that with crimes on my conscience
I can still kiss the wall.
Consists of a series of connections
Sustaining my conviction of having done something
And every act expresses a necessity
In over half my dreams a moral dilemma figures.
There is a grazing horse charred in a grassy corral
And a bluejay named ‘Julie’ directing a flotilla of ships through a canal
Or a convocation of logicians in striped shirts watching a boxing match
In a rural gymnasium owned by my grandfather who is sad
And the dilemma emphasizes the parallels
Whose shadows shift
Through the rationalizing ambitions of the story.
My guilt is much like Descartes’ doubt.
No—those doubts were certainties, though achieved through “pain
And other sensations
Which could not have been foreseen”
And serve as bars
Or guards of guides.
Signifier and signified.
They are snapping the distance
In a dream with an outward gaze that’s all about a gain
Of metaphor and change of shape
At this “stopping point”
Under the pressure of the senses
Which draw from ‘nature’ and develop reality.
That’s our reason for acting.
Reason is an aid to stories.
It’s the ghost out of the cell,
Reciting what it remembers, ruling nothing out,
Like Clio or Narrator or Anonymous.
But if the flesh of the ghost is no longer under pressure
Then, like a ghost, it’s gone
From its unusual or even downright alien position,
Of which it is an imitation,
Not knowing where to go,
Which will allow us to go beyond the limits of any one view point
And remain there.
Though it may not seem to follow.
But I’ve gained weight, my own weight
Under my own trusted and selfish senses.
My memory is filled with their impressions
I write when nothing answers
That something appears.
A terrible slaughter occurs.
As Kwame Anthony Appiah says, technology has not yet rendered slashing and hacking obsolete.
A city is a big city or a beautiful city
Or a crowed city
Or a small progressively-governed university city
And so forth.
Intellectual systems, speech in dreams, things that change like grass
Always end in combat
(Definition: action; motivation: lack)
Resulting in expulsion
(Expulsion here assumes the nature of a certain form of justice)
But a lot of things have changed.
An anecdotal story is often a span
Consisting of separate facts
Each tenuously connected to the next.
What we respond to are the attractiveness of the facts
And the view each one provides.
There are even such things as philosophical anecdotes
Beautifully feathered and perfectly circling
So as not to diverge even an inch from the truths
Thrown among things
And lost in the woods.
Then along comes a woodcutter wearing blue boots
And carrying a bird in a sack over his shoulder
To justify his claims
To the accuracy of the metaphors of branching and perching
To describe both story and storyteller
Where else can one find
The young soldier knocks on the ground and an onion shakes.
The story is never universal
Though it may repeat
And even symbolize, like rocks for good or parts for wobble
With what does a story begin?
The marvelous is a cold vehicle for ink and paper.
The power of Rosa Luxemburg could not be imposed.
But here’s an ambitious undertaking;
An attempt to account for the Twentieth Century!
Goya’s small unfinished sketch of “Time, Truth, and History”
Was painted two centuries ago at a comparable time,
It shows Time with its hourglass bringing naked Truth into the light
While History writes.
-- Lyn Hejinian
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
How do you do, sir?
Brandy, Norris. How do you like your brandy, sir?
In a glass.
I used to like mine with champagne. The champagne cold as
Valley Forge and with about three ponies of brandy under it.
Oh, come, come, man. Pour a decent one. I like to see people drink.
That'll do, Norris. You may take off your coat, sir.
It's too hot in here for any men who has blood in his vein. You
may smoke, too. I can still enjoy the smell of it. Hum, nice
state of affair a man who has to indulge his vices by proxy.
You're looking, sir, at a very dull survival of a very gaudy
life, crippled, paralyzed in both legs, barely I eat and my sleep
is so near waking it's hardly worth a name. I seem to exist
largely on heat like a new born spider.
The orchids are an excuse for the heat. You like orchids?
Nasty things. That flesh is too much like the flesh of men. Their
perfume has a rotten sweetness of corruption. Mmm... Tell me
about yourself, Mr. Marlowe.
-- The Big Sleep
Directed by Howard Hawks
Screenplay by William Faulkner
Friday, August 04, 2006
The recent crisis in the Middle East has place the spot light on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. More importantly, grass roots African Americans are calling "Conde" Rice a total "yes woman" for the Bush Administration. Looking back, when Rice was questioned before the Senate, about the bogus reasons for going to war, Rice defended the administration’s now infamous false claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Many in African American community now compare Rice’s antics to that of high lord of "uncle tomism" Clarence Thomas.
We are reminded of Martin Luther King’s speech of April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York, to a crowd of 3,000, where Dr. King called the Vietnam War as an "enemy of the poor." What an irony! It must be remembered that Dr. King fought against segregation to create avenues for African Americans to attain employment in high places. It is unfortunate that Condoleezza Rice and others are using their position to defend an unjust war. A war that Dr. King would have opposed! We have a new model of oppression in America today. This model accepts African Americans and other minorities as long as they go along with the line laid out by the power structure. Despite the fact that there where no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, "Conde" defended the falsehoods of the Bush Administration. Finding weapons of mass destruction was the stated reason for going to war! We are being fed a new chorus of falsehoods that Dr. Rice seems eager to defend.
According to many African American activists, and many leaders in the NAACP, Condoleezza Rice represents a new generation of "radical uncle toms" that see their role as defenders of the Bush Administration and its morally corrupt methods of disinformation. This disinformation has led to a war in which thousands have lost their lives, and the time honored Geneva conventions on torture being kicked to the curve. Many African Americans are now beginning to question the idea of simply honoring an individual because they are a person of color. Over the years the racist white elite have cashed in on this idea by placing someone of color in an important position only to use that person against the interests of the community from which they come. To see black faces completely surrender to the falsehoods of conservative power is indeed a new blow to the African American community.
Under the Bush administration the technique has been perfected. Progressive white leaders can often be neutralized when they attack the concepts of Condoleezza Rice with false charges of racism by racists themselves! This is why it becomes imperative for African Americans and others to oppose those who stand against the interests of their own people. This problem is evident in the Mexican American community as well, as the Bush Administration has appointed a Mexican American, Alberto Gonzalez, for Attorney General. Alberto Gonzalez is but the new John Ashcroft who supports torturing detainees. It is apparent that the Bush administration is using people of color to support its undemocratic, unjust, superpower formulas. Many Mexican American activists see Alberto Gonzalez has their "uncle tom."
The tactic of using people of color as a cover for unjust policies is nothing new. Throughout the ages unjust systems have sought to use the people that they oppress to do their ideological dirty work. The Bush administration represents one such refinement of that process. This is happening across the United States as minority faces are being used to defend injustice. Minority faces are being used to "parrot" the disinformation that has lead to war, and have become not only the new radical uncle toms but also the new "radical Aunt Jemimas!"
Now, the Secretary is saying that she does not support a "cease fire" between Hezbollah Guerillas in Lebanon and the Israeli defense Forces. With hundreds of innocent Lebanese civilians being killed by Israeli bombs many consider this a foolish mistake. Many experts are saying that Israel cannot defeat Hezbollah, and by bombing innocent Lebanese this will increase the radicalization process in the region. Already, the former head of the Christian militias, General Aoun, is saying that Christians may join up with Hezbollah to fight the Israeli’s. There have already been calls for Christians not to support Israel’s excessive force.
If one puts aside the rhetoric, we are left with individuals who use their minority status to project the will of unjust leaders, and play the political game of "selling out" to the highest bidder. The minority community must speak out, and not let the Bush administration decide who our leaders are. Condoleezza Rice and Alberto Gonzalez should be rejected on the basis of their unjust and undemocratic views, not accepted simply because their "color" is being exploited! Condoleezza Rice has shown poor leadership in dealing with the current crisis in the Middle East. By refusing to support a cease fire, many feel that Ms. Rice and the Bush Administration have taken a reckless and irresponsible path.
-- Mario Salas
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Friday, July 28, 2006
Each bed with a child in it, or his wife,
his brain lined with sleeping bees,
my father is having to leave the house
with delicacy, easing the dead bolt open
in the dark. The house exhales him.
I'm thinking of a driving lay-up, of a girl
in homeroom, blue necklace, brown skin.
Transistor radio on my pillow, volume low.
I know some things, not enough. My eyes
are closed, I'm listening hard, that song
again, Knock down the old gray wall,
my father standing beside his car—gone,
key in his hand, snowflakes in his hair.
At dawn, an Indian head test pattern will stare
from the TV, the freezer will churn out
its automatic ice. On the windowsill
an iris in a vase will have taken
the last water into its cut stem. I will
notice it, how it is there, and had
stood there the whole time, that flower.
-- Chris Forhan
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
So this is what it's like when love
leaves, and one is disappointed
that the body and mind continue to exist,
exacting payment from each other,
engaging in stale rituals of desire,
and it would seem the best use of one's time
is not to stand for hours outside
her darkened house, drenched and chilled,
blinking into the slanting rain.
So this is what it's like to have to
practice amiability and learn
to say the orchard looks grand this evening
as the sun slips behind scumbled clouds
and the pears, mellowed to a golden-green,
glow like flames among the boughs.
It is now one claims there is comfort
in the constancy of nature, in the wind's way
of snatching dogwood blossoms from their branches,
scattering them in the dirt, in the slug's
sure, slow arrival to nowhere.
It is now one makes a show of praise
for the lilac that strains so hard to win
attention to its sweet inscrutability,
when one admires instead the lowly
gouge, adze, rasp, hammer--
fire-forged, blunt-syllabled things,
unthought-of until a need exists:
a groove chiseled to a fixed width,
a roof sloped just so. It is now
one knows what it is to envy
the rivet, wrench, vise -- whatever
works unburdened by memory and sight,
while high above the damp fields
flocks of swallows roil and dip,
and streams churn, thick with leaping salmon,
and the bee advances on the rose.
-- Chris Forhan
Monday, July 24, 2006
The night sky's a black stretch limo, boss in the back
behind tinted glass. You could say that.
Down here's a dungeon, up there's the glittering
ring of keys in the sentry's fist. The self
exists. Beauty too. But they're elsewhere.
You could say that. Or not speak till commanded to.
Dawn, alone on the porch, I watch
the one map unfold and flatten before me—
same toppled TV antenna in the berry vines,
same cardinal, bright wound in the pasture grass.
My wound is my business. I've wearied of it.
From now on, morning will be attended
by its own noises only, evening will approach
without palms in its path. Let the horses
steam in the field, the sun-struck
river blanch. I'm boarding the troop train.
-- Chris Forhan
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Never put your personal spoon in the common jelly bowl.
Spread your napkin upon your lap. Do not grasp.
Eat what meat your fork can get to; the rest of the lobster must be given
up for lost.
A girl must lay her silver down while still a trifle hungry.
She must not eat unchaperoned.
A boy does not take a girl’s arm on the street. The street is no place for
He must not allow his mother to lug the coal up or sift the ashes.
If he does, he is a cad. A boy is shiftless, a vulgar bounder. He is not
He wears a dark suit, but not in a theater box. In a box a tuxedo is worn.
In a box a boy keeps his thoughts to himself.
A girl keeps her hat on until she is seated. The theater itself wears no hat.
Snow is a hat worn by mountains, the tallest of which do not remove the
hat in summer.
Sunlight settles like a shawl upon the hills and dewy berry fields.
The sun is not a wag or hail-fellow-well-met. It does not loaf or shirk.
It keeps its face funeral-ready, as you should.
Away you go in the car. Father and Mother. Puff and Baby Sally.
Away you go into the country. Spot and Jane.
Jane is a proper girl. She avoids provincial phrases and slang, as yep and
She says not yes but yes, Mother, and arranges rosettes in the icing.
She wears a high-collared simple dress and tarries amid the lilac, on her
head a crown of stars.
She may stop dancing when she wishes. A boy must dance until the music
He must scold his bold friend.
A boy is clothed in a purple cloak, is brought up on charges, agrees to
them with the air of one much pleased. He raises his hat to his
A girl, in the presence of her father, removes her breasts.
She removes the washbowl’s plug so the waste water drains completely.
A boy need not detach his hands, but he must not thrust them into his
A clothes brush must be packed for the train, and a plain dressing gown.
Away you go. You are on a train. You are speaking with courtesy and
reserve in the dining car.
You are slipping off your shoes. You are leaving them for the porter.
The porter will pocket his tip discreetly.
The porter will polish your shoes in the night.
-- Chris Forhan
Saturday, July 22, 2006
BEIRUT, Lebanon - The deadliest day yet in the deepening two-front Middle East crisis claimed more than 70 lives Wednesday in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and northern Israel, with no immediate cease-fire in sight.
"The country has been torn to shreds," a desperate Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, said at a meeting he had called of foreign diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador.
"Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions?" he said in a bitter and emotional speech. "Can the international community stand by while such callous retribution by the state of Israel is inflected on us?"
In the Lebanese capital, bombs and rockets fell throughout the day, including, Israeli military officials said, a wave of aircraft that dropped 23 tons of explosives on a suspected Hezbollah bunker in the south. The attack appeared to be part of the ongoing effort to kill Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
In the first land combat in Lebanon during the current conflict, two Israeli soldiers were killed and nine wounded when they were set upon by Hezbollah guerrillas near Naqura. A tank that came to rescue them met with fierce shelling.
Small groups of Israeli commandos have been slipping in and out of southern Lebanon to assess damage and, presumably, locate targets. At nightfall, Israeli tanks and artillery on their side of the border stepped up their barrages, commanders said, for fear that Hezbollah fighters might mount an incursion into Israel.
Two loud explosions boomed over Beirut even as about a thousand U.S. citizens boarded a chartered cruise ship, the Orient Queen, for Cyprus in the first large stage of an evacuation that has left the Lebanese even gloomier about what might lie ahead.
The Lebanese government, weak and divided, is unable to deal with the crisis. Despite the hopes raised by the so-called Cedar Revolution, which ended nearly three decades of Syrian control, the government remains trapped in the sectarian straitjacket of a system that apportions political offices by religion. Siniora has not spoken directly to Nasrallah since the war broke out nine days ago, and dealings between the government and the Hezbollah chief are through the Shiite speaker of parliament, Nabil Berri, who is loyal to Syria.
At the United Nations, the Americans, who have signaled that they will give Israel more time to continue the bombardment of Lebanon to weaken Hezbollah's military power, opposed a French proposal for a Security Council resolution calling for a lasting cease-fire.
"It is very hard to understand from the people calling for a cease-fire how you have a cease-fire with a terrorist organization like Hezbollah," John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador, told reporters.
In Washington, U.S. officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might travel to the Middle East on Sunday, dropping off a team of diplomats to hold talks before continuing to Asia on Thursday on a previously scheduled trip. But she has canceled stops in South Korea, Japan and China, and could return to the Middle East after Asia, the officials said. That schedule could give Israel additional time to shell Hezbollah before having to negotiate a cease-fire.
Before heading to the region, Rice will travel to New York to the United Nations to discuss with Secretary-General Kofi Annan what could happen once there is a cease-fire. The discussions will include Israeli demands for a 12-mile buffer zone in southern Lebanon. There is some talk about placing international troops in that zone and along the Syrian border to prevent the import of more rockets from Syria and Iran.
Sounding an alarm about humanitarian conditions in southern Lebanon - where Israeli bombs, rockets and shells have pounded villages, roads and bridges, much of the population has fled and supplies are running short - Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said the fighting could amount to war crimes.
"The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control," said Arbour, the former war crimes prosecutor at the World Court.
The violence Wednesday sprawled over both sides of the border, even killing two Israeli Arab brothers, ages 3 and 9, as they played outside in the Galilee town of Nazareth, by one of roughly 120 rockets Hezbollah launched into Israel.
Israeli weaponry rained down on Lebanon throughout the day and into the night, according to Lebanese authorities, killing 63 people, most of them said to be civilians and one known Hezbollah fighter, apparently in the Naqura firefight.
Southern Lebanon, the heartland of Shiite villages dominated by Hezbollah, was particularly hard hit.
In the village of Serifa, a neighborhood was wiped out - 15 houses flattened, 21 people killed and 30 wounded - in an airstrike. The town's mayor, Afif Najdi, called it "a massacre."
A convoy escaping the town was later bombed by warplanes, killing several people and injuring many others.
"I'm all alone and there's no one to save me," said Fatmeh Ashqar, 27 years old. She had severe neck wounds and burns, while a passenger riding with her, Alia Aladeen, had severe head injuries that left her in a coma.
"Maybe she will live, maybe she will not," said Dr. Abdullah Shihab at Jebel al Amel Hospital where at least 18 of the wounded were taken. "But she is ultimately in God's hands." Further north in Ghaziyeh, one person was killed and two were wounded when an Israeli missile struck a building housing a Hezbollah social institution and a neighboring home. And in the village of Salaa, an airstrike destroyed several houses. Six people were killed in an airstrike in the southern town of Nabitiyeh.
In the Bekaa region, another Shiite and Hezbollah stronghold, 11 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a four-story building in Nabi Sheet, near the ancient city of Baalbek.
The Israelis also bombed two bases of the pro-Syrian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, in Sultan Yaacub.
Homes in southern Lebanon received taped phone calls in classical Arabic, warning that they needed to evacuate because strikes would hit home by home. The recording ended by saying it came from the Israeli army.
The Israelis also used a radio station near the border to broadcast warnings into southern Lebanon for residents to leave.
The radio warning also stressed that any truck, including pickups traveling south of the Litani River would be suspected of transporting weapons or rockets and would therefore be a potential target.
While much of bombardment was directed at poor Shiite areas, the Israeli's new emphasis on trucks - they have hit several carrying medical and relief supplies and even cement in the past few days - brought the war home to one of Beirut's most wealthy Maronite Christian areas Wednesday morning.
Warplanes fired rockets into two dirty red trucks carrying water-drilling equipment - apparently mistaken for rocket tubes - parked in a vacant lot, sending the well-to-do neighbors scrambling to their balconies and then, in several cases, loading their cars and heading for the mountains.
An Israeli army spokesman, Capt. Jacob Dallal, told The Associated Press that Israel had hit "1,000 targets in the last eight days - 20 percent missile launching sites, control and command centers, missiles and so forth."
He refused to rule out a land invasion. "There is a possibility - all our options are open," Dallal said. "At the moment it's a very limited, specific incursion but all options remain open."
Brig. Gen. Alon Friedman, a senior army commander, told Israeli army radio: "It will take us time to destroy what is left."
Even as much of the attention was focused on Lebanon, fighting raged between Israelis and Palestinians in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with 13 Palestinians killed in a series of Israeli raids.
Fierce fighting in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza overnight and into Wednesday morning left at least seven Palestinians dead. By 9 a.m., the lobby at the Aqsa Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah was jammed with cots holding as many as 60 wounded Palestinians, mostly militia members but some children. The wounds appeared to be mainly shrapnel from tank fire.
A reporter and and a cameraman for al-Jazeera television were slightly wounded covering the fighting and an ambulance driver who attempted to come to their aid was also wounded.
At least three other Palestinians - one a woman - were killed in other incidents.
In the West Bank city of Nablus, about 50 Israeli armored vehicles, including tanks and bulldozers demolished a Palestinian security compound and a half-dozen other Palestinian government buildings.
-- JAD MOUAWAD, The New York Times
IN THE year AD 551, the magnificent, wealthy city of Berytus — headquarters of the Romans' East Mediterranean fleet — was struck by a massive earthquake. In its aftermath, the sea withdrew several miles and the survivors — ancestors of the present-day Lebanese — walked out on the sands to loot the long-sunken merchant ships revealed to them.
That was when a giant tsunami returned to swamp the city and kill them all. So savagely was the old Beirut damaged that the Emperor Justinian sent gold from Constantinople to every family left alive.
Some cities seem forever doomed. When the Crusaders arrived in Beirut on their way to Jerusalem in the 11th century, they slaughtered every man, woman and child in the city.
In World War I, Ottoman Beirut suffered a terrible famine — the Turkish army had commandeered all the grain and the Allied powers blockaded the coast. I still have some ancient postcards I bought here 30 years ago of stick-like children standing in an orphanage, naked and abandoned.
An American woman living in Beirut in 1916 described how she "passed women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, and eating them greedily when found …"
How does this happen to Beirut? For 30 years, I've watched this place die and then rise from the grave and then die again, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they look like Irish lace, its people massacring each other.
I lived here through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives, and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses.
Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore.
They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-coloured skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite.
But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis — in some of their cruellest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside — tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity?
We say that they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties — more than 300 in all of Lebanon by last night — with Israel's 34 dead, as if the figures are the same.
And then, most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our precious foreigners while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hezbollah.
I walked through the deserted centre of Beirut yesterday and it reminded me more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly coloured that it blinded its own people. This part of the city — once a Dresden of ruins — was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister who was murdered scarcely a mile away on February 14 last year.
The wreckage of that bomb blast, an awful precursor to the present war in which his legacy is being vandalised by the Israelis, still stands beside the Mediterranean, waiting for the last UN investigator to look for clues to the assassination — an investigator who has long ago abandoned this besieged city for the safety of Cyprus.
At the empty Etoile restaurant — best snails and cappuccino in Beirut, where Hariri once dined with French President Jacques Chirac — I sat on the pavement and watched the parliamentary guard still patrolling the facade of the French-built emporium that houses what is left of Lebanon's democracy. So many of these streets were built by Parisians under the French Mandate and they have been exquisitely restored, their mock-Arabian doorways bejewelled with marble Roman columns dug from the ancient Via Maxima a few metres away.
Hariri loved this place and, taking Chirac for a beer one day, he caught sight of me sitting at a table. "Ah Robert, come over here," he roared, turning to Chirac like a cat about to eat a canary. "I want to introduce you, Jacques, to the reporter who said I couldn't rebuild Beirut!"
And now it is being unbuilt. The Martyr Rafiq Hariri International Airport has been attacked three times by the Israelis, its shopping malls vibrating to the missiles that thunder into the runways and fuel depots. Hariri's transnational highway viaduct has been broken by Israeli bombers. Most of his motorway bridges have been destroyed. The Roman-style lighthouse has been smashed by a missile from an Apache helicopter. Only this small jewel of a restaurant in the centre of Beirut has been spared. So far.
It is the slums of Haret Hreik and Ghobeiri and Shiyah that have been pounded to dust, sending a quarter of a million Shiite Muslims to schools and abandoned parks across the city. Here, indeed, was the headquarters of Hezbollah, another of those "centres of world terror" the West keeps discovering in Muslim lands.
Here lived Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Party of God's leader, a ruthless, caustic, calculating man, and Sheikh Mohammed Fadlallah, among the wisest and most eloquent of clerics, and many of Hezbollah's top military planners — including, no doubt, the men who planned over many months the capture of the two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday.
But did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pinpoint accuracy — a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue — what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?
In a modern building in an undamaged part of Beirut, I come, quite by chance, across a well-known and prominent Hezbollah figure, open-neck white shirt, dark suit, clean shoes.
"We will go on if we have to for days or weeks or months or …" And he counts these awful statistics on the fingers of his left hand. "Believe me, we have bigger surprises still to come for the Israelis — much bigger, you will see. Then we will get our prisoners and it will take just a few small concessions."
I walk outside, feeling as if I have been beaten over the head. Over the wall opposite there is purple bougainvillea, white jasmine and a swamp of gardenias. The Lebanese love flowers, and Beirut is draped in trees and bushes that smell like paradise.
As for the inhabitants of the southern slums of Haret Hreik, I found hundreds of them yesterday, sitting under trees and lying on the parched grass beside an ancient fountain donated to Beirut by the Ottoman Sultan Abdelhamid. How empires fall.
Far away, across the Mediterranean, two American helicopters from the USS Iwo Jima could be seen, heading through the mist and smoke towards the US embassy bunker complex at Awkar to evacuate more citizens of the American Empire. There was not a word from that same empire to help the people lying in the park, to offer them food or medical aid.
And across them all has spread a dark grey smoke that works its way through the entire city, the fires of oil terminals and burning buildings turning into a cocktail of sulphurous air that moves below our doors and through our windows. I smell it when I wake in the morning. Half the people of Beirut are coughing in this filth, breathing their own destruction as they contemplate their dead.
The anger that any human soul should feel at such suffering and loss was expressed so well by Lebanon's greatest poet, the mystic Khalil Gibran, when he wrote of the half-million Lebanese who died in the 1916 famine, most of them residents of Beirut:
My people died of hunger, and he who
Did not perish from starvation was
Butchered with the sword …
They perished from hunger in a land
rich with milk and honey …
They died because the vipers and
sons of vipers spat out poison into
the space where the Holy Cedars and
the roses and the jasmine breathe
And the sword continues to cut its way through Beirut. When part of an aircraft — perhaps the wing-tip of an F-16 hit by a missile, although the Israelis deny this — came streaking out of the sky over the eastern suburbs at the weekend, I raced to the scene to find a partly decapitated driver in his car and three Lebanese soldiers from the army's logistics unit. These are the tough, brave non-combat soldiers of Kfar Chima, who have been mending power and water lines these past six days to keep Beirut alive.
I knew one of them. "Hello Robert, be quick, because I think the Israelis will bomb again, but we'll show you everything we can." And they took me through the fires to show me what they could of the wreckage, standing around me to protect me.
A few hours later the Israelis did come back, as the men of the logistics unit were going to bed, and they bombed the barracks and killed 10 soldiers, including those three kind men who looked after me amid the fires of Kfar Chima.
And why? Be sure: the Israelis know what they are hitting. That's why they killed nine soldiers near Tripoli when they bombed the military radio antennas. But a logistics unit? Men whose sole job was to mend electricity lines?
And then it dawns on me. Beirut is to die. It is to be starved of electricity now that the power station in Jiyeh is on fire. No one is to be allowed to keep Beirut alive. So those poor men had to be liquidated.
Beirutis are tough people and are not easily moved. But at the end of last week, many of them were overcome by a photograph in their daily papers of a small girl, discarded like a broken flower in a field near the border village of Ter Harfa, her feet curled up, her hand resting on her torn blue pyjamas, her eyes — beneath long, soft hair — closed, turned away from the camera.
She had been another "terrorist" target of Israel and several people, myself among them, saw a frightening similarity between this picture and the photograph of a Polish girl lying dead in a field beside her weeping sister in 1939.
I go home and flick through my files, old pictures of the Israeli invasion of 1982. There are more photographs of dead children, of broken bridges. "Israelis Threaten to Storm Beirut", says one headline. "Israelis Retaliate". "Lebanon At War". "Beirut Under Siege". "Massacre at Sabra and Chatila".
Yes, how easily we forget these earlier slaughters. Up to 1700 Palestinians were butchered at Sabra and Shatila by Israel's Christian militia allies in September of 1982 while Israeli troops — as they later testified to Israel's own commission of inquiry — watched the killings. I was there. I stopped counting the corpses when I reached 100. Many of the women had been raped before being knifed or shot.
Yet when I was fleeing the bombing of Ghobeiri with my driver Abed last week, we swept right past the entrance of the camp, the very spot where I saw the first murdered Palestinians. And we did not think of them. We did not remember them. They were dead in Beirut and we were trying to stay alive in Beirut, as I have been trying to stay alive here for 30 years.
I am back on the coast when my mobile phone rings. It is an Israeli woman calling me from the United States, the author of a fine novel about the Palestinians.
"Robert, please take care," she says. "I am so, so sorry about what is being done to the Lebanese. It is unforgivable. I pray for the Lebanese people, and the Palestinians, and the Israelis." I thank her for her thoughtfulness and the graceful, generous way she condemned this slaughter.
Then, on my balcony — a glance to check the location of the Israeli gunboat far out in the sea smog — I find older clippings. This is from an English paper in 1840, when Beirut was an Ottoman metropolis: "Anarchy is now the order of the day, our properties and personal safety are endangered, no satisfaction can be obtained, and crimes are committed with impunity. Several Europeans have quitted their houses and suspended their affairs, in order to find protection in more peaceable countries."
On my dining room wall, I remember, there is a hand-painted lithograph of French troops arriving in Beirut in 1842 to protect the Maronite Christians from the Druze. They are camping in the Jardin des Pins, which will later become the site of the French embassy where, only a few hours ago, I saw French men and women registering for evacuation. And outside the window, I hear again the whisper of Israeli jets, hidden behind the smoke that now drifts 30 kilometres out to sea.
Fairuz, the living legend of Lebanese song, was to have performed at this year's Baalbek Festival, cancelled now like all the country's festivals. One of her most popular songs is dedicated to her native city:
Peace to Beirut with all my heart
And kisses — to the sea and clouds,
To the rock of a city that looks like an old sailor's face.
From the soul of her people she makes wine,
From their sweat, she makes bread and jasmine.
So how did it come to taste of smoke and fire?
Disgracefully, we evacuate our precious foreigners and just leave the Lebanese to their fate.
-- Robert Fisk
Friday, July 21, 2006
The National Guardsman in the frame looks grim. His bunkmates are cutting up a bit, clowning for the camera. The cameraman tries to coax some action out the unwilling documentary subject, who refuses: "I'm not supposed to talk to the media," he says. You can hear the insult's sting in the cameraman's shouted protest: "I'm not the media! I'm not the media!" The sharp denial reflects a key collateral campaign in the Iraq war: to keep soldiers strictly on message.
But there's no question that the soldier behind the camera in "The War Tapes" is part of this war's media. Just as Vietnam had been America's first "living-room war," spilling carnage in dinnertime news broadcasts, so is the Iraq conflict emerging as the first YouTube war. Growing up in a world where they can swap MP3s as well as intimate details about their lives via MySpace or Facebook, American soldiers are swapping their Iraq experience as well. There's a byte-enabled intimacy to "The War Tapes," the film that bills itself as the first documentary about the war filmed by those fighting it. Critics of the mainstream media's war coverage might hope that the soldier's unmediated view would be a more positive one. Vice President Cheney complained last March that the public's dwindling support for the war was due to the "perception that what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad," rather than what success has been had "in terms of making progress towards rebuilding Iraq." Talk show host Laura Ingraham encouraged those covering Iraq to "talk to those soldiers on the ground" in order to get a sense of all the good things happening there that should be "celebrated." By that logic, putting cameras in the hands of those soldiers on the ground should provide enough celebration for an "Up with Iraq" musical.
There's music in a lot of the soldiers' videos, but precious little uplift. In "The War Tapes," one soldier/auteur complains frequently about the risks he and his comrades take to protect the property of the Halliburton subsidiary subcontracted to feed the troops: "Why the f--- am I sitting out here guarding a truck full of cheesecake?" he laments. After another guardsman supplies a Bush Administration-approved justification for their presence (freedom and democracy for the Iraqi people, stability in the Middle East), the cameraman asks, "tell me how you really feel." Deadpan, he continues: "After that happens, maybe we can buy everybody in the world a puppy."
Videos uploaded to the Internet by soldiers themselves depict, if anything, an even grimmer reality. Earlier this summer, the Council on American-Islamic Relations stoked a minor controversy over the video "Hadji Girl," which featured a uniformed Marine singing about falling in love with an Iraqi girl only to be ambushed by her family, after which he "hid behind the TV/ And I locked and loaded my M-16/ And I blew those little f___ers to eternity." Many defended "Hadji Girl" as gallows humor, but on the web there is no shortage of just plain gallows, either. A search for "Iraq" and "combat" at Ogrish.com or YouTube.com will field dozens of semi-pro snuff films of varying degrees of gore. Many are set to music — power ballads, speed metal, and in one case, an ironic lounge-act crooner.
Raised on Nintendo and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, the troops fighting this war want to experience the kind of battle promised to them by Splinter Cell and Total Recall. The videos they make are an attempt to salvage a war whose coherence crumbled soon after Saddam's statue fell. However, while they offer the credibility of an unvarnished image, they lack any meaningful context of what came before and after the clip, or what's happening outside the frame. One veteran described them to the Wall Street Journal as "kind of like the ESPN highlight reels — the music is pumping and everyone was running around." Another soldier told the Los Angeles Times, "If I had a copy of it, and MTV called, I'd sell it." He may yet get a chance. MTV is airing a special — "Iraq Uploaded" — about these homemade documentaries July 21.
The special closes a loop in pop culture, since these clips are essentially music videos. Traditionally, historians have explained soldiers' documentary efforts — letters home, snapshots — as an attempt to force a narrative onto a situation that's out of control. But these videos don't even try to tell a story. They don't need a plot. Highlight reels at least give it a point: Blow stuff up.
If these dispatches lack a coherent explanation for why the bombs are going off, recall that the Bush Administration has been rather cagey about that, too. They have their own highlight reel, after all: A montage of 9/11, Colin Powell holding up a vial of anthrax, Zarqawi's death mask presented in a gilt frame on a curtained stage. There's some flashes of mortar fire, but this edit contains no footage of dead soldiers or even coffins, no images of the abuse of detainees.
However, video is not the only medium, or the only way we remember. In "Combat Diary," a returning Marine talks about having to drink himself into a stupor every night in order to sleep. Making a music video out of the horror of war won't keep the images from haunting your dreams.
-- Ann Marie Cox
Thursday, July 20, 2006
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD -
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling [a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.
In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, [b] from Cush, [c] from Elam, from Babylonia, [d] from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.
He will raise a banner for the nations
and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
from the four quarters of the earth.
Ephraim's jealousy will vanish,
and Judah's enemies [e] will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.
They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;
together they will plunder the people to the east.
They will lay hands on Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites will be subject to them.
The LORD will dry up
the gulf of the Egyptian sea;
with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand
over the Euphrates River. [f]
He will break it up into seven streams
so that men can cross over in sandals.
There will be a highway for the remnant of his people
that is left from Assyria,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from Egypt.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
CAIRO Hezbollah is a Shiite militia. Its followers hang pictures of the grandfather of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in their offices and in the towns. And it says its mandate is to liberate Lebanon and Lebanese prisoners from Israel.
None of that matters to Ahmed Mekky, 40, an Egyptian lawyer and a Sunni Mulism. Like many other people around the region, Mekky says he supports Hezbollah because it is doing what the Arab leadership has been frightened to do for too long - standing up to Israel and the United States.
"We are praying that God would make Hezbollah victorious," Mekky said as he stood beside a newspaper kiosk in downtown Cairo Wednesday. "All the Arab governments are asleep."
Perhaps more so than at any time since Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, the bloodletting between Hezbollah and Israel has highlighted the huge divide between many Arab countries, and between many people and their leaders. Sunni Arab leaders in Jordan, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Countries, see in Hezbollah a dangerous beachhead for Iranian influence in the region. They have criticized Hezbollah for the raid that led to the Israeli attack on Lebanon.
But the longer the conflict drags on, the more these leaders are finding their own credibility called into question. The longer satellite television shows images of civilians killed and maimed by Israeli bombs, the more these leaders face hostility from their own people. The longer Hezbollah fires rockets into Israeli cities and towns, killing and wounding Israelis the longer these leaders have to face questions about why they do not take similar action as well.
"People know that the Arab governments are impotent and are always looking for excuses to justify their failure to do anything," said Adnan Abu- Odeh, a former adviser to King Hussein of Jordan. "In fact, historically, this episode is another example of how Israel embarrasses the moderate regimes in the region."
The attacks on those who have not stood with Hezbollah have been biting. Al Dustoor Newspaper, an Egyptian opposition weekly newspaper, mocked President Hosni Mubarak in a headline comparing him to the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah's son died in 1997 during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Mubarak has been accused of positioning his son, Gamal, to take over as president in six years. The headline: "The difference between a leader who offers his son as a martyr and a leader who offers his son as a successor!"
In Egypt, 75 prominent academics, political leaders and former government officials, issued a statement declaring solidarity with Hezbollah, commending Nassrallah, and criticizing Arab governments as "silent and impotent."
It is impossible, of course, to talk about one "Arab Street," because opinions are as varied as they would be in any multicultural, multinational, multireligious region. But it has gotten to the point that even some of those who are critical of Hezbollah for the cross-border raid into Israel, are calling for unity in standing up to Israel and the United States.
"What is certain is that Hezbollah's step and that taken by Hamas before it, lacks political wisdom," wrote the Saudi journalist, Dawood Al Shiryan, in the pan-Arab newspaper, Al Hayat. "But to insist on calling the resistance to account for this mistake now that Israel's violent response has been launched has created a political reality that is difficult to describe."
Should Hezbollah and Hamas emerge victorious, he argued, leaders of countries like Egypt and Jordan will be isolated from the leaders of those groups. And if they lose, Egypt and Jordan will bear part of the blame. In many ways, the dynamics of the region were predictable. Hatred of Israel runs deep, even when it is not visible at the surface. Arab governments have struggled for legitimacy while often relying on security forces and restricted voting rights to maintain their monopoly on power. And the experience of the Arab League, an organization that was supposed to advocate for the combined Arab interest, has repeatedly demonstrated that Arab states cannot agree on a common interest.
But this crisis has proved particularly vexing to the leadership and galling to many people because it came after the Palestinians elected as their leaders another group that so-called moderate Arab leaders did not trust: Hamas. In the public view, their leaders failed to come to the aid of Hamas when its funds were cut off by the West and then failed to do anything when Israel attacked in Gaza in response to the kidnapping and killing of soldiers. Even in Syria, which has offered strong rhetorical support for Hezbollah during this crisis and is accused of having helped arm and train it in the past, there is growing frustration that tough words are not followed by tough deeds.
The Syrian authorities have cracked down recently on people who speak out against the government, so people were afraid to be identified. But in recent conversations at a café in the center of town, many people expressed just that sentiment. "The Syrian leaders don't want war with Israel, but what's the use of supporting Hezbollah under the table," said a retired lawyer who was afraid to be identified for fear of retribution.
In Egypt, the public sentiment toward the government is even more hostile. People repeatedly said that their government was hiding behind the idea that it was trying to block Shiite, or Iranian influence, when they believed it was really doing America's bidding. At the moment, Iran appears extremely popular among many ordinary Sunni Muslims.
"I wish we would send them reinforcements so that they can defend themselves, even if we send them medicine," said Gharib Hamed, 33, a pizza deliveryman in Cairo. "Hezbollah says that Iran is supporting them. I wish the Arab states would all help Hezbollah too. I am impressed with Iran's role."
Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, a cashier at a grocery store in the residential area of Zamalek was watching the Egyptian satellite news when he expressed his own frustrations with Arab leaders. "If I could go fight with them, I would," he said. "Where the hell are we?"
Katherine Zoepf contributed reporting from Damascus.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first half of this year, an ominous figure reflecting the fact that "killings, kidnappings and torture remain widespread" in the war-torn country, a United Nations report says.
Killings of civilians are on "an upward trend," with more than 5,800 deaths and more than 5,700 injuries reported in May and June alone, it says.
The report, a bimonthly document produced by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, covers May and June, and includes chilling casualty figures and ugly anecdotes from the insurgent and sectarian warfare that continues to rage despite the establishment of a national unity government and a security crackdown in Baghdad.
The report lists examples of bloody suicide bombs aimed at mosques, attacks on laborers, the recovery of slain bodies, the assassinations of judges, the killings of prisoners, the targeting of clergy -- all incidents dutifully reported by media over these three-plus years of chaos in the streets.
The U.N. agency says it has been made aware since last year of the targeting of homosexuals, "increasingly threatened and extra-judicially executed by militias and 'death squads' because of their sexual orientation."
The intolerance propelling the anti-gay prejudice extends to ethnic and religious minorities and others whose manner of dress doesn't meet the standards of religious extremists.
"On 28 May, an Iraqi tennis coach and two of his players were shot dead in Baghdad allegedly because they were wearing shorts. Similar threats are said to be made to induce men to conform to certain hair styles or rules regarding facial hair," the report says.
Women face intolerance -- and violence -- as well.
"In some Baghdad neighborhoods, women are now prevented from going to the markets alone. In other cases, women have been warned not to drive cars or have faced harassment if they wear trousers. Women have also reported that wearing a headscarf is becoming not a matter of religious choice but one of survival in many parts of Iraq, a fact which is particularly resented by non-Muslim women."
Academics and health professionals have been attacked, spurring them to leave the country or their home regions, causing a brain drain and a dislocation in services.
"Health care providers face difficulties in carrying out their work because of the limited supply of electricity and growing number of patients due to the increase in violence," the report says.
Kidnappings have been part of the chaotic Iraqi scene since the insurgency began, with many hostages killed even after a ransom is paid. The abductors are not only motivated by sectarianism or politics; organized crime appears to be involved with some of the kidnappings.
"On some occasions, sectarian connotations and alleged collusion with sectors of the police, as well as with militias, have been reported to UNAMI. Although there are no reliable statistics regarding this phenomenon, because Iraqis often are afraid to report such crimes to the police, the kidnappings are likely a daily occurrence," the report says.
For children, the "extent of violence in areas" other than the Kurdish region "is such that likely every child, to some degree, has been exposed to it," it says.
"In one case the body of a 12-year-old Osama was reportedly found by the Iraqi police in a plastic bag after his family paid a ransom of some 30,000 U.S. dollars. The boy had been sexually assaulted by the kidnappers, before being hanged by his own clothing. The police captured members of this gang who confessed of raping and killing many boys and girls before Osama," the report says.
"Civilian casualties resulted mainly from bombings and drive-by shootings, from indiscriminate attacks, in neighborhood markets or petrol stations, or following armed clashes with the police and the security forces," the report says.
"Civilians were also targeted or became unintended victims of insurgent or military actions.
"Terrorist acts against civilians have been aimed at fomenting sectarian violence or allegedly motivated by revenge and have targeted members of the Arab Shia and Sunni communities, including their cultural symbols, as well as markets in Shia neighborhoods."
Figures from the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad and the Ministry of Health show that the total number of civilians killed from January to June was 14,338.
In late June, the Ministry of Health "acknowledged information stating that since 2003 at least 50,000 persons have been killed in violence and stated the number of deaths are probably under-reported." the report says.
"The Baghdad morgue reportedly received 30,204 bodies from 2003 to mid-2006. Deaths numbering 18,933 occurred from 'military clashes' and 'terrorist attacks'" between April 5, 2004, and June 1, 2006.
The report also notes the probes by the United States into the alleged killings of 24 civilians in Haditha by U.S. troops as well the deaths caused by military operations throughout the country.
At least 45 people were killed and 60 others wounded Tuesday morning when a suicide car bomber detonated in a busy Kufa marketplace where day laborers gather, Iraqi police said.
The attack took place around 7:30 a.m. near a Shia shrine.
Kufa is considered a holy place by Shia Muslims and is just outside Najaf, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms on Tuesday stole 1.24 billion Iraqi dinars (about $675,000) from Rafidain Bank in western Baghdad early Tuesday afternoon, Iraqi emergency police told CNN.
An in the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed six policemen, Kirkuk police said. Another police officer was wounded in the incident, which occurred at 11:30 a.m. in Hawija.
On Monday, in a coordinated attack in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, at least 40 people were killed and wounded dozens, and small-arms fire killed a U.S. soldier in the capital.
The incidents took place as Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence festers in and near Baghdad.
The killing of a U.S. soldier on Monday -- which occurred at 12:55 p.m. (0955 GMT) in western Baghdad -- brought the number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war to 2,548. The soldier was from Multi-National Division Baghdad.
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