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For the Day of Poetry 2017 – One Sentence On Tyranny

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Today is the Day of Poetry in Hungary. It is celebrated on the birthday of Attila József, a 20th century Hungarian poet. Today, however, the poem I’m going to share is by another poet–who, by the way, married József’s love and muse, and a leading figure in Hungarian special education, Flóra Kozmutza. This poem by Gyula Illyés is as actual today in Hungary, in Israel, in the USA as it was nearly 61 years ago when it was first published.

A SENTENCE ABOUT TYRRANY

Where tyranny exists
that tyranny exists
not only in the barrel of the gun
not only in the cells of a prison

not just in the interrogation block
or the small hours of the clock
the guard’s bark and his fists
the tyranny exists

not just in the billowing black fetor
of the closing speech of the prosecutor,
in the “justified use of force”
the prisoners’ dull morse

not merely in the cool postscript
of the expected verdict
there’s tyranny
not just in the crisp military

order to “Stand!” and the numb
instruction “Fire!”, the roll of the drum,
in the last twitch
of the corpse in the ditch

not just in the door half open
and the fearful omen,
the whispered tremor
of the secret rumour

the hand that grips,
the finger before the lips,
tyranny is in place
in the iron mask of the face

in the clench of the jaw
the wordless O
of pain and its echo
and the tears

of silence-breeding fears,
in the surprise
of starting eyes

tyranny supplies
the standing ovation, the loud
hurrahs and chanting of the crowd
at the conference, the songs

of tyranny, the breasts
that tyranny infests,
the loud unflagging
noise of rhythmic clapping,

at the opera, in trumpet cry,
in the uproarious lie
of grandiose statues, of colours,
in galleries,

in the frame and the wash,
in the very brush,
not just in the neat snarl
of the midnight car

as it waits
outside the gates

tyranny permeates
all manners and all states,
its omnipresent eyes more steady
than those of old Nobodaddy,

there’s tyranny
in the nursery
in father’s advice, in his guile,
in your mother’s smile

in the child’s answer
to the perfect stranger;

not just in wires with barbs and hooks
not just in rows of books,
but, worse than a barbed wire fence
the slogans devoid of sense

whose tyranny supplies
the long goodbyes;
the words of parting,
the will-you-be-home-soon-darling?

in the street manners, the meetings
and half-hearted greetings,
the handshakes and the alarm
of the weak hand in your palm,

he’s there when your loved one’s face
turns suddenly to ice
he accompanies you
to tryst or rendezvous

not just in the grilling
but in the cooing and the billing,
in your words of love he’ll appear
like a dead fly in your beer

because even in dreams you’re not free
of his eternal company,
in the nuptial bed, in your lust
he covers you like dust

because nothing may be caressed
but that which he first blessed,
it is him you cuddle up to
and raise your loving cup to

in your plate, in your glass he flows
in your mouth and through your nose
in frost, fog, out or in
he creeps under your skin

like an open vent through which
you breathe the foul air of the ditch
and it lingers like drains
or a gas leak at the mains

it’s tyranny that dogs
your inner monologues,
nothing is your own
once your dreams are known

all is changed or lost,
each star a border post
light-strafed and mined; the stars
are spies at window bars,

the vast tent’s every lamp
lights a labour camp,
come fever, come the bell
it’s tyranny sounds the knell,

confessor is confession,
he preaches, reads the lesson
he’s Church, House and Theatre
the Inquisition;

you blink your eyes, you stare
you see him everywhere;
like sickness or memory
he keeps you company;

trains rattling down the rail
the clatter of the jail;
in the mountains, by the coast
you are his breathing host;

lightning: the sudden noise
of thunder, it’s his voice
in the bright electric dart,
the skipping of the heart
in moments of calm,
chains of tedium,
in rain that falls an age,
the star-high prison-cage

in snow that rises and waits
like a cell, and isolates;
your own dog’s faithful eyes
wear his look for disguise,

his is the truth, the way
so each succeeding day
is his, each move you make
you do it for his sake;

like water, you both follow
the course set and the hollow
ring is closed; that phiz
you see in the mirror is his

escape is doomed to failure,
you’re both prisoner and gaoler;
he has soaked, corroded in,
he’s deep beneath your skin

in your kidney, in your fag,
he’s in your every rag,
you think: his agile patter
rules both mind and matter

you look, but what you see
is his, illusory,
one match is all it takes
and fire consumes the brake

you having failed to snuff
the head as it broke off;
his watchfulness extends
to factories, fields and friends

and you no longer know or feel
what it is to live, eat meat or bread
to desire or love or spread
your arms wide in appeal;

it is the chain slaves wear
that they themselves prepare;
you eat but it’s tyranny
grows fat, his are your progeny

in tyranny’s domain
you are the link in the chain,
you stink of him through and through,
the tyranny IS you;

like moles in sunlight we crawl
in pitch darkness, sprawl
and fidget in the closet
as if it were a desert,

because where tyranny obtains
everything is vain,
the song itself though fine
is false in every line,

for he stands over you
at your grave, and tells you who
you were, your every molecule
his to dispose and rule.

April is Here

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Yesterday I turned 35. Not considering that everyone assumed I already had the new Harel Skaat album (and no, I still don’t have it, good thing I still have a few days of the free Apple Music trials, because I can’t even go out now to buy it, and I am out of iTunes credit), it was quite an awesome day.

Between March 16 and April 5 there are several birthdays in the family, and this year we had two 18th birthdays, too! So yesterday was the day when our extended family were celebrating with us, giving us an opportunity to catch up with some people we hadn’t seen in a while. Like my sister, who, once again, moved back to Israel. It was lovely to catch up with everyone, despite the ever increasing tension between the religious family members and those following “the gay agenda”.

So back to the 4th Harel Skaat album. I pretty much already own every song on the album–a mix of older hits and new songs–yet I totally am going to buy it. Because I’m silly like that. I just wish Lauf had made it on there!

 

Apparently one more song for our wedding playlist

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2017 is here

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The last few days of 2016 were filled with “I can’t wait for 2016 to finally end! 2017 can’t come early enough!” 

So 2017 came, and the first news item was at least 39 people being killed in a terrorist attack at a New Year’s party in Istanbul, Turkey.

Obviously, no celebrities have died yet. There will be celebrity deaths–our childhood icons are growing older each year–but 2017 is already proving to be no better than 2016, the year that began with a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, killing two and injuring 8. 

What can make 2017 better than 2016? Us. A year’s worth should not be measured in the number of famous people who die, but in what we do to make the world better. Let’s not allow terror to rule this year. Celebrate the accomplishments of people around us. Let’s live with a fullness of life. 

A Friday in Ireland

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„His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.”

My husband was reading to me on the couch, his head resting on my lap. It wasn’t anything very intellectual, uplifting, or edifying, just a Jo Nesbo novel we had picked up earlier that day—just after we got married. It was the first thing we bought as a married couple.

It happened so fast, so simply. Two witnesses. The Registrar. Less than 15 minutes. A few kind words and—surprisingly—a few quotes from the Bible and that famous line by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a song quietly playing in the background by Joshua Radin.

“Alone we are fine
But when we are two
We are eternal
The moons aligned
Our separate lives
Here become one”

We didn’t even have ties, just the two Oxford shirts we had picked up a store on Patrick Street the day before. My socks were mismatched, and my coat was still at the dry-cleaners. This wasn’t like how I had imagined my wedding to be. I always envisioned nicely tailored tuxes, a chuppah, decorations, family and friends, a nicely catered dinner, and live music. We even had a jar of change to hire a certain Israeli singer. Kevin and I enjoyed looking for ideas for invitations, party favours, and centerpieces. We had a paylist we kept adding somgs to that would be playing at our wedding. We wanted to serve gourmet burgers, fish and some vegan option for dinner, and have a non-wrecked cake.

Instead we celebrated with gingerbread lattes from Starbucks. We walked along the River Lee, sipping the overly sweet coffee with milk foam so over-steamed it was hard, and it really felt like the best meal I’d ever had. It was so good, in fact, that after getting home I washed and saved our papercups. And by home I meant the hotel, because we splurged and spent two nights in a hotel downtown, rather than the bunkbeds at my uncle’s farm.

“And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside”

Patrick Street was decorated for Christmas. The Bavarian candy coated nut stand smelled like childhood holidays. Some school choir was performing Christmas carols, and the various shops all played Christmas music. People were rushing around us, doing their shopping, while we quietly strolled along. And then, from amid the sea of Christmas music, we heard a song, one that we had saved on our playlist, one that always reminded me of my wonderful friends, one that Kevin loves playing on the piano and singing to us. It was Magnetic Fields’ The Book of Love. Kevin pulled me close and kissed me, in the middle of Cork’s busiest street.

Just a few short hours later, we were listening to our playlist as Kevin read to me from a Scandinavian crime novel, still wearing our new shirts, with a bottle of wine waiting for us. Kevin stood up to open it, and And then again The Book of Love. This time it was Peter Gabriel’s wonderful cover. As he hugged me close our hearts beat in unison and we started to dance. Our first dance.

It might not have been a big, perfect event. It might not have been very romantic. It might not change much in our day-to-day life. It, however, was an overcast Friday morning in Cork, when Kevin and I got married. 14 years. It’s more than just a piece of paper. It’s a page in our book of love.

Quotes in thispost are from Song of Solomon 8:30, Joshua Radin (Lovely Tonight), Lin-Manuel Miranda

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