Chai equals eighteen

Double life


Michael Dickel

I mention an image that for some days now has been mounting in the sky of the revolution…Chantal’s image is circulating in the streets. An image that resembles her and does not resemble her. She towers above the battles.

—The Envoy in Jean Genet’s The Balcony

Your lost lover becomes a martyr—
a new revolutionary cause—
as the judge, an abandoned father,
conceives the child’s anarchistic calls.
Balconies crack, begin to falter
while the white rose petals start to fall,
and the soft dust now rises up to
cloud our bishop’s visionary realms.
So you saunter down to the twelfth bar.

It’s not very far for you to go—
down the road to the mausoleum,
where knowledge no longer wants to flow,
and wisdom the police chiefs promised
evaporates in blue cloudiness.
My forlorn lovers take one last look,
executioners seal sacred books,
and we dream that time will return us
again to where Chantal’s dance began.

We slip on ice in larch swamps covered
by fog, which obscures the histories
unfolding Irma’s worn tapestries—
lies of the victors, lies of the lost.
We change the general’s blank dance card,
then drop three photographers’ needles
into a heavily falling snow.
Your martyr turns into a lover—
an evolutionary lost-cause.

An old father begins his judgement
with many anachronistic flaws.
And Carmen’s petals flake slowly off
like snow melting in a beggar’s tale
of the freed slave’s magic midnight sun
where my desire has never failed.
And the rose petals? The bruised petals
from the flowers you took the envoy
cover the gravel under your feet.

At first, people were fighting against illustrious and illusory tyrants, then for freedom. Tomorrow they’ll be ready to die for Chantal alone.

—The Envoy in Jean Genet’s The Balcony


Note: In each of the two days I have been working on the poem above, the ones just before I am posting it, exactly 18 people visited this blog. The poem has four stanzas of 9 lines each, for 36 lines (double 18), not counting the epigrams from Genet. Each line has 9 syllables. The total number of syllables is 324, plus the 36 lines, equals 360—the number of degrees in a circle. Chai, Hebrew for life, equals 18 according to gematria. So, 36 lines, double 18, is double life. Or, perhaps, a double life. Genet may offer a key element to this equation.


double-life

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Amber Ekphrasis | Poem

A segment from the feathered tail of a dinosaur that lived 99 million years ago is preserved in amber. A Cretaceous-era ant and plant debris were also trapped in the resin. PHOTOGRAPH BY R.C. MCKELLAR, ROYAL SASKATCHEWAN MUSEUM

A segment from the feathered tail of a dinosaur that lived 99 million years ago is preserved in amber. A Cretaceous-era ant and plant debris were also trapped in the resin. PHOTOGRAPH BY R.C. MCKELLAR, ROYAL SASKATCHEWAN MUSEUM source

Amber


Michael Dickel

I am lost, awash in honey-light and stopped-time—
hardened, a fossil that once lived before tasting
sugary sap, becoming caught as it turned to stone.

Sunlight trapped millions of years ago has turned cold—
my desires mineralized with sublimation, my body a frozen
footprint sold at market, worn on a chain around a neck.

These words stick in their own sweet clock, less real than paint—
colorless, caught in a mind that believes itself full of pigment,
while truth remains a slippery canvas brushed from memory.

 

PHOTOGRAPH BY ROYAL SASKATCHEWAN MUSEUM

PHOTOGRAPH BY ROYAL SASKATCHEWAN MUSEUM source

 

Drawing by Judith Appleton (The opening of her show at the Baaka Natural History Museum occasioned this poem.)

Drawing by Judith Appleton, used with permission, all rights reserved.
(The opening of her show at the Baaka Natural History Museum occasioned this poem.)

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Jerusalem’s Garden — Hybrid

Jerusalem Imagined and Recalled


Michael Dickel

א — Aqsa / Dome of the Rock / Temple Mount | Digital art from photo | ©2017 Michael Dickel

א
Digital art from photo
©2017 Michael Dickel

Jerusalem perpetually escapes the present. It slips into strong recollection—memory with all its failings constructing histories and narratives in dusty layers under and around every stone chipped by human hand. Human-hand made narratives, full of political failings, slip Jerusalem into side pockets.

And Jerusalem also slips, paradoxically, into a weak, almost-timeless desire—imagination with all its lust polishing each dreamed-of rosy-limestone stair and wall to perceptual perfection. The desired Jerusalem, the imagined Jerusalem, the recalled Jerusalem, recollect Jerusalem into a cacophony of dissonant and contested cries.

Rabbis long ago understood the multiplicity of Jerusalem and wrote of Jerusalem below and Jerusalem above—meaning physical and spiritual. They have been taken to mean below as this world, the present, and to mean above as the spiritual realm, the world-that-is-coming—which could refer to heaven or could refer to the future: mundane, redemptive, or apocalyptic.

I take the words to mean Jerusalem imagined (above) and recalled (below), desire imagining Jerusalem and faulty images memorializing Jerusalem piece by piece, piecing themselves together to build this city that dissolves the present with its creation.

This garden I now write from also slips from the present to reside in a dual-space of a strong past and weak future, of an almost-absent present, of memory and desire, of recall and imagination. Like Jerusalem, it exists only in the mind—like the real toad’s imaginary garden, a thought-experiment generating genres too slippery to grasp.

And since the toad’s garden exists only as a mental construction, let it slide now into Jerusalem, along a stone path from one cobbled road in the Old City to another, an opening on the west of the alley suddenly revealing the garden, a glimpse of possibility unanchored by actuality.

I have imagined it there, for the moment, so that I might recall it here in this text, something abstractedly vague as the toad croaks then splashes into its reflexivity, a mirror-pool of psychology and absence, a mere pool of sociological and political ambivalence.

White jasmine flowers trumpet from their dark shrubbery, arching over the entrance from the alley, nearly hiding the portal as it covers the East wall of the garden. Oleander stretches up the wall that encloses the North side of the garden. Bougainvillea stretches up the South wall. On the West, trellises of grape vines. Nearer the ground, short hedges of neatly trimmed lavender and rosemary border the square garden. These all strive for a square of clear blue above, the imagined Jerusalem.

Now, in autumn, only the shrubbery and herbal hedges bloom. If it were spring, narcissus would be blooming. In winter, cyclamen and anemones. In summer, planted annuals—petunias, marigolds, sweet alyssum. The tended grass remains green all year.

In the center of the garden grow two trees. A lemon tree wants to spread its reputation as the Tree of Life, but January fruits give it away. Next to it grows a tired olive tree, knotted-trunk peace-symbol. Its green fruit reflect glimmers of light.

At a distance from the trees sit four benches, each with its back toward one wall.

This garden does not exist, even while my mind sits in it, watching, waiting. I think I possess this garden, but then the toad’s trigonometric pool appears, just in time to disabuse me of foolishness. I don’t occupy this garden. It occupies my mind.

I am not alone here.

On the bench to my left sits an old woman. She has a basket of grape leaves next to her today. Some days she brings fresh dates, golden, unripe. Others, her basket holds za’atar, a spice mixture sprinkled with sesame seeds. She murmurs praise for her produce.

On the bench to my right, an ancient-looking man sits reading a book, most days. I cannot tell if he holds the same book every day or a different book. He doesn’t know, either. He reads it, pauses, mutters, cocks his head as though listening, and then continues to read.

Across from me a woman occupies the remaining bench. Her two children play in the grass in front of her. She watches them and smiles, but her eyes seem not to see the garden as they search some other place, subtly creating silence around her.

I think about what to write here. My children play behind my bench.

Four people have come to this space for generations. Each lays a claim on it. The four forget about the toad and its reflecting pool. They forget about the gardener, the people who live behind the walls that enclose the garden, or whatever may thrive beyond. They remember living here for thousands of years. They imagine living there now.

The four people reflect a me and you that do not cohere. We fall asleep here, and never leave. The dream unfolds.

There is no garden. There is a garden.

There is a Jerusalem. There is no Jerusalem.

I live in Jerusalem.

jerusalem3web

Jerusalem Imagined and Recalled
Digital art from photos
©2017 Michael Dickel

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Resist! —2 Poems

False prophecy


Michael Dickel


Beware false prophets as disquiet permeates the land. Two shadow armies have taken command, their soldiers drifting in and out of our daily lives barely noticed while their hooded officers send dispatches of despair breaking across all fronts. Wave upon wave, dutiful servants wash red into battle, crashing upon every shore. Drowning. Resistance—not despair. depression—one army from east, one from west, each beast, none rest. Shadow armies. Putin in the night. Secret armies of terror online and ready to go. Armies of secret evidence, (un)reliable reports, covert and discovered actions. Contested and embattled identities circling around a theme, a nationalist tragedy, internationalist agenda – globalization, multi-national corporate-control motivational strategy—trans/nationalist—more than America (us) as the transnational identity of (with) (us) (or against us Trump against us Putin). Oh Fascism, of thee I sing. Ah, Mr. Hughes, let America be America again.

An earlier version of this poem appeared in Synchronized Chaos, December 2012.

democracy-in-america-2


Amerika for special lies


Michael Dickel


double digit inflationary photos fleeing federal reservation borderless travel nostalgia dancing on the head of a pin-stripe suit decorated for flesh-eating bacteria infrastructure highways blasting bombs destroying the bridge of the nose around in other people’s business and borders become battle ground pepper on your salad word salad delight stream of unconscious from the concussion of the literary canon boom-box gift-wrapped sandwich style us in the groove of the palm of the hand dates the reading railroading hoboes hubbub centering the wheel of fortunate people for the people by the people of the people we the people wee people pee pole wee wee international conflagration flag con flag con flag gradation con flag de con flag de gradation con flag Gary says dig? gradation of fire power degradation of humanity come hither to the bronze New York lady’s dripping loins and drink deep of the myth of Amerikan dreaming while slaving slaving slaving in the status-less illegality of your sperm spilled upon the ground breaking construction project globalization globe alien nation all is alienation nation nate neonate neonatal neoconservative natal naval navel nave knave knives of war once again drawn to the slaughter of the sacrificial beast sacrificial bees sting sacrificing their lives to protect the honey sweet sweet honey in the rock my soul in the bosom of a lover who wants something other than reflections of images of screens of filters of self denied to self-denial to self to deny self to deny self-denial de Nile is not just a river in Africa oh Africa come out come out wherever you are oh Asia oh Middle East oh Europe oh the Americas not fucking Amerika oh fuck Amerika trump trump America fuck trump America sing it out loud with agony in horrors of empirical evidence aside this side that side all around the mulberry bush trump sides with enemies Amerika for spatial lies for ambling waves of greed for purple prided death’n’disease resistant to ev’ry brain Amerika Amerika God leave that place to fleas that crowns the hood with homogeneity from see to shiny see
amen amen ayyyy—men

trump-democracy-in-america


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an (anti-)Inauguration Poem

Strange Fire


Michael Dickel

strangefiretrump-fb

Strange Fire
Digital art from photos
©2017 Michael Dickel

smoke and flames of Yahweh flash lightning thunder screams across winter forecast severe weather storm (nothing) volcanic blast (Vesuvius) tamed focused through a lens of incomprehensibility a sense of language (meaning that now what is offered is then consumed) in one moment’s nuclear flash—the people fall down on their knees and the towers’ dusty ash clogs inspiration (screams) despair and fearing everything (knowing nothing) i place my freedoms in a protective pan burning their incense to the most high exalted beasts of commerce and hoping to see my way through the smoke—mirroring truth distorting lies until all of a sudden i can no longer catch (inspiration) choking on my own vomit as darkness closes around me and i wonder who will speak up for me and regain these ashen moths from the shells of glowing cocoons—

cacophony
collapsing sense
and words weapons
wielded against reality

one
at
a
time

until

they
mean
(no)
thing

An earlier, slightly different version from Sound Cloud.

 

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15 January 2017— Poem

Breakfast at the end of capitalism


Michael Dickel

It rained last night. This morning, cloudy skies may yet rain some more. I drink coffee in En Kerem. Moshe’s class presented a program on Bialik earlier, singing a poet’s songs—considering poetry already at age 6. My grown daughters, activists, oppose a president of doubtful legitimacy. Poets will read today all over the US as part of (at least) two national organizing efforts protesting this corporate pretender. In New York City some will read at the library, some at city hall. Each empire in its time comes to an end. We survive and move on. Poets will sing this with harmony and dissonance. Someone writing a history of all this will show that we do not understand more than a few train-car lengths of Benjamin’s wreckage. The Angel of History always weeps, but we manage to make love and to raise children and to continue. The 5% cottage cheese promised by the menu was missing. In its place, labeneh—a better choice. The breakfast at En Kerem turns out to be very good.

paul-klee-angelus-novus-1920-collection-du-musc3a9e-disrac3abl-jerusalem

Angelus Novus
Paul Klee
1920 monoprint
The collection of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

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My New Book is Out!

string-leavesThe Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden (Is a Rose Press 2016), my fourth book, gathers flash fiction written in recent years (much of it for this blog)—from a series of surreal memoryscapes (featuring the woman with a beard and her friend, the metaphysical toad) to flash thrillers to psychological experiments. This hybrid writing, as regular readers of my blog have come to expect of my flash pieces, blurs genre lines across poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and cultural criticism in what I hope you will find an entertaining montage of imagery. The woman with a beard—the unnamed main character of the first series of stories and familiar to readers of my blog a few years ago—travels as much in her mind as in the world around her, but somehow all merges with her memories to reveal emotional realities of being human. She and the toad commune somehow, through magical surrealism and mystical physics. The toad provides theoretical commentary, at times.

long-silhouetteThe garden may or may not exist. The palm reader in the second series of stories predicts the uncertainty of multiple futures which unfold in the following stories—less connected than The Toad’s Garden, The Palm Reading follows many lines of possibility through a collection of slightly more conventional tales. Yet, any conventionality is only on the surface—just beneath, under the cracks in everything, the stories remain surreal, mystical, strange, while—again, I hope—entertaining readers and exposing the characters’ performances of our odd humanity.

Ayelet Cohen, a filmmaker and artist who is a good friend of mine, lovingly illuminated the book with silhouette art. The illustrations that grace this blog post provide an example of her marvelous visual art.

wwb-catupsidedown

Find The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden at Shop Indie Bookstores or on Amazon.


Earlier versions of some of the individual pieces in this book appeared in Bluzog and Meat for Tea: The Valley Review. Both The BeZine and The Woven Tale Press included more than one of my flash works.

Almost all of the pieces in The Toad’s Garden section and many in The Palm Reader section originated from experimental writing. The best experiments came from open invitations I posted on social media and this blog for readers to post five free-associated words for me to use. I would use them in groups of five contributors, for twenty-five words per piece. Contributors, in alphabetical order, include (apologies if I missed anyone): Stanley H. Barkan, Lucile Barker, Michele Baron, MaryLee Brag, Paulette Buche, Joanna Chen, Carolyn Hoople Creed, Cathy Crossan, Aviva (Frankel) Dekel (my loving wife), Jacqueline Dick, Rivkah Dickel (one of my amazing daughters), Paul Dickinson, Christine A. Farley. Jonathan Freed, Gabriella Garofalo, a blogger known as “godess of small things,”, Jeffrey M. Green, Zena Hagerty, Lisa Holden, Chinedu Jonathan Ichu, Jerry Ingeman, Jonathan Jones, Ampat Koshy, Donna Kuhn, Elena (Zykova) Lacy, Kate Lamberg, gary lundy (my beloved fellow traveler in poetry and beyond), Aviva Luria, Mamta Madhavan, MaryAnn Franta Moenck, Alan Nettleton, Martina Reisz Newberry, Bozhidar Pangelov, Anna Patterson, Jen Pettit (one of my sisters-by-choice), Agnew T. Pickens, Lynn Pries, Nalini Priyadarshni, Louis Profeta, Donna Pryor-Foote, Julia Raymond (another of my amazing daughters), Steve Silberman (fellow photographer-hiker), Mike Stone (brother poet), Uwe W. Stroh, Susan Thornton, Jason Topp, Rayona Tuneelo, Monika Ashwin V (a strong supporter of my work), Peter Valentine, Michael Veloff, Steven Wadey, Eileen Walsh, Clare Washbrook, Nicholas Whittaker, Dane Zeller, and Verica Zivkovic.

wheels-toad-1

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