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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One thought on “Chai equals eighteen”

  1. I don’t remember ever seeing or reading the play. Having said that this one is complex – it seems to be – juxtaposing – as today’s world (which I imagine was on your mind when you wrote this – reality v illusion, cloudy v clarity, fresh v old – a common world view v the view of the powerful – which perhaps in the theme of the play (or book – but I think Genet is a playwright) “double” as in double down – I know that’s not what you mean, but it reminds of that phrase which is used ad nauseam right now. Also again – seeing double – reality and illusion … a carnival hall of mirrors. I’ll have to come back to this when I am not so rushed. it’s been forever since I read anything about the Kabbala – much too long – and I like that you are incorporating it into your thinking, search for meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

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