Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

self-talk

imagine Jesus
if you can — imagine pure
goodness incarnate
— now you are in fairytale
land — the place you began from

This morning, as I wrote this poem, I felt a great weight of obligation — an obligation to think, for once, deeply enough about Jesus and what he means to me. I long ago gave up believing the official version, where he was the divine son of God, spotless and without sin. But although neither Jesus nor the Christian message could be said to rule my life, nevertheless these are psychological factors which exert an incredibly powerful sway subliminally, partly because I myself once believed them literally, partly because my society and my ancestors once believed them literally — and partly because their complete unreality fulfils a human need — which is nothing other than a need for unreality in and for itself. I dreamed I was in Israel, but the geography was all wrong. I pulled myself up over some sand dunes at the edge of the sea, and saw the sea before me. Away over towards my right, down the beach, was a place called Bethany. I suggested we go back to Bethany. But in the dream, by turning right towards Bethany, we were travelling south. So the whole of Israel was somehow facing the wrong direction (in the dream, its Eastern rather than Western boundary was the sea). Alice Through the Looking Glass.

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conscience

the obscene plenty
of a supermarket — is
me — it’s what I am,
it’s how I live — soul murder
and I have no alibi

Really, what am I doing, what are any of us doing, with so much food when there are people eating by scavenging rubbish dumps all their lives in the so-called 3rd world (called the majority world by Titus Alexander)? Soul Murder is a term coined by Daniel Schreber and is also the title of a book I’ve never read, by a psychiatrist colleague of R.D. Laing’s — Morton Schatzman. I saw Schatzman a couple of times in the eighties privately and quite liked him. In my poem though, I am using the phrase soul murder in an original sense. In my dream last night I seemed to be in Israel (topical reference to the elections there) wandering around much as I did in 1983 with no money. An Israeli family whose house I came to (in the dream) were quite suspicious at first, but ended by offering me work and some small onions in a transparent plastic bag, just like the ones provided for vegetables in supermarkets. Meanwhile my father had a very English garden in which he was growing a small selection of crops. Where does our food come from? How do we distribute it? The bitterness of this poem took me by surprise. But it’s how I often feel.

cowardice

so much sheer terror
within me, of Life itself
— human discourse trades
shamelessly in denial —
I befriend my fears alone

This has turned out more or less exactly the poem I wanted to write. I was inspired by dreaming of Dina Lecache, the girl I met in Israel in 1983. She was one of my many romantic failures, but one of the ones I loved the best. I suppose from there, I fell to thinking of how I failed in a more general way as a young man, to grasp life’s opportunities. I never plunged in but always held back. I was frankly scared. Having that kind of past puts a weird strain on existing in the present. Although I feel different, I suspect myself of being still at heart the coward I always was. And how many other cowards are there, out there? We wouldn’t know, because we sustain our social relationships on (what seems to me very largely fictional) courage.

Sinai

the desert welcomes
a person entire, without
distracting him from
the unknown parts of himself
— only a footfall away

In my dream last night, my partner Liz was determined that I should allow the poverty-stricken owner of a small cafe where we had eaten (in Spain I think) to take all my money when I wasn’t looking. Also, whatever country this was, its soil was remarkable for being such poor quality it was entirely sand — and yet the locals were somehow able to make it yield crops for subsistence. The sand led me by association (awake) to think of the desert. I went up Mount Sinai in 1984 and found it a strangely comforting environment. Nothing mystical. But I did feel a temporary release from my own chronic tendency to wallow in thinking for its own sake. And more able to realise how much of an unknown quantity my ordinary self is. From time to time throughout my stay in Israel, I felt tempted to imagine I was being visited by the spirit of the Boy David. I always knew him by the distinctive way my own foot would fall upon the earth as I walked — as though momentarily I was feeling how it would have felt to walk with his step. Light yet firm. An infinite store of gentleness and strength, beyond anything in my own known character.

unrequited

between never and
always — love hangs fire — as though
waiting for someone

By the time I was thirty, I’d fallen passionately in love four times: first at the age of fifteen with a boy, then with a succession of three different girls. My relationship with the boy lasted six years, but a question hangs over whether any of the girls cared for me, or how deeply. I never doubted myself at the time (nor really, now) that they loved me, but this flies in the face of the facts, in as much as they all three rejected me as a prospective lover. This poem is about the 2nd girl, Dina Lecache, whom I met in Israel in 1983. In my dream I was talking with her grandfather. Awake, before writing the poem I spent an hour watching Simon Schama’s TV programme about Rembrandt http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04mhsn1 which ends with an incredibly moving account of Rembrandt’s painting The Jewish Bride. Dina was Jewish. There are echoes in the poem, of Eros and Psyche: Psyche is condemned never to see Eros again but always to remember him. Also, ‘love hangs fire’ suggests Eros in his blinding glory; Eros portrayed as a literal fire is an important motif in my dreams going back several decades.

the end

it’s possible — nay
usual — for a man to
construct his own myth
— but then comes the paring down,
the stripping back to nothing

I dreamed I was dimly aware of someone’s Jewish identity, as making it likely that they might love the (Jewish) pianist Artur Rubinstein. I felt, awake, that there was some theme going on, with Glastonbury in my previous poem, and the name Arthur. And whether men are gods. King Arthur was a kind of god. Artur Rubinstein likewise. I saw Rubinstein on stage at Wembley Town Hall in 1973 when he was 86. This poem turned into a poem about old age, although initially it was more about whether we choose our own mythologies or maybe it’s even possible that they choose us. Jung toyed with the idea that the archetypes possess some kind of consciousness. I would also have liked to get into the poem something about the relationship between a myth and a truth. I think I was saying that the truth of a myth (and therefore of a man) is the nothing at its centre.

Lucifer

I have found there is
only one way out of hell
— and that is downwards

Annoyingly, I forgot a very long, powerful dream last night and the only thing at all remaining in my memory is the figure of Albert Einstein. I have dreamed of Einstein before, when I was in Israel 1983-84. Einstein is a kind of god when he appears in my dreams. I don’t have the brain to grasp relativity, and am attracted as much by his shaggy appearance as by whatever smattering of relativity I’ve managed to pick up through TV programmes etc. My first draft of this poem played with the idea that if you fall into the category divine, best thing is just to keep falling. Israel was a kind of hell for me, just because of where I was in my inner journey at the time. Lucifer was a kitten on the kibbutz where I volunteered.