INTRODUCTION MOSHE BENARROCH The Poetry of Rochelle Mass CONTENTS THE POEMS OF ROCHELLE MASS I Looking for the Source February: Kitsilano Beach Winter Between the shutter slats Waiting for a message Summer is in the making Home is where you go When things happen Timing Jerusalem in August The New Year Winter-trapped A reminder II 2 nights and a day Like a compass bound for north What one man needs Send my love to Steven The riot has begun I know a man What people say Where's my Home The 4th of July Dignity Like a Hollyhock High Noon Rising to the Surface You ask III This month East Holding the earth Strawberries from Gaza A Place in Africa On the train Yom Kippur: England IV Vinegar and wet paper bag Suddenly I was 16 A Printer to the King Stored Time Controlling Memories Wiping away the signs A Trade A trench for five Paying respects Into a war Fresh Asparagus Birthing POST SCRIPTUM Rochellle Mass Publishing acknowledgements
MOSHE BENARROCH The Poetry of Rochelle Mass ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Rochelle Mass' poetry lives in a constant struggle between opposites. A ping pong of yin and yang, then and now, there and here, childhood and adulthood, man and woman. Born in Canada she arrived to Israel in 1973, and has lived, since then, in the Jezreal Valley. She lives in the part of Israel that is most populated by Israeli Arabs (or Palestinians with Israeli citizenship). Many of her poems describe the complicated relationships between Jews and Arabs, from a human point of view. The lack of any political poems or statements leaves the reader in a world where things said and lived are as important as the things not said. This is very far from the TV news, but as Ezra Pound would say, ' this is the real news', ever since the beginning of Zionism. Another part of her poetry is childhood, Mass seeks some kind of solace in her father and family, but finally she doesn't find it there, she doesn't find it anywhere. Her poetry just raises more and more questions. In the short poem "Timing" she writes: "My father/ tuned watches/ fixed broken staffs/ and oiled springs/ replaced cracked dials/ reset wandering hands// I/ run lost/ and late." The image of the father working on the precision of watches is a dear image to Mass, and appears in many of her poems. But she can't cope with her father's precision and she runs lost and late. In her verse she does it, in her poems she is a master of free verse, her breaking of lines and her words are always precise and work like a very fine swiss watch. In "Where's my home" a poem published in this issue and part of her chapbook by the same title, she describes a man, who is ill, asking his wife about the tallis and tefilim. He has lost most of his memory, and doesn't even even know his own home. His wife explains this to him as if he was an infant, and tells him that sometimes the other men come to take him to the synagogue, when they need him for the minyan (a minimum of ten people needed to have a complete service of prayers). He has lost his memory and is at the end of his life, but socially and religiously he is still part of the community. Finally he says : "I'm no longer a man", but he still is. Between these two conditions of being and not being lives Mass' poetry; this tension creates a richness rarely found in our stereotyped lives.
THE POEMS OF ROCHELLE MASS I Looking for the Source ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Time-stops, she called what she did. This was doing something important, stopping time. Sheets floated in acids, birthing figures into existence. It's the wet pictures she remembers, the movement as it roams from below as it convolutes evolves. He blows nervousness into her shoulder when he lifts her dress. The other women fade into other time, other rooms. Air is heavy as he comes toward her. She prepares for his weight, his shape feels between water and sky. Remembers stones and flowers and for just a second, the dream where she lost her legs. Then he empties. She was his field of wild rice, tall corn fat tomatoes. He pummeled her, told her who she was, but sometimes he just takes from her. Sometimes she follows him memorizes his hand, his eyes. She tries. It's a slow ride into her body. She remembers planning her death. In water, deep in, never rising no more sky. But he's taking her to better now. Don't cut me in half she pleads. It's night. The cold stays round them till they push at it. Cover themselves with each other. She is tired, moves back to her self can only see what she didn't know about him, the way he shook his hand, how his lip twisted. She waited like a cat under his leg, like slippers. There was a pattern here: she - fragments, phrases. He - open doors, thrusting her ahead. I went to a lady healer this morning, he tells her, to get peace. Here, he says, placing his hand on his chest, too much pain, wild pain, he says waving the flat hand back and forth. The healer touched my neck, held my shoulder, steadying me. She was pushing me into weeds, swamps, marshlands. I shook like a weather vane, spun round myself I left ran out. His coughing woke her, he was rolled over himself on the sofa she walked round till her hands were damp, flashing, snapping rolling the focus. Leaned over to the contours of his cheek, arm, down to his ankle. When she dropped the pages into the acid bath, the shadows blurred then became exact. Finally, there he was, she had locked him in closed a fence round his pain, simmered him down. He looked like an iris felled by heat a heavy boot or an anxious dog. He lay still - the way he wanted the healer to make him, like the iris when it was unaware of being otherwise. Didn't look ambitious almost looked discarded left in a dusty place. She refocused the camera, tried to think him out get at his totality, moved over him again, frame after frame. He would always be bigger than her, but with the lens she reduced, minimized, so that he could fit her. When the images moved up into the page his face was stained with a splash of light. She hadn't seen it would look for the source every time she came back. February: Kitsilano Beach ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The sand isn't dusty yet, shells shine with winter, barnacles shift light. The sea stays deep and thick. Doesn't reach the sky like in summer. I raise my collar, stare to hear the waves pound the beach - knead like bread, till I feel the land under each smack. I watch a man pulled by three dogs. They cluster, the man takes out a pipe, turns. The dogs hold together, then suddenly spring toward the sea, swarm at the edge. The sea is hard and flat, then softens. The man stands at the water's edge, impatient to tug them back bends into his pipe. The dogs scratch the logs, warning me, I hear. I gather my jacket round my waist. Once in February, years ago, I saw leafless chestnut trees cover the hillside near Pietra Santa, drank Grappa. The clear stuff burned the chill, settled into my chest. Now I stiffen, hold on so nothing will collapse care about dreams that crack. Lavender and rosemary crawl up the mountain where I live. The sun slides down my shoulder this morning; I am overdressed for winds that sweep in from the desert. Even though its barely April, summer's on the road. Tips of plants show brittle that will, in a month or so, work down to the root. The sun will not pass from here. Winter ~~~~~ The garden swells bloated and jellied. Rains wheeze freight new growth with greens I've never seen before. Winds shred and slash. Days hesitate to start, close fast. Time is different then, stores me like baggage to be claimed. My bones rattle in blues and blacks I splinter. I need you to mark the boundaries so winter can't go beyond its time. Between the shutter slats ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The gap between night and day is frail, hardly there at all. There are only a few clear moments when day moves into night. Not really a matter of time - the space is so transparent. I read about a man who planned his death, then on a mountain road where wild birds confirm space, he turned to living. It's been a long time since I had dark plans when spaces overlapped didn't leave me air nor light. I used to think I knew enough but I'm shocked into knowing what I didn't know the way cold blasts when a door opens - like that man on the steep road. Today the day warms as it rounds to noon. At the turn of warming I think of how another man's hair rolled against his neck began slowly like words leaving a pen. I felt pretty wanted to stay. There are mangoes now, avocados and pears. The rain has started again, hits the top of the hedge, then slaps the window. Smells of summer are cleared away then night comes, scratching. I think of radishes bulging red, know that bland men do not brood nor baffle like the cold shuffling by my bed. I measure myself, match up pictures. Want to save things, get lost in details. Stay away from days that bring the same thing again shake off memories going the wrong way. Night covers me with a tight lid. I fall between the shutter slats plugged into a moving space where everything is equal but never the same. Waiting for a message ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Trees help you see slices of sky between branches, point to things you could never reach, help you watch the growing happen, watch blossoms burst then dry, see shade twist to the pace of the sun, birds tear at unwilling seeds. Trees take the eye to where it is, where it was, then over to distant hills, far-away blue of other places and times, long ago. A tree is a lens, a viewfinder, a window. I wait below for a message of what is to yet to come. Summer is in the making ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Desert winds blew in thick and dry from the deserts of Arabia, mixed ions and emotions into a soup thick with confusion. Dust covered every surface in my home sepia on cups, tables, photographs. Then rains came from the corner of the skies, slashed at the grit. Summer is in the making. A divided entry. It fades, then resolves again. Today I walked up the hill to the clinic to have the doctor tell me why pain rolls over my shoulder. Just before the grocery store, before I crossed the street, I fell, hands down. My knee sizzled, jeans tore. My shoulder hummed with new rhythm. When I came home a fresh cup of coffee spilt over the other leg. Somehow it all comes together, summer in the making and my body asking for care. I move round the rim of it, go from one tangle of flesh to another. The pain opens and closes seems calculated and cunning. Shouldn't be ignored. Worth defending. My body seems pulling away separating, looking past me. While summer is in the making, ions and emotions simmer. Home is where you go ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Clouds flat as English dinner plates hang in the slick sky. Still wrapped in British wool, my boots are marked where snow crept over the sole, where ice licked the pavement. The light is blinding as I look at the Alps. The snow looks necessary there, settled in buttermilk. The sky starched and scalding. I turn away as coffee is served, a small muffin, mint wafers also. The man across the aisle laughs - ragged, rum-filled. I push the window shade higher, yank the blanket to my shoulders. On the screen - a woman says: I've never lived in a place that doesn't have wheels, now I want a place with a patio, overlooking the sea - a table with an umbrella, drink chocolate milk as the sun goes down. Home is where you go when you fall she says. No one can tell you how to get there. The sky bleeds white, points to the shore, then steadies. Tel Aviv is bathed in noon, shades of citrus; tops of trees are where they should be. Cars twitch along. The ground crunches. Blue slips away to let the runway in. Dry bushes mark highways on land waiting for rain. When things happen ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The sweat of summer has been wiped away, winter has come to rescue, yet seems to assault. Shirts have sleeves now, the bed was layered first with a shawl, now the quilt. I think of soup-making since the air has thinned, lost the texture of honey. I fill these cooler days as if I'm doing it for the first time. Late afternoon the day falls before I turn on the lights. I wonder how much of summer will stay through winter as I move sandals aside, bring woolen things down. I know I have to let the heat drop away like torn paper scatter like coins. The burn of summer makes a slow exit as the cooler air sucks in. Greens in my garden return, stretch after the first thick rain. This morning I felt a gentle, clean wind from the Gilboa, but soon it will smack my window. I unfold a new sweater, put it over my shoulders remember how I used to save clothes for a special time. When I was eight I saved my winter coat, didn't wear it till I was ten, then couldn't button it. Now I know that things happen when they happen like the pling-plank of popping corn. Timing ~~~~~~ My father tuned watches fixed broken staffs and oiled springs replaced cracked dials reset wandering hands I run lost and late Jerusalem in August ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I saw a Squill lily in my friend's garden. It pushed out of the summer earth amongst frayed weeds and twisted ferns above zinnias and asters that were brown and bent. In Jerusalem the changing of the seasons has been marked even though the sun is still perched high and stern even though the New Year is a full month away. In our part of the valley there is no sign of change. The new year ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Emptiness surprises me as I leave one room move slowly in the new house to the upper floor then rooms below. Disappointment hangs sticky like honey for the New Year's cake. The greening of this house was my hope. I prepared defense for the Atonement Day The neighbor built a Succah between pecan trees covered with date palms and taped his granddaughter's drawings to the walls. The Succah he says is for Jews searching for the promised land. Refugees he adds and survivors. Jews disappear and reappear he says adjusting the palms so they will filter stars. Jews dream and yearn that's what Jews are. He pats the roof. Good time to be in a new house he says. Three ferns are dropping leaves over the marble stairs. The greening of this house in the New Year was my hope. I wonder: Can a person atone for ferns? Winter-trapped ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ When it is half dark I stay nowhere - winter-trapped my head's in a shawl. All I can do is think of wood drifted into shapes I used to bring home put near shells on the sill, try to find what I'd never seen before. Late today the light lowered and faded rounded into dull tones then snapped shut. The sun is losing heat, not like before when it wiped the front of my house leaving surfaces flat and final. A reminder ~~~~~~~~~~ A winter tide rubs markings from the sand. I watch waves collapse, erase the past. Pools form into hungry pockets, suck me in. The sand is combed, smoothed. Completely flattened now, the shore is strange. I feel the loss, it splays my toes threatening my ankles. I'm bound to a place I dreamed for once, want to ride on but am bolted to the shore. The outside pulls into dark when the sun rolls down. I watch the sky hit the sea. Night loosens my feet. I pull out one then the other. The air is thin as I turn away. This day, a reminder of something solid in my world made uncertain. 様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様 II 2 nights and a day ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ They walked into black corners of empty roads long after the moon had turned up, till the sun startled the sky. Then they twisted the lock, pulled heavy curtains into one spread, rolled into each other, using words not heard before. The day moved by, slipped away. Their laughter trembled, then silence scorched the room. The day grew old, the skies rounded. The sun fell once again. Another night stretched ahead like an open window. Like a compass bound for north ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Some men walk with thick thighs and flat feet, growl commands. They take what they want with yellowed hands, stare down their prey with dull eyes. Some men walk with soft steps meeting lovers on the way offer warmth like a compass bound for north. I want a man who will stroke my neck shake doubts from my lips place jewels on my eyes. What one man needs ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ He had to be up with the sun feeding fish and threshing wheat. When the sun curled over the hill he was forced into days. To seed and trim, repair and build. The days were long, too bright, too wide. He needed narrow corridors with the moon as witness, when shadows swing out, lurch. He honors spirits that know the dark, when secrets soar. The sun disciplined him the moon allowed him freedom. One harsh, the other forgiving. A rock kicked out of place he crawls out of the damp saucer of earth when dusk falls. Wipes the day from his hands walks into the muddy hours. Send my love to Steven ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I was walking with a man to a coffee shop on a side street when a large woman in a brown blouse stopped right in front of him adjusted her hat and said: How are you, Mike? Haven't seen you in years and years and as the man tried to remember her name she said Steven! How is he? Haven't seen him in years. The man answered: you know him and the woman in the brown blouse asked Still painting I guess? and the man answered Yes, but not working any more than before. You know Steven. The woman took off her hat and put her basket down and said Steven never liked to work, didn't like children, calendars, nor watches. The man pointed toward the street where we were to turn left to the coffee shop, looked at his watch and said: Good to see you, Eva. And she said I knew you'd remember my name and sort of shouted as she put on her hat and picked up her basket Send my love, okay? And the man said Sure, my wife will appreciate it. Eva turned `er back and walked the other way. She's been married twice since Steven, four children, three from the second, one with the third the man told me when suddenly we heard her shout I mean, my love to Steven, okay? The man waved in her direction. He never loved her he said as we walked into the coffee shop everyone knew that, yet after all these years she still sends him her love. The riot has begun ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It started days ago when desert winds left the garden brittle. I watch leaves turn in like shells, twist shadows over my yard as the heat presses on. I wonder if people make their own weather. In the winery, we lean toward the wine merchant who says as if a secret: this is wine for spring, it's that light. I watch my glass fill with sun, feel more bound to the earth, my throat turns slippery. People need to incite their spirit, I think looking at my friend, who reaches for a year-old Merlot as the liquid slips past my tongue. I watch him close eyes, test. Somehow I know more about how the world is classified by watching this man. I want to trust the process, go slowly enough to follow it. Don't want to destroy the mystery by explaining too much. I wait for evening, for the street light to bring the shadows in, make my coffee cup or reading chair into something so large it stops being what it was before. I move past the lines of my life when that happens. I know a man ~~~~~~~~~~~~ I know a man who is the earth of summer - stubborn, dry and flat. Not rich enough to nourish not fleshy enough to wrap round willing roots not deep enough to hold a tree while it reaches toward the sky. What people say ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The papers said: Attempted murder of ex-wife, then suicide Police officers said: Enough ammunition in his home to destroy the neighborhood The Kibbutz said: An artist-carpenter who torched the bed he made for his bride The ex-wife said: He was strict and controlling even in the good times The Army Commander said: My tank gunner, he saved my life The neighbors said: Erratic, kind His friends said: Loyal, obsessed Where's my home? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ the man asks his wife of 65 years Is this where I live? You've been away for some time she answers softly This is your home now What is this place? he asks This is where you live now she touches his hand Whose things are these? Your tallis, tefillin the kipah your father gave you Why do I need them? You are a man she says to her husband a Jewish man Sometimes they take me and those things to another place to the shule to pray with other men she tells him I should stay here he says lowering his head When they need another man they come for you she says Why me? he asks, his hands shake Because a man is a man that's the Jewish way she explains I'm no longer a man he says to his wife The 4th of July ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The mystery hour releases balloons as light as drifting paper. Cousins, aunts, fathers. The Fourth of July. Summer is a mass of flickering stars striped bright red-white-and-blue. Houses are vulnerable and warm, life unburied. It's a straw-angel night. Strange uncles, beloved grandfathers, mothers breathe in fragile air, remember pear-shaped memories of hands, lovely fingers. Fireworks, the final moment, then wondrous sleep, softly comes to the front lawn, to the porch. Dignity ~~~~~~~ A woman counts loaves of bread, places tomatoes near the window. Fog, lifted by the wind, shoulders the mountain. White sheets change into sails, ring the branches of the lemon tree. The land is hard cracks like words. The woman hears blossoms turning thin; she bows to the dignity of change, breaks a loaf, places two parts on the table. A kiss of sustenance, she whispers. There is nothing else to say. Like a hollyhock forced to the ground ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A man in a striped shirt and a woman in black shorts walked out of a cafe on a side street. He ordered coffee thick with milk for both, she filled a plate with cinnamon swirls and triangles filled with cheese. They talked till the coffee cooled then walked back into the sun. He pulled a vine from between pebbles and broken earth, handed it to her. Like hollyhocks forced to the ground, he said. She smiled, replied: same color as a blouse I once had. He whispered something by her cheek as they walked. The flowers shriveled as she watched him move into the traffic. High noon ~~~~~~~~~ High noon beats when you have loved me. I am lowered into the gorge washed of all others. I wait for the shy dawn to make way for the next high noon. Rising to the surface ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My body surfaces, rises loving has skimmed it all away. You ask ~~~~~~~ You ask me how loving comes leans, learns, spreads till it binds till both are crushed into a space that lets in only hymns and wild birds bringing berries. You ask me how loving stays circles till your skirts scatter, your breasts turn light, your thighs seek what you remember. You ask me how I loved your father but want to know how you can love. I give you nutmeg for your hair, ribbons at your waist and cream your lips. Moving like a tango, loving steps and strides returns breathless. 様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様 III This month ~~~~~~~~~~ Like trains re-tracked, governments have been replaced, left and right changed places. Black-clothed missionaries serving God threaten to tip the political scales to what they know to be His will. Tomatoes redden on my window, beginning to blush. Heat lies low forces me to water plants. I watch the leaves dance. An Arab client invites me to his house in a village above Afula tells me proudly that Arafat's adviser has been appointed to our new government's Security Council. Someone startles me with x-rays of torn knee tissues sent through electronic mail. Deer sprint across our friend's yard at the foot of the Kumi Hills and cotton is plumping along the highway replacing sunflowers that were stalked in steady rows just a month ago. I wait for first rains to wash down the olives, so we can take them to the press. The New Year preoccupies me with more questions than answers. Hope surfaces, convincing me it must come from within, spread evenly till it fits me as I want to be held. I taste possibilities like medicine, catalogue what I can. East ~~~~ The house faced east. The architect intended fresh light, the first stream of morning. He placed long, wide windows in the kitchen wall, was sure facing east would bring her the spirit of Jerusalem, David's wisdom. For her, east was keffiya'd* men at road blocks unloading chairs and carpets with plump women who squatted, staring at their feet till officials ordered them to move on - green and white license plates eventually fading in the dust. She heard the muezzin from the village of Sandalah, just over the hill, whining first prayers, watched Jenin, further east over the green line, fill the horizon with new homes and brooding intentions. *head scarves, often red./black checkered fabric, sometimes white - traditionally worn by Arab men. Holding the earth ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A sharp wind brings Golan voices down into the valley where I can hear them. Sounds like a rockslide, coarse scrub of grain and the spiral of fissures. A frantic undertow. The voices want no change, want to keep their place in that massive reach of land. In the early years, groups of children, my daughters too, were trucked up there to clear rocks and boulders smooth the surface into a welcoming place. Pears and apples are picked now through fall and winter brought south to local markets. The trees are woods, throw shadows dark as grief. Crops and cattle are rooted there. Soldiers have fallen keeping that place safe. Golan voices spike questions hurl them at anyone who'll listen. People there seem to be lying low like leaves coming down, animals at bay waiting for the chase, stirring trouble holding the earth. Strawberries from Gaza ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Empty boxes fall picked up returned twist and pull to the floor again. I pick one up another drops then another I place each lost square back into the jumbled cycle. Who can join the boxes place them together in a firm carton with loops at each side so I can grip the weight? Who can fill it with potatoes parsley or strawberries from Gaza? A place in Africa ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It was the sort of night that freezes strawberries. Things often come as invasions, I thought, upheavals like this - like losing a whole field. Yet, the crop when it's there, is enjoyed as a fact, as evident. The loss is grieved, I think, more than the act celebrated. Real invasion is, I know, more than a field of strawberries, more like my friend Layah struggling again with cancer clumps now moved from her lung to her brain. I tell Layah about the strawberries. There's what to learn from nature, from the land, from animals, says Layah, I just read, I tell her, that in some places foxes meet in circles, yelp in measured tones. There's a message there, she says. She pulls up her scarf to show me a black woolen band stretched round her ears. So poorly heated here. We locals believe the heat of summer burns all year long. Sometimes the day never warms things up. You look well today, I tell her. I'm scared. It's crazy to tell her that but I'm hopeful - so I lie, she deserves better. She gets up slowly, stumbles. See? I can't move like I want, but still, I'd like to take another trip before. I've heard there's a place in Africa where the horizon curls up. I'd like to see that. On the train ~~~~~~~~~~~~ I take my place across from a sleeping man with a huge belly. As the train pulls out of Benyamina his knees press against mine. He spits, and rattles like rocks shuffled against the tracks. The snores burst then stumble. He rearranges his shoulders, pulls at his shirt. After Kfar Yehoshua, a red-headed soldier places a tefillin box on his forehead. Soldier girls sleep in every row. At Hadera I give me seat to a man with crutches, I stand in the aisle, my case between my ankles legs supporting the project of the day. A pale woman gets on at Netanya, unfolds a map on the train table, bends over, concentrates looks for something others know. The soldier by the window takes off his beret, twists the black ribbon, motions to another. Bronze wings over his shirt pocket tilt He speaks about maneuvers and dates, his hand slips down to his crotch as the other soldier refers to time and location. Across the aisle a man folds his jacket into a pillow, packs re-packs it, puts his head down. The girl beside me talks to a girl beside him, says she has decided not to return to university until the explosions end. You're not going to live anymore? She is asked Live, she answers, but not study. After the University stop, I find an empty seat, hold up the book on 'Fathers' I'm reading to block the MacDonald's dinner the fat man has placed on the table. The smell of cold french fries rises as he squeezes mayo and ketchup into clumps, drags the orange drink through the straw and bites into the double burger. Wrappings cover the table, onion rings leave stains. I raise my book higher. As Tel Aviv Central is announced, he rumbles low as wind, wipes his mouth with his sleeve. Leans forward then fills the aisle, moves towards the exit. Tel Aviv blares harsh and rude. The fat man has prepared me. Yom Kippur, England ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The top news that day was 'Kevin Keegan, resigns'. Mom, says my daughter, he's the football coach. England lost to Germany 1-0. Strategy wasn't good. Sounds like she understands the situation like she cares. That news stayed at the top all week even though Milosevic is out, and a new democratic regime has come to Yugoslavia, even though Ariel Sharon walked on the Temple Mount. Narrow mention was given to Israeli front-line reservists ordered to get their things ready leave their phones open their radios on. The Chief Rabbi, small type declared, gave permission for all security personnel to ignore the 25 hour Yom Kippur fast. And three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped in Lebanon, marking Yom Kippur 2000. A courier service truck passes us advertising: It's not a promise if its not delivered. I think of Arafat promising in Washington then in Paris, then in Sharm-a-Sheikh, then Washington again. At lunch the waitress, says, a Baptist, I am. After asking where I'm from, adds firmly: The Lord will never take Israel away - written in the Bible, it is. That's a real promise, I think. 様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様様 IV Vinegar and wet paper bag ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ They spill white vinegar over the fries at the beach, it falls through the spaces, settles at the bottom. The salt stays on top like the fluff of first snow. I had just turned eight. I got a nickel for chips every Saturday, then I'd sit on a log, facing the sea, vinegar all over my arm, sometimes way past the elbow. I liked how it kept the smell of chips and brown bag with me as long as I wanted, even when I went to the edge of the water looking for shells. Didn't care if they were cracked just had to be real different. Flat, dark or almost completely closed. I liked the way the vinegar smell got all over my shells, even inside, stayed there till I took them home and put them on the shelf near my bed. I'd smell vinegar and wet paper bag for most of the week. Suddenly I was 16 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It was September in Eilat at Pini's ice cream place. Three kids sat round a stone table that stood on a thick cement leg, two boys and a girl had finished thick cones and drinks. When the dark haired boy laid his coke bottle on its circular side so it looked like a woman in bed, spun it, catching it each time so it stopped facing the girl who grabbed her mouth with one hand and her shirt in a bunch with the other each time he started the spinning and each time he stopped it after a few mad cycles so it pointed at her. The bottle dervished at the boy's twist and the girl blinked and grabbed her mouth and shirt at least a dozen times. The second boy moaned as the spinner racked up his points. I ate my vanilla ice cream with a spoon from a plastic cup and finished a bottle of mineral water watching the spinner prove his claim on the stunned girl. Suddenly he stopped the flaying bottle, grabbed it by the neck and smashed it on the table - covering the girl's chest with shards that bristled with the lights from Pini's counter. I sat at a table many years earlier when my father came raging up the steps, shoved the door so it slammed against the kitchen counter, linking his rage to a day another night and years passed. I sat head down hiding from the arguments he fired loaded and re-loaded at my Mother. As suddenly as that boy had slammed the bottle down on Pini's table my father grabbed the Nescafe jar and slammed it down in front of where I sat head down and scared. I didn't see his hand grab the bottle's waist but I felt the spray of shards over my head and the coffee grinds stifle the air. The coffee and glass swung round me. I sat as muted as the girl, when the boy said to Pini this bottle's cracked and my father ordered clean up the mess I was 16 just like that girl at Pini's ice cream place in Eilat. That September, suddenly I was 16. Printer to the King ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There was only one press at the printing shop I visited last week but pages were pulled and smoothed through rollers, ink flowed where text would be, levers rose then fell. The smell of ink rises from the belly of the press same as at my Uncle Harold's years ago. He was printer to the King, then the Queen, published laws and legislation for the government of Canada. When I was a child I loved the sound, the speed, how the letters turned into sentences. Uncle Harold would have the typeset man cut out my name - one silver letter after the other - give me piles of paper in any color, whatever size I wanted. He'd tell the man in the back to glue the colors into a pad. Whatever I wanted. Once he told me how it all began, when he was 8 someone brought him a printing set with rubber letters, an ink pad, and white paper. I lifted the black letters he said, turned each one onto the pad, spellt out my name. His company became one of the largest in Canada. His dream took him into a building with presses operated by computers and lasers, a librarian who filed all the publications. But now he doesn't speak to his wife, or his daughters - doesn't seem to know who they are. Annoyed by their attention, he doesn't like when they touch him. He smiles sometimes, tries to get up when the girl comes in the afternoon. Reaches out to her and she puts his pipe in his hand, touches his head, smiles at the boy my uncle is now. Last week I was at a printing shop near Jerusalem with only one press but pages were pulled and smoothed through rollers. Levers rose and fell, ink flowed, letters became sentences. It wasn't the King's printer but then Uncle Harold isn't either. Stored time ~~~~~~~~~~~ Sometimes I want to feel thin and flat not thick and full of flesh like a fish throbbing for the pond. I want to be transparent fill a corner of a cave dark with the stench of stored time till my daughters grow up till their father becomes the man I'm looking for. I'll tell my daughters and their father stories about the cave and how sunshine is like a basket of bronze that coming home is like a wedding. This is home, I'm home I'll scream I'm blessed in such a home. My route is feverish heights to disordered depths then home once more. Controlling memories ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I want to pick the apples from the tree behind my daughter's house, make apple sauce, at least gather the fallen for salad. I watch them roll into the grass, bird-pocked like grieving pomegranates. They're not worth the trouble, my daughter says. Leaves shingle the grass with crusty shapes. I slide over, paddle along. The swooshing hugs my shoes as I think of apple pies, clear jelly. At her cafe, my daughter bakes cornmeal muffins with rosemary and red pepper to be served with vegetable chili. By mid-morning she's made apple tarts, but from apples the grocer sends me she says mine are not good quality. That afternoon I go with my father to 8th Avenue, where we lived when I was a child. I look for the tree that spread over most of the yard. The apples were a bit sour, I remember, green with a red slash on the side. The yard looked too large; the tree wasn't there. Another was in the very same place, a sapling with wrinkled, pleated fruit. They're plums, I see, when I come close. Hadn't been picked, hanging heavy from each limb. Things have changed, said my father. The back porch has a place to sit now. The front steps seem wider I add as we turn to the car. Want to talk about the tree but my father has already shut the door. The radio is blaring. I remembered the tree as clearly as the shape of my father's back as he shoveled coal into the furnace by the basement window while mother dug in the earth, pulled out lettuce for dinner. I'm trying to hold onto something of that home, that time. But I need to keep those memories under control, loosen their grip. I'm straining to let go, yet afraid that if I do there'll be nothing left of me. Wiping away the signs ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My father bought a cottage, but not for summering, for renting to others who came to rest among the cedars beside the lake. At the beginning of the season my parents would bring me and my sisters, work for a week to repair the ravages of winter, replace broken glass, return shingles to the roof, fix the stair-boards. Get the place ready for summer fun, then take us home to the city, making sure, from there, that each tenant passed the key to the next. At the end of August, we'd go again. The colors had changed. Greens flattened, but the heat still slapped my face. Hard to believe that summer didn't burn there all year long. This time my folks repaired the ravages of summer. They'd send us to the beach. I played with my sisters till mother came with lunch. She'd sit for a while, her feet in the water. Cold chicken and potato salad tasted different at the lake, store-bought cookies had coconut ground so fine it was hardly there. My husband tells me how he summered with his family at Winnipeg Beach. They rented a cottage for the month, no repairs, no seasonal damage, no sloppy tenants, just fun. He went to the roller rink in the evenings, a chance to be with girls, he said. Cultus Lake also had a rink, but I couldn't skate. I pressed up against the fence, watched boys take girls into the swinging crowd. I'd find a couple that looked like they could skate forever; watch till I was dizzy, my fingers in the spaces of the fence. Time wrapped around the rink. One girl came every night. As soon as she fastened her skates a boy would lean towards her. She was born pretty. My feet throbbed, hands itched - the pale part of me stared. Sometimes I stayed till the rink closed, my parents on the porch drinking tea when I came back, the music twisting in me. I wanted to be a skater, a pretty girl, propped up by a boy who would hold me the way a young tree is staked, I would be beautiful, I believed, because he'd reached for me. Back in the city I'd plan how I would be next summer, but those plans got treaded like a car moving over snow. The impossible tangled up in me. I know what is possible now. As clear as instructions for Campbell's soup, I know that anything can happen. A Trade ~~~~~~~ Tracks clung to the grating hard and quiet droppings waiting obediently like pine logs dry and unable. Flies droned, fanning the bitter stench that labeled the house. Pale children snapped marbles by the curb saliva on their chins. The sun strained through oak leaves. Potatoes rotted. I hated that place reminded me of the backyard of an old man I called the witch's husband. I never looked over the fence just held my nose as I walked by on my way home from school. I was in grade two not old enough to know I could take another route. By grade three I walked on 7th one block over. I found a bush with white luscious roses that turned to me. Older now I traded the old man's smell for the scent of dreams. Paying my respects ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In a bitter rain, I crowded up with other wet visitors to enter Shakespeare's house. I pass a display of shoes from that time, no right or left, the guide points out. Leather uppers and metal platform lowers. Good for a day like this, he chuckles. My shoes have softened in the rain, wet seeps into the carpet. The house stayed dry, I hear, with Oak from the forest of Arden and stone from Wilmcote. I lean forward, see writing fragments a 1594 edition of Venus and Adonis hear the man in front say: Shakespeare couldn't spell. He took part in his own plays the guide says, there was no full manuscript, each actor received his own part with stage instructions. I go toward a window with shriveled frame, move closer, see Thomas Carlyle, 1800 scratched below, then Walter Scott. Keats in the center Hardy marked in the right hand corner. Damp and chilled, I join the procession - pay my respects, think of my own writing, how I forget most of what I've written once it's on the page. Only remember what needs to stay. In the rain again, in the rose garden, a Noblean wide as a chrysanthemum and a short Tuscany bloom withstand the wind. Hazlenuts, surfacing the yard curve under foot. Fresh Asparagus ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ She'd fill a pot up with water, salt it, put it on the flame but not for cabbage. She'd stand fresh asparagus branches or let artichokes hit the bottom or seafood come to a quick roll. She'd toss in linguine strands or ravioli pads, but never cabbage. The smell takes her to her grandmother's stories of the camps when cabbage black with worms was handed out like truffles. Cabbage is dull, she'd say but really meant too stoked with sadness. Birthing ~~~~~~~~ I should have had more children. A daughter in this dry land is hardly a birthing hardly a son hardly a soldier not a male with a gun All Poems Copyright (c) 2001 Rochelle Mass
ROCHELLE MASS Publishing acknowledgements: Some of the poems have been published in: The Jerusalem Review, Women's Studies Quarterly, Midstream, Alternatives, Kimera, Voices, Taproot, Determinations South, Kibbutz Trends, Dybbuk of Delight, IAWE Anthology and the web: Poetry Magazine, Girlswrite, Poetry Life & Times. Timing - Reuben Rose Poetry Competition, 2nd prize "Where's my Home" and "Timing " appeared in Where's my Home?, poems by Rochelle Mass, published by Premier Poets Series, Rhode Island. USA.
Welcome to Newsgroup alt.centipede. Established just for writers, poets, artists, and anyone who is creative. A place for anyone to participate in, to share their poems, and learn from all. A place to share *your* dreams, and philosophies. Even a chance to be published in a magazine. The original Centipede Network was created on May 16, 1993. Created because there were no other networks dedicated to such an audience, and with the help of Klaus Gerken, Centipede soon started to grow, and become active on many world-wide Bulletin Board Systems. We consider Centipede to be a Public Network; however, its a specialized network, dealing with any type of creative thinking. Therefore, that makes us something quite exotic, since most nets are very general and have various topics, not of interest to a writer--which is where Centipede steps in! No more fuss. A writer can now access, without phasing out any more conferences, since the whole net pertains to the writer's interests. This means that Centipede has all the active topics that any creative user seeks. And if we don't, then one shall be created. Feel free to drop by and take a look at newsgroup alt.centipede
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