Category Archives: Poetry?


A strong sea breeze blows,
the poplars rustle and sway
while circles of redwoods
anchored on ancient ledges
immobile cool students
who stream and find their way
to the pillared library and its rows.

Claire et moi

In the sad film Claire et moi, after a sweet meeting with his father about relationship choices, the moi of the story is in a train and reads passages from a book he was just given by his dad. It is the famous passage from Rilke’s Letter to a young poet about what goes into enabling the first line of a verse. Long experience of the world, depths of observation, of scientific inquiry, and complete immersion in the world of others. My take on the story is that passion love, something that was finally considered within the grasp of multitudes with industrialization and fragmentation of traditional kinship and social networks, at least by the mid-twentieth century, comes to be regarded as an insufficient basis for proper relationships. Both characters are passionately drawn to each other and even abandon some of their selfishness by the end of the story. Will they learn to live their whimsical, inventive, physical passion in caring for a gravely ill person (she is HIV positive) and accepting other demanding tasks? A little opening is left at the end, or so it seems to me. I thought that the most important moment in the film was this reading of Rilke’s enduring wisdom in the train. Though I cannot make a grandiose appeal to science, world-traveling experience, life with others, yet his words give expression to something I feel—daily I dare think—, and that is the trust put into the grace of a world lived in all its dimensions, and especially the trust that the articulation of air, gestures, thoughts, will, is part of this adequate world, that it will occur and be communed.

Almar Street

Un éventail d’eucalyptus géants essuie le ciel
Au-dessus de pins de Monterey austères et têtus.
De longues écorces pelées par la pluie et le vent
Jonchent le macadam huilé.
Les cables de téléphone et d’électricité ne sifflent pas.
Pas de longues fougères tassées en pelisse mais des buis, des troènes, ou d’épais cactus incongrus incapables du moindre son.
De grandes vagues désordonnées déferlent sans cesse et attaquent les grès de la côte.
L’écume s’accumule dans les recoins d’anses, bouillonne,
s’envole en paquets cotonneux qui couvrent la route.
De petits oiseaux noirs nagent dans les rouleaux,
vifs, flottant sur les plus grosses vagues ou plongeant prestement dans les eaux glauques, à la recherche de crabes désarçonnés.
Les cormorans attendent de meilleurs jours et les pélicans prennent refuge jusqu’au milieu des touristes sur la jetée.
Seules les mouettes se laissent aller sereines sans un battement d’aile le long de colonnes d’air invisibles.
Humains engoncés dans leurs anoraks, fanas du jogging, leurs rangs clairsemés…
Je souhaite l’événement: de grands rugissants qui arracheraient des pans entiers de la côte, en feraient de longues plages ondulées et me nettoieraient l’âme.
On revient à la maison toute verte d’ocellus, la vieille ferme-cabane, abri d’amours barrées à l’infini.
Les grattements de violons, les soulagements du violoncelle, la fière amertume de la clarinette, les craquements du feu de bois en offertoire, le grondement de l’océan apaisé par la distance, l’odeur des chanterelles rôties, les algues dans la soupe “hot and sour”, épaississent notre navigation dans le temps, ce trente et un décembre 1996.


Eden is that old-fashioned House
We dwell in every day
Without suspecting our abode
Until we drive away.

How fair on looking back, the Day
We sauntered from the Door—
Unconscious our returning,
But discover it no more.

Emily Dickinson

The diameter of the bomb

Poem by Yehuda Amichai, circulated today by Larry Robinson (“A poem a day”). Hebrew provided but I haven’t been able to solve the punctuation problem.

קֹטֶר הַפְּצָצָה

קֹטֶר הַפְּצָצָה הָיָה שְׁלֹשִׁים סֶנְטִימֶטְרִים
וְקֹטֶר תְּחוּם פְּגִיעָתָהּ כְּשִׁבְעָה מֶטְרִים
וּבוֹ אַרְבָּעָה הֲרוּגִים וְאַחַד עָשָׂר פְּצוּעִים.
וּמִסָּבִיב לָאֵלֶּה, בְּמַעְגָּל גָּדוֹל יוֹתֵר
שֶׁל כְּאֵב וּזְמַן, פְּזוֹרִים שְׁנֵי בָּתֵּי חוֹלִים
וּבֵית קְבָרוֹת אֶחָד. אֲבָל הָאִשָּׁה
הַצְּעִירָה, שֶׁנִּקְבְּרָה בַּמָּקוֹם שֶׁמִּמֶּנּוֹ בָּאָה,
בְּמֶרְחַק לְמַעְלָה מִמֵּאָה קִילוֹמֶטְרִים,
מַגְדִּילָה אֶת הַמַּעְגָּל מְאֹד מְאֹד,
וְהָאִישׁ הַבּוֹדֵד הַבּוֹכֶה עַל מוֹתָהּ
בְּיַרְכְּתֵי אַחַת מִמְּדִינוֹת הַיָּם הָרְחוֹקוֹת,
מַכְלִיל בַּמַּעְגָּל אֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם.
וְלֹא אֲדַבֵּר כְּלָל עַל זַעֲקַת יְתוֹמִים
הַמַּגִּיעָה עַד לְכִסֵּא הָאֱלֹהִים
וּמִשָּׁם וָהָלְאָה וְעוֹשָׂה אֶת הַמַּעְגָּל לְאֵין סוֹף וְאֵין אֱלֹהִים.

The Diameter of the Bomb

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and beyond,
making a circle with no end and no God.

en fleur

Les pruniers rabougris de la cour à Cowell
sont en fleur. Résurrection, anastas-iement
depuis la Californie jusqu’au Michigan…
Sur la table couverte de rose et d’oranges,
ma moissonneuse d’images et mots engrange
un petit fils d’homme surgi après Noël.

son of man

The inchoate discussion this morning on the “son of man” (UCSC class on gospel of Mark) leads me to post a well-known poem by Dan Pagis who uses this expression in full awareness of the burden it bears, from Ezekiel and Daniel to modern Hebrew usage, via the gospels. It is from Points of Departure. There is an English translation by Stephen Mitchell (Ibid., p. 23). I give a slightly different one and add a Breton version. My changes: railcar instead of Railway-Car, transport instead of carload, i eve instead of i am eve, older son instead of other son, and i am instead of i (last word). The poem needs to be read at least a couple times to get the grammar right and be rolling. It gives pause to the century-old Christian discussion of the expression.

כָּתוּב בְּעִפָּרוֹן בַּקָּרון הֶחָתוּם

כָּאן בַּמִּשְׁלוֹחַ הַזֶּה
אֲנִי חַוָּה
עִם הֶבֶל בְּנִי
אִם תִּרְאוּ אֶת בְּנִי הַגָּדוֹל
קַיִן בֶּן אָדָם
תַּגִּידוּ לוֹ שֶׁאֲנִי

Written in pencil in the sealed railcar

here in this transport
i eve
with abel my son
if you see my older son
cain son of man
tell him that i am

Hag e brezhoneg:

Skrivet gant kreïon er vagon stouvet

amañ er transport-se
me eva
gant abel va mab
ma welit va mab henañ
cain mab den
lavarit dezhañ emaon


This morning, I was sent a wind map of the United States that showed ever-changing streaks of moving air, including hurricane Isaac. To look at the movement of air as waving grey capillaries made me wonder again about the historian’s point of view, the location from which I dare survey a given slice of life or lives. From my heart and head, especially the latter, unfortunately. When I survey the conglomerated lives of ancient Israel and Judah and attempt to make of it a history, am I trying to compose something like the wind map linked to above, which gives both a sense of wonder and the illusion of sharing a moment with the divine, all-encompassing eye? Or am I following a thin strand or two for an exhilarating and extenuating ride, and losing it as soon as I think I’m on it? Yet I know I want to feel this unseen the poet invokes in Song of the banner at daybreak:

Fresh and rosy red the sun is mounting high,
On floats the sea in distant blue careering through its channels,
On floats the wind over the breast of the sea setting in toward land,
The great steady wind from west or west-by-south,
Floating so buoyant with milk-white foam on the waters.
But I am not the sea nor the red sun,
I am not the wind with girlish laughter,
Not the immense wind which strengthens, not the wind which lashes,
Not the spirit that ever lashes its own body to terror and death,
But I am that which unseen comes and sings, sings, sings,
Which babbles in brooks and scoots in showers on the land,
Which the birds know in the woods mornings and evenings,
And the shore-sands know and the hissing wave, and that banner and pennant,
Aloft there flapping and flapping.

Etrezek ar bezioù

Avot Yeshouroun, an anv kemeret gant Yehiel Perlmutter e 1948, hervez ar wiki, ac’h embannas ar barzhoneg-se e journal Haaretz, 23 mae 1952. An degemer a oa fall, kleiz ha dehoù. Met evel ma lavaras: “Al lennegezh hebraek a gasas ac’hanomp da Zion, hag e oa dleet dezhi lavarout ar wirionez diwar biv a veve er bro, n’eo ket lavarout e oa goullo.” (M. Gluzman, Politics of canonicity, 2003, 141)

יוֹם אֶחָד לָאֲדָמָה
,לָעֲמֻקָּה מִן פָאלַאסְטִין
,מִן פַאלֶסְטִינָה הוֹךְ הוֹךְ
.מִן כְּנַעַן־פֶלְלָחִין

יוֹם אֶחָד לָאֲדָמָה
.הַמְּלֵאָה אֶת הַכַּדִּים
,וְקָשָׁה הִיא וּמְאָדָּמָה
.חַמָּה הִיא וְגִידִים

אֶת עֶרְיָתָהּ אֵינָהּ מַגֶּדֶת
.לְרוֹכְבֵי עַל עֲרָיוֹת
וְאֵינָהּ מַגֶּדֶת לְרוֹכְבֵי
;עַל אֲתֹנוֹת צְחוֹרוֹת

וְעַל אֵלֶּה שֶׁקָּרְסוּ לַפֶּרֶךָ
,עִם צַלְצֶלֶת אֹרְחוֹת
עַל אֵלֶּה שֶׁעָמְדוּ בַּפֶּרֶא
– כְּאָח וְאָחוֹת

.הֲלֹא יִשְׁאַל הַלָּה לְפֶלְלָחוֹ
.הַלָּה תָּמִיד יִדְרֹשׁ לַחֵלֶךְ
.הָיָה זֶה פֹּה יַד מַלְאָכוֹ
.יַד הַלָּה כְּיַד הַמֶּלֶךְ

– וַיְהִי הַלָּה טוֹפֵשׁ עָלָיו דַּבֶּשֶׁת
..וְזֶה גּוֹמֵל עָמָל עַל הַשַּׁבֶּשֶׁת
– הָיוֹ יִהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר נוֹשֵׂא שַׁבֶּשֶׁת
..יֵצֶר הִיא שֶׁל אֵיזֶה בֶּעשְׁ”ט

שֶׁהִגִּיעָנוּ אֶל הַחוֹף בִּגְ’יַאנִיקוֹלוֹ
– וֶהֱקִימָנוּ עַל הַסַּף סַפָּן עַרְבִי
,אֶזְרֹעוֹתָיו שְׁלֻחָנִיּוֹת וְקִנְצֵי קוֹל לוֹ
..וְהַיָּדַיִם – מִבֵּית אָבִי

,וְהִגַּעְנוּ, וְלָאָרֶץ עֲרִירִי
,וְלָאָרֶץ אֵין פֹּה אֵם, וִיהִי מָה
,וַתֹּאמֶר פַאטְמָה “מַהֲרָה, נַעֲרִי
.אֱמֹר לָהּ ‘אִמָּא'”

.וָאוֹמַר: “דִּינָר לִי מֵאִמִּי לַעֲנִיֵּי עִירִי
.אַךְ רָעַבְתִּי. כִּי עָנִיתִי”.. – וָאוֹמַר
.וַתֹּרֶד אֶת כַּדָּהּ: “שְׁתֵה, נַעֲרִי
“..לְךָ הוּא הַדִּינָר

!הַזָּהוּב פָּרַטְתִּי, אָבִי מִכָּל הַחַאנִים”
.בְּדִינַר אִמִּי קָנִיתִי לִי בְּרַאנְזִ’ינֶס
.הִתְהַלַּכְתִּי פֹּה בֵּין וָאדִיּוֹת, חוֹלוֹת וְרָמַת-גַּן’יִם
.בִּדְמֵי אִמִּי קָנִיתִי לִי סַארְדִינֶס

?שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ הַסַּאְרדִינֶס! מִי מִכֶּם דִּינָר עִלָּע
?!מִסַּאְרדִינֶס מִי עוֹשֶׂה בֻּבָּה
.יָפוֹ וְדַיָּגֶיהָ! שֶׁאֵין רֶשֶׁת אֶלָּא לָהּ
.לַבֹּקֶר וְיֹאכְלוּ, וְהַדִּינָר חֻבָּם

.אַבְהוּנָא שֶׁלִּי, הַבֵּט עַל בְּכוֹר הַחַאנִים
.בְּחַרְתָּנִי בְּכוֹר עָנִי מֵאֵין כָּמוֹהוּ עוֹד
?שׁוּר עַל מַעֲשַׂי – יָפִים לְמַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה
.”וַאֲנִי שִׁמְךָ קָנִיתִי לְעָבְדְךָ מְאֹד

..פְּנֵי אָבִינוּ הָיוּ פֹּה
..אָז הָיִינוּ עֹד בָּנִים
.עַתָּה אָבִינוּ בְּמַחֲפוֹא
?אֵיךְ נְקַבֵּל פָּנִים

– הֲלֹא תִשְׁאֲלִי לְעַמְּךָ-מַלְאָכוֹ
.וְהוּא הָלַךְ פָאלַאסְטִין
,הוּא הָלַךְ פֹּה אֶל כּוּכוֹ
..אֶל הַפְּלֵתִי

וְעַל כָּךְ וְעַל דַּרְכּוֹ
– כָּל מַעֲשֵׂהוּ בַּכּוּכִים
,הֲלֹא, שׁוֹשַׁנַּת יַעֲקֹב
.תִּשְׁאֲלִי אֶת הַחוֹחִים

תִּשְׁאֲלִי פֹּה בַּפְּרָצִים
,עַל קַבְּצַן הַסֻּלְיוֹת
עַל קִבּוּץ הַקִּבּוּצִים
;וְעַל קִבּוּץ הַגָּלֻיּוֹת

-וַתִשְׁאֲלִי אֶל נֵס
אֶת עַרְבִיֵּי הַנֵּס
;שֶׁנָּסוּ בְּלָצוֹן

– וְתִשְׁאֲלִי אֶת פִּי
:עַל שְׁתַּיִם הוּא הַדִּין
צַר לִי עַל טַפִּי
;וְצַר עַל דִּין וָדִין

-וְתִשְׁאֲלִי אֶל נֵס
עַל עַרְבִיֵּי הַנֵּס
.”אֲשֶׁר “קָבְרוּ בְּדִיחָה

קָבְרוּ – עַד הֲקִיצוֹ
.שֶׁל כַּד הַמַּטְבְּעוֹת
,יְצַלְצְלוּ, לְעֵת מְצוֹא
..יָמִים, שָׁנִים, מֵאוֹת

עַד עָמֹד יַעֲמֹד הַלָּה
– וְסַב הוּא בְּאִישׁוֹן
וְאֲדָמָה כַּלָּהּ
..שׁוֹאֶגֶת יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן

,בַּעֲמָקַיִךְ, שׁוֹשַׁנַּת
;לו שׁוֹשַׁנָּה לְפֶלְלָחִים
מִי שׁוֹשַׁנָּה – וְלוֹ עַל מִנַעַת
.פֶּסַע אֶל כּוּכִים

,פֶלְלָחִין-בַּדְוִין, הָאָבוֹת
— כְּדוֹר מִדְבָּר לְדוֹר יוֹרֵשׁ
.צִוּוּנוּ פִּתָּה לֶאֱפוֹת
.נָשֵׂם לַחְמָם לְחֻךְ הָאֵשׁ

,וְאַבָּא-אִמָּא, מִן מַלְקֹח
— אֵשׁ-אֵל-רַבְרַבָּא מִלְקָח
צִוּוּנוּ יַהַנְדֶּס לֹא לִשְׁכֹּחַ
.וְעַל פּוֹילִין לֹא לִשְׁכָּח

אֲדָמָה הִיא בַּת בְּלִיַּעַל.
– גַּם אַבְרָהָם גַּם אִיבְּרָהִים
שָׂרָה עִמּוֹ הַנַּעַר
..וְשָֹרָה מִן הַמִּצְרִים

וְהָאֲדָמָה וְהָאֲדָמָה
.מְבַלְּעָה אֶת הַכַּדִּים
– הִיא חַמָּה, הִיא מְאָדָּמָה
.וְהִיא גִּידִים לַמַּגִּידִים

הִיא חַמָּה וּמְאָדָּמָה
.כְּפִתְחָהּ שֶׁל הַיּוֹלֶדֶת
מְלֵאָה לָהּ אֶרֶץ אֲדָמָה
.וְלֹא נוֹעֶדֶת

Un deiz bennak d’an douar,
donoc’h eget Falastîn,
eget “Palestina Ohé Ohé,”
eget Canaan-*fellahin*.

Un deiz bennak d’an douar,
a leunia ar bezioù (urnoù).
Ha kalet hi hag o ruziañ,
tomm eo ha stir dezhi.

Na gont ket he noazhded
da varc’hourion war lionoù.
Ha na gont ket d’ar varch’ourion
war azenezed gwenn;

Ha war ar re a oa friket d’ar galeoù
gant tinterezh an hentoù, (?)
war ar re a oa en o sav gouez
evel breur ha c’hoar —

Chom a raio hennezh hep goull diwar e *fellah*
Chom a raio hep klask bepred diwar ar gwan.
Amañ e oa dorn ec’h ael.
Dorn hennezh evel dorn ur roue.

Hag e oa hennezh …. —
Hag eñ da zigoll labour war …. fardaj?
Forzh petra a dougo ar …. fardaj? —
Tech ur Besht bennak eo …

E errujomp d’an aod war Gianicolo
Hag ur martolod arabek a laka ac’hanomp war an treuz —
E vrec’h astennet hag ur vouezh munut dezhañ,
hag an daouarn — eus ti va zad …

Hag ec’h errujomp, ha d’ur vro hañvesk,
ha mamm ebet d’ar vro, ha petra,
hag e lavaras Fatma: “Buan, va bugel,
lavar dezhi ‘Mamm’.”

Hag e lavarañ, “Bezañ m’eus un dinar eus mamm, evit ar beorion-gêr,
met naon m’eus. Rak paour on aet”, hag e lavarañ —
hag e tiskenn he foud (karafenn?), “Ev, va bugel,
evidout eo an dinar”…

“Eskemmet m’eus an aour, va zad eus an oll *Khanoù* !
Prenet m’eus *branjines* gant dinar va mamm.
Baleet m’eus amañ etre ar wadioù, traezhioù hag Ramat-Gan’où.
Gant arc’hant-gwad va mamm m’eus prenet *sardinez*

Pegen buhez gant ar *sardinez*! Piv ouzhoc’h a lonka un dinar?
Gant *sardinez* piv a ra ur verc’hodenn!?
Jaffa hag he fesketourion! Roued ebet met hec’h hini.
Diouzh ar beure hag e debrjont, hag an dinar enno.

Va zadig, sell ouzh henañ ar Khanoù.
Va dibabet t’eus an henañ kaezh n’eus hini bet eveltañ ken.
Arvest ouzh va oberioù — brav perak eo chañchet?
Ha me prenet m’eus da anv evit servij ac’hanout meur.”

Amañ oa dremm hon tad …
neuze e oamp maboù c’hoazh …
Bremañ emañ kuzh hon tad.
Penaos e degerimp dremm [e tigorimp da…]

Goul e ri war-lerc’h da dud, na ri ket — ec’h ael —
hag eñ kaezhiad Palestin.
Aet eo amañ d’e c’hav,
d’ar Pelêthi…

Hag war se ha war e stumm
hag an oll a reas er kavoù —
sur awal’ch, rozenn Yaqob,
goul gant an dreiz.

Goul amañ en odeoù
diwar ar c’hlasker soulioù,
diwar kibbutz ar c’hibboutzoù,
ha diwar dastumad an harluidi;

Ha goul diwar (el…) burzhud
luskad ar c’harourion-Zion
an Arabed diwar burzhud
e tec’hjont evit fenn;

Ha goul ganiñ —
barnet vez diwar daou dest:
keuz ennon diwar va bugale
ha keuz war varn ha barn:

Ha goul diwar (el) burzhud
luskad karourion kaoze (diviz?)
War goust an Arabed ar burzhud
inti a “douarjont ar farsadenn”.

Douarjont — betek fin (dihun?)
poud ar pezhioù.
a sono, pa vo ar c’houlz
deizhioù, bloavezhioù, kanteriadoù….

Betek e vo en e sav hennezh
hag e tro e kreizh an nozh [I’m following Gluzman]
hag an douar danvez-pried
a ruoc’ha an deiz kentañ….

en ho traoniennoù, rozenn ar …,
Ha ma oa roz gant ar fallahin;
Piv zo ur rozenn — ha ma n’eo ket evit diwall
tremen war kavoù.

Fallahin bedouin, an tadoù
— evel rumm an deserz da rumm a herez —
a c’hourmenna deomp poazhañ pita.
Lakaat a rimp o bara e kreiz an tan.

Ha tad-mamm, diouzh preizh,
tan doue foeltr diouzh preizh —
a c’hourmenna deomp chom hep ankounac’haat Yahndas.
hep ankounac’haat Pologn.

Merc’h Bli’al (an diaoul) eo douar
Abraham hag Ibrahim
ar c’hrennard a stourma gantañ
Ha Sarah eus ar Ejiptianed….

Hag and douar hag an douar
a lonk ar c’havoù (bezioù).
Tomm eo, ruziañ a ra —
Stir eo d’ar c’honterioù.

Tomm eo ha ruziañ a ra
evel digoradur an hini a gan.
Leun eo ar bro gant douar
hag hep planedenn.