Between Jerusalem I’m Sorry, Chapter 8

The flyer I made for the first Garberville poetry reading

A Small Open

The day of the poetry reading at Avraham’s studio arrived. It had taken some talking let me tell you, but Avraham and the core group of American young people hanging out at his studio, about three or four individuals, finally agreed to it. Shortly after meeting Avraham, I’d given him the small stapled packet of poems I carried around and made copies of periodically, which contained around 20 poems or so. I’d taped each on the wall next to our hunger strike camp in Jerusalem, and with their strange, typed shapes they made quite a backdrop to the camp, and I taped several of them around the old city in the first ‘official’ posting, which I did with Lars, which is covered in the Tongues series. I also read a couple in that daily afternoon show and tell at the studio when I first arrived. Now I was just stupid about these poems and being a poet, had to be seen as a poet by other people. I still have the same poetic symptoms but at a higher order; I think now it’s the natural order. But still, I don’t understand what my fuss was all about, as if the ability to put words together that play with language and meaning well enough they don’t disagree makes you some degree of human out of the animal, and there’s some question at my ability in those poems to write poetry where language didn’t quarrel with meaning in the first place, but, if nothing else, they are striking.

At that moment in Safed there was a controversy going on over the use of non-Jewish religious figures, the mere mention of their names, almost a crisis really. David (I forget his last name unfortunately), was the most prominent artist in Safed, internationally recognized for his paintings of the Sefirot. I first saw him at Avraham’s studio, where a couple of his works were on display. He dressed neither orthodox nor non-orthodox if you can picture something other than either or, but you can say he dressed conservatively. What struck you was that didn’t upstage the fact there was a very unconventional person wearing the clothes. His face said it all: “My God would you look at that interesting thing over there in the world, would you look at everything by God,” what it said when you looked into his face. The keys to his shul in Safed had been taken away by its owners because he allowed the God-enthusiastic young people there to use the names of Buddha, Jesus, and others in their praises, prayers and such. When the rabbis around there heard rumors such idolatry was going on, they sent other God-enthusiatic young people, who limited God to Judaism, to infiltrate the shul. They reported back to their rabbis it indeed was happening, who had contacted the New York owners, who were appalled and took away his keys. It all had just happened before my arrival, and Avraham and the others there were worried some slip of the tongue at the studio would get them into trouble, as it was believed there were spies everywhere.

It’s a credit to Avraham and his friends that in such a climate of fear I was allowed to do a “Noise From the Innerwho” there in the first place, what, if you remember, I called my (now on the road) poetry reading I’d started in Gaberville, where I was the MC and invited anyone from the audience to read their poetry. The Safed crowd did regret it afterwards though. Avraham, who had read my poems, or so I figured, really had only read a couple or so, the above one, one of those. He asked me not to read that one or any one that used the name of non-Jewish Gods or prophets. We had a little debate over Jesus, who I argued was after all a Jew and, if nothing else, was at least a Jewish prophet, but we finally settled on a compromise. I could read The Dangle, which I really had a fancy to read, if I substituted the word mashiach for Christ.

It might interest you to know that the poem’s a gatha, what I thought at the time was what Buddhists call poems that describe momentary experiences of enlightenment, what they call ‘a glimpse of reality’, but which I’ve sense learned is a poem that describes basically anything as long as it’s mindful. That my Dangle also describes a nuclear explosion can be attributed to both the incredible intensity of such an enlightenment experience and the ability of poetry to talk about two or more things at the same time, in this case talk about too the intensity of playing around with nukes, even in practice. That the verses are in the shape of flying saucers, well, that’s a whole other thing, isn’t it? I don’t know what to tell you.

The courtyard was set up nicely for the reading, what the regulars pitched in to put together, with rows of folding chairs in front of a sort of makeshift but adequate stage, and I do believe there was a mike. I forget what advertising we’d done, other than invitation and word of mouth, but in every other Noise, making the creative flier was always a big thing for me, and so it probably was here too, only it might’ve been what was taped on the gate and not posted around because of the current controversy. We did it at night, and the stage wasn’t lit, although there were lights around the courtyard, enough so that you could see both the person on stage and the audience. I was in my element, and I was excited. I honestly don’t remember how many or who read anything of theirs, and that shows what I was showing: “Look everybody, this came outta me!” What I most remember is looking out over the audience, just after finishing the poem “The Reincarnation of Adolf Hitler”, and a young man in orthodox dress, looking like he’d gotten much more than the scoop he’d come there for, jumping up out of his seat and running out of the courtyard, obviously to report to whom sent him what was being read—“They’re bringing Hitler back to life for God’s sake!” I had a moment of nervousness but quickly recovered and continued the show, but I knew I’d hear about it after it was all over.

I’m 15, living in the suburbs of Houston with my mom and step-dad, and I’m a Jesus freak, Jesus person to you buddy. I’m at my friend’s house, eating dinner with one of the few black families in Sagemont at that time—it wasn’t fried chicken. I’m there because the father of the family is my good friend, one of the few adults who will take me seriously and not treat me like a child when I talk about the Lord and scripture. I want to be preacher, not when I grow up, but now. He’s the pastor of a church in one of the wards of Houston, ward a nicer name than ghetto for those poor, predominantly Black neighborhoods, and next Sunday he’s going to let me preach a sermon in his church, not the morning service, but the night service, but I’m so thrilled that makes no difference. I visit his house often and talk with him, and the attention he pays me, the respect, that’s what makes me come back. At my smart aleck, pimply-faced age you don’t get a lot of that. He has a son a little older than I, who’s a nerd and is into Star Trek and is building a laser for his school science project. I sit with him often on the bus in those days, and he talks about what a laser is and how hard it is to make one do more than simply shoot a straight beam of light. He wants to slice a fruit in half, an apple I think. Talking to him about it I realize he’s probably smarter than I am, despite the fact that, if I remember right, all he achieves is the beam of light. He gets off first and always gives me the Spock farewell, putting his palm up with the fingers split and saying “Live long and prosper.” As time goes on, I forget I’m sitting by the only African American on the bus, forget he’s even Black. I am sorry, but I did see he was Black when I looked at him until that indeterminable point he became my friend. Another way to say that is we notice differences between us, the bigger the difference the more we notice it, until we get to know someone and begin to care for them, and then the difference is no longer even a thing. You don’t see it anymore.

What brought that integration to my page? That 9-year-old boy who wouldn’t eat ‘nigger food’ had undergone a transformation in his intolerance of Black people. It’d come about from an inner process I can hardly guess at from this distance in time, but I’m sure my step-father Bucky had something to do with it. He’d been in my life since he became my mom’s boyfriend when I was 7, but it wasn’t until he married her, and I went to live with them in their new house in the suburbs when I was 11, that he became my dad and took the time and trouble to educate me some. I’d come from the backwoods of East Texas, and when I moved in he began to work on my ignorance.

He was from California and had a college education, really knew how to make children laugh, didn’t hit a kid or a woman, did housework, was slow to anger, a peacemaker even, and that’s odd considering he was built like a tank, 6 foot 4 or thereabouts, who played semi-pro football in the position of fullback in the army in Europe during the Korean War. Do I list his faults here too? He was also quite smart, smart enough to get out of going to Korea, which took both his brains and bronze. He went with a buddy equally as good as he was at football to where an army team was practicing on base. They got close enough so the coach could see them throwing passes and kicking punts. Bucky said he never put so much onto a football. It’s no wonder; they both had orders shipping them out to the war. The coach saw them and put them on the team.

First, Bucky got me reading more, what I’d gotten interested in doing in Jewett when the new school librarian, fresh out of college, called me, me and me alone, to the library one day to give me first chance to read a new book: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I guess she must’ve saw something in me no one else did at the time. That was my first book book, but I didn’t start reading another one after that, and then another one, didn’t do that mind-altering thing whereby you have the constant companion of books friending each day of your life. That’s the fire Bucky wanted to start, and to help do that, he gave me a copy of The Call of the Wild and a lot of encouragement, and then I was hooked, and from then on I had a book I was reading. The next thing he did was make a big deal every time I used a word of more than two syllables. He’d clap and carry on such that I began to make an effort to improve my vocabulary, for that validation, but it didn’t take long before I no longer wanted to sound ignorant, and I not only made an effort to use bigger words but also to get rid of the East Texas accent.

It wasn’t long before he began to work on my racism. He’d correct me when I used the word nigger, and he’d challenge my stereotypes regarding the differences between Blacks and Whites. He didn’t stop at race but defended gays as well when, as boys my age often do, I bashed fags, and he even had sympathy for pedophiles, who at that time were just becoming the undefendable monsters they are today. What he wanted me to see, or feel rather, was someone’s humanity, but he never put it in those terms, was not actually an intellectual or very sophisticated thinker, wasn’t even very sensitive, could be quite the macho male at times, especially when I ceased being a little boy and became an arrogant teenager. But Bucky’s humanity wasn’t coming from his mind, or even his heart; it was coming from his developed soul, and it had gotten to just the point of maturity where it could influence his behavior, have him respond to everyone’s humanity with his own. It wasn’t big enough yet to set his world on fire, but he helped light the fire of humanity in me.

That day after the poetry reading I was quite apprehensive, and, in the morning, when Avraham and two guys from the studio crowd came walking up to the fountain I was sitting on, which was in the center of the square in front of the studio, I figured the studio had already been visited by whomever sent the young man to the reading. They sat down around me on the circular bench it formed, the fountain dry. To my surprise no one had come but Avraham and the two men who were upset about the Hitler poem. That’s when I found out Avraham had only read a couple of the poems I gave him to read before the reading. It seemed he hadn’t even gone over the titles. The other two men lived there in Safed, but I forget their names. One lived with his wife right next door to Avraham’s in a small apartment, and I never learned where the other one lived, but he was the most vocal and conservative of the crowd there, although he wasn’t listened to much because he was a B Actor, the kind of person always in the center of things trying their best to be a mover and shaker but was never able to move or shake anything very much, that I saw at least. Give him a A for trying, and for being willing to engage me about the particulars of Judaism, and also for being a lover of God.

B Actor did most of the talking. He kept repeating that I was hurting people by reading that poem, because there were many Holocaust survivors living there. The other two agreed but said little, although Avraham piped in, in a disapproving voice, “but you did it anyway,” when the subject of not using the word Christ but mashiach came up. My defense wasn’t explaining what the poem was really about, which wasn’t Hitler. He was just the example of the most evil man in the whole world, or at least the Western world, that I was using as a stand in for me and the process of repentance I went through after being run out of Gaberville. I had this feeling I’d hit a well of world pain, and the Hitler poem just flowed effortlessly out of that. I thought at the time that was the epitome of inspiration, but I had no idea just how inspired one can be in the writing of a poem. This was before I heard the muse. The poem is about the denial of pain and deals with Holocaust denial as a result of the denial of the pain of the people who did the evil, represented in the poem as Hitler. It shows the process whereby Hitler (or me) comes to recognize that the pain he feels is the same he caused, and in that recognition, he redeems himself.

The Reincarnation of Adolf Hitler

The look of cruelty moves
from off my face
as Hitler repeats itself.
Born again of the Human Race
of which I was before,
I show you now my secret self,
the one you know as Thor.

I am quite really a made-up man,
with a hammer, and a hatchet,
and the whole damn clan,
or was, was I, way back when?
Here it is I reveal
the secret which
will make me real.

I suffer.

The pain I feel I confess
is the same within your breast.
Now sitting in the dead center
of the very cyclone
of pain itself,
I’m not mad anymore,
at anyone,
not even me.

The quiet lightening looks of blame
move from off my face
as darkness redeems itself
and lights up the whole damn sky.

B Actor and I had been having an ongoing argument about anger. It was my adamant view, expressed in the poem, that it fits into the formula of being the way we shield ourselves from pain, every single instance of anger. While he agreed we used anger to protect ourselves from pain, he was equally adamant there was a such thing as righteous anger, such as what God feels towards the wicked. As this was before I encountered the thought of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, I didn’t have a very good sense of just how mind-boggling, multi-leveled, how infinitely varied within each level, nature is, and therefore how impossible it is to pin down to any given formula, the vast complexities of God nature especially.

There are, of course, other causes of anger and instances where it’s the right thing to feel, such as when we’re being blocked from doing something we genuinely need to do, and we use the force of anger to remove the obstacle, but it’s not my aim here to list the possibilities of anger. What is, however, is to hon in on B Actor’s example of righteous anger, that it’s what God feels towards sinners, or, more specifically, the Jewish God feels, and it’s quite the can of worms and cuts into the quick of the nature of the divine house represented by Judaism, at least in Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation, and not only Judaism, but Christianity and Islam as well.

First I should say that Sri Aurobindo differentiates divine anger from human anger, calling the former the rudra energy, or wrath, and says it’s something a human feels extremely rarely, despite how often people claim to be expressing what they call righteous anger, because it’s of a very different nature than human anger, which carries a person away and has them say and do things they’ll regret later. For the divine it’s a force they use that does not use them. So when he says the divine aspect or ideal of the Jewish God is wrath, it’s not human anger he’s talking about but divine, although he explains Jehovah, or whatever name is used, is not the highest form of the divine or of that attribute but the lowest, in divine terms, and closest to us, since it’s that lowest tier of Overmind we’ve contacted and what’s made our world’s religions, what’s constituted civilization, thus far.

Put in illustrative terms, the Jewish God (the God of every religion on earth) has his abode on the lowest plain of Overmind, where the attributes, or ideals, of God are the most separated one from another and the most primitive in expression, meaning the least integrated into oneness among the tiers of Overmind. That it’s also the tier we first made contact with, naturally because it’s the lowest one and easiest to contact, and it’s the one from which comes the world religions, even the ones not housing the divine attribute wrath, or even any personality God, as its world expanding ideal, means we are in for staggering change in our interpretations of God when we begin contacting the higher plains of Overmind, which, well uh, you see happening here in this book, peace be upon you.

The change that concerned me at the time, and when I wrote the Hitler poem, was in how we deal with wrongdoing and those who do wrong, because I’d done wrong, and even when I identified with the worst man in the world, or who was shown to me as that growing up, I could see that something more was going on than an evildoer is just bad and everyone else good, and the only thing to do with us was get rid of us, either by running us out of town, locking us away, or outright killing us, with as much hatred and anger as righteous people could sum up. It seemed to me that all the anger and hatred in the world heaped on someone who did wrong didn’t do any good, did the very opposite, didn’t stop wrong in the world but made it worse. That means all the Hitler bashing wasn’t stopping strong men from arising and having their people do horrible things to other peoples. It was time, I felt, we looked at people like Hitler, and people like myself, differently.

Sitting there with them at that fountain, I had a real sense of what I’m writing here now, and that’s why I was posting my poems in the powerful places I was, to help bring about this monumental healing change in the fundamental way we deal with human evil and wrongdoing, for myself of course, but also for the world, for you too. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the change we need to undergo goes all the way to God, how we see God and in what terms.

I didn’t feel I was hurting people by reading the poem, although I knew I was offending some. B Actor and the others seemed so illegitimate to me for using the word hurt instead of offend, which was for emotional effect, and when they said it, they lowered their voices and painted their eyes with being hurt, for effect. I felt the same way about substituting the word Christ for mashiach, that it was illegitimate. This wasn’t a shul but an art studio, but I didn’t substitute words because I was just stubborn. I didn’t because I just forgot to, caught up in the rush and thrill of reading my poems. I wasn’t remorseful though, since it changed the meaning of the line: Christ meant the Christ in everyone, but the Mashiach meant the Messiah only for Jews. Besides, it didn’t alliterate.

Surprised at their lack of understanding at what the poem meant, which I thought was as clear as day, and surprised that they were acting like the very people they were afraid of, the ones that got David’s shul keys taken away, I came at them from the perspective of oneness and healing, and argued that, even if it ‘hurt’ a concentration camp survivor to hear the poem, it wouldn’t be harmful to them but healing, since they would never be healed completely until they let go of their anger and hatred at Hitler and his henchmen and recognized they were those people too, shared identity with them, because oneness was our underlying reality, and when they recognized that, they would be in a better position to understand why they were hurt by them, which was because those people were in denial of their pain, and so projected it, not because they’re the inhuman monsters they’re being made out to be, but because they are so human, and we as individuals and as a race are not yet the ticket.

Of course what I said sounds so much better said here. I couldn’t articulate the ideas that well at the time, but I wasn’t talking about forgiveness as we consider it, which is what we simply pronounce we give that to someone because it’s what we think or have been taught we should do, not something we give because we understand why they hurt us, which inevitably has more to do with their being in the role of the one being hurt, in a past pronouncement, at a time they were most vulnerable, than with us, which means it really isn’t personal. When we understand that we do what forgiveness means at heart and in our hearts; we let the hurt go.

But not every evildoer hurts others because they were hurt, since nature doesn’t rigidly follow any single formula in her works, what I didn’t understand yet in my argument with B Actor and the others. And that would mean there are people walking around who just like to do evil and inflict pain and have had nothing evil directly done to them their entire lives, or nothing that would even remotely resemble the harm they’re inflicting. I’d imagine they’d be a rare exception to the rule, and what can you do but chalk it up to the genes?

I think we can do better than that, although genes probably are a factor, as are other factors in the equation of human evil, namely two: the work of the will of the Hostile Powers upon that person, who are the origin of evil to begin with (stomp, stomp, stomp), and, because of our underlying oneness and shared field of consciousness, the work of the will of humanity upon them, which thinks and wills the worst ills upon its fellows at any given moment, the will of ‘good’ people with their righteous anger included as the bad will acting on the bad person, the actor, the manifester, what such a person would be picking up on to pick up a gun and go try and kill everybody, or a bomb to blow everyone up, or a knife or a penis to cut people with or whatever. When we understand those hidden forces prompting the will of the wrongdoer, we are well on the road to healing human evil, but until we do, even if we understand the cycle of pain, or of abuse as it’s called, we haven’t even left our street.

Why it seemed the melody plunged there:
Nurchia never showed up.
You’re not grating this right.
Room with locking. [heard in a loud, official female voice]
He has little boy with him.
He nurtures that little boy.

This is special circumstances.
No problems here.
It only seems so.
A good couch,
it makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
It’s got keys on it.
It’s refreshing.
They did it together;
they brought the world down
to it means something more
than a parent-child relationship.
This was were the world breathe.
This had moon in it.
It carried you toward the Sun.
It was Excalibur.

They just lay there
so softly intertwined,
a love that grows both knows.
He kept that kid all night.
They slept together.
Wonderful how much room.
They keep the years together.
It’s happenin’.

They know how to deal with each other
in all our moods.
This is closeness knows boundaries.
They get along together.
I don’t see any reason to keep them apart.
Now, wash your face.
I don’t think you know mountains,
or understand science
in your living room.
You go there,
and I take you your shorts.

How many people say cheese here?
How many people want to molest the child they live with?
Can you count how many do?
Come on now, see science.
Let’s give an example that works.
Let’s show the world how to do it.
Let’s make them know they’re okay
and give them means to get okay if they’re not,
show the way.
You know you can’t control them.
They’re anonymous figures.
Now experience
group panic
because you can’t count these figures.
I’m destination.
I’m where you breathe.

I’ve got the world by the gun.
You can see my horn.
I’m a figure in time that knows what’s best
where intimacy and I meet the world.
You give the world this.
They need to know it can be done.
They need to know it’s possible
when they affection that child right.
there’s worms here.
You have to control yourself,
and it’s very hard to do
if you’ve gone down there a few times.
One thousand dollars,
the will it takes
to control yourself.
This tempts you,
puts you in harm’s way.
You need to know how to stop.

The spreading feelings generate
a permissive attitude.
You just what the fuck.
No, you just maintain control
in those spaces
generate permissiveness.
We’ll show you a gun.
There’s jack-in-the-box.
Just shoot the fucker right there.
Don’t let him linger,
grinnin’ at you.
There’s where you’re in trouble.
Don’t entertain thoughts
that have sex with that child.
Don’t get drunk or be high
when you try this at home folks.
Substances weaken will.
Now are we clear on that?
LSD enhances the effects of the abstinence
in the long of its yard,
if you’re there for that.
That’s the yard:
you don’t trip with the kid on your knee.
These are aftereffects.

And I must warn you,
stay away from fantasies that masturbate
when that child’s not there.
You’re makin’ it happen.
I think the teacher stomps their foot
to say this is on the test.

You can manage this.
You love that child.
They are like a warm springtime,
that know no boundaries,
or if they do they can be easily crossed.
Just bask there
in their warm sun,
a protector of their vulnerability,
a champion for them,
what they need.
Oh they trust you so much,
are so eager to learn the world
and think you give it to them
on golden shoes.
They want the best from you.

They can’t seem to see themselves
in the larger world.
They play with mice,
unaware the social stare.
They can’t get hurt so easily.
They can be bruised.
They know the score
in the sexual in the room,
and society doesn’t believe that.
They can feel your need.
They get into it,
and it’s not because they’re bad.
It’s a human need sex,
but you don’t recognize that yet.
We just appropriate it.
I don’t think we just let ‘em at it.
Can you understand my science?

I’m really showin’ you the world.
I’m tough on stuff.
I’m sorry if that offends you.
Your blindness just costs us so much.
Child to child
is where we draw lines.
That’s their explore time,
and they need it,
boys and girls,
or how it mixes most times,
those boys do it together,
and those girls do it together.
It’s such a joy of childhood, you know?

I think we give them space to do it,
away from us.
If you’re inclined to children,
seeing this kills yah.
Can you understand?
They have their rights.
It’s all on the table.
It’s so loud in there.
They do everything,
just clumsy and fun.
They can’t reach inside with the military equipment,
if you know what I mean,
but they do try.
Society blocks this.
Society don’t know what it’s doin’.
This is dangerous to block.
You’ve never seen so many sexual diseases.
This is awful.
I’m countin’ you some.
Do you just hate me for it?

Am I sleazy?
I might be cleaner than you.
I might be here
to give you a hand,
and I’m really here,
just ask my Rottweiler.
Now that’s a kid I love,
so helpful in things like this.
Who knows a dog’s use?
Who can see their pride?
They’ll help you with children.
They really will,
just by being themselves.
They get in-between everything.
They want the lovin’.
They can back you up,
and they are so sweet doing that.
A child substitute they can be,
a big dog especially,
and genitals never even come up.
You learn how to love.
Wow, what they can teach you about good affection.
I don’t think we know them for that.
They’ll get between you and that kid,
and you just let them,
and you and that kid have a love feast on that dog.
Everybody’s happy.
Giggle laughs come from all sides.
You know the laughter of healing.

I’ve shown you my dog,
and I think we have five.
All on the bed it’s a pile.
And I’ve shown you how to get out of trouble,
shown you how to be human.
Don’t get mad at me.
Employ me.
I’m here for that,
and you know,
this is a one man operation.
No one’s advising me
except the stars
and my own soul.
Can you hear that?
I give ground guidance
peanut butter.
Please take it.

What’s you gonna do,
take me out of the picture,
put me down,
put me behind bars,
kill me even?
I am so vulnerable you know.
Who’s protecting me?
Gauge that.
You think men protect me?
I’ve been here a long time
singin’ on the web,
a boy in my lap.
What’s keepin’ the authorities from me?
It’s a tight squeeze you know.
They can knock on my door at any time.
Live with that,
and hear me calm with that,
doin’ my duty.

What’s keeping them at bay,
or has up until this moment?
Is that your fingers?
Come on,
why aren’t you pressin’ buttons of alarm?
Granted some do,
or at least I would think so.
I’m givin’ you somethin’, aren’t I?
I have a voice from beyond.
I’ve got a love voice.
I’m really putting myself out there.
I’m an educated man.
I show you the world.
I make you question yourself.
I’m not out to punish people,
only make them see their hypocrisy,
and I do that with kid gloves.
You hear my voice.
It’s got ways in it.
I’m sweet aren’t I?
I know what’s up.
I can tell you about it,
and I’m not a laborious bore, am I?
I’m just heavy,
a deep, long read.
Hear I am
lookin’ for it,
the world hears my tale.
Will you be my friend?

9 o’clock,
it’s the Earth Mom,
liftin’ the world out of its mire,
putting people in their right places.
We score that here,
and that’s the tide.
It’s normal.
It’s the position God has for us.
It’s where the stars are.
It’s right here in your pocket.
Let’s see it.
NItish on his way to school, photo by me

Next post:

Chapter 9
The Back of the Bus

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