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I have just returned to Israel more tired than I can remember in a long time.  Due to Ms. Irene, the hurricane, not me, my flights were all canceled.  No, I was not stranded in paradise.  I was stranded in Chicago.  Three days were spent in alternating phases of work-absence-anxiety-and-catch-up AND having a lovely time seeing friends with whom I didn’t otherwise have time to spend.  Now home.  To a scary and very exciting month of work.  I took a moment today to look up some favorite poems.  Calm before the storm.

For Laughs:

You’ll Drink Your Orange Juice and Like It, Comrade

By Ogden Nash
There’s a Cyprus citrus surplus
Citrus surplus Cypriotic.
No Sicilian citrus surplus
But a Cyprus citrus surplus
Not a Cyprus citron surplus
But a Cyprus citrus surplus
Not a Cyprus citrus circus
But a Cyprus citrus surplus.
It’s a special citrus surplus
“Just a surface citrus surfeit,”
Says a cryptic Coptic skeptic.
But the bishop in his surplice
Certifies the surfeit citrus –
In his surplus Sunday surplice
Certifies the cirtus surfeit
Who’ll assimilate the surplus
Siphon off the Cyprus citrus?
Sipping at the citrus cistern
Who’ll suppress the Cyprus surplus?
Says the Soviet to Cyprus,
“Send us all your surplus citrus;
This is just a simple sample
Of Socialist assistance.
Should you show a similar surplus
In the simmering summer solstice
Send a summons to the Soviet
For surplus citrus solace.

Now on Cyprus they’re all reading
Victory by Joseph Comrade.

One of my all time favorites is “Lanyard” by Billy Collins

A fantastic montage made to the recording of “Man in Space,” by Billy Collins

 

On a more tender note:
The following poem is by A.E. Housman, a fascinating person – revered classics scholar and popular poet. A dear friend once inscribed a book to me with this poem, and I’ve never forgotten it.

It is no gift I tender,
A loan is all I can;
But do not scorn the lender;
Man gets no more from man.

Oh, mortal man may borrow
What mortal man can lend;
And ’twill not end to-morrow,
Though sure enough ’twill end.

If death and time are stronger,
A love may yet be strong;
The world will last for longer,
But this will last for long.

Alas, I really have to go to bed. 2 am. Jet lag has to be beaten somehow. And so I bid you adieu with these words of Robert Frost‘s:

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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From the folks at Wordsmith, the creators of the “A Word A Day” emails that make my mornings:

Moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions. The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., novelist (1922-2007)

This quotation is from Bluebeard, the Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988), a novel by Vonnegut, well before the internet explosion.  I haven’t read it, but it’s on my list now.  I put this up as my facebook status, as I often do with interesting quotations, and I received a lot of attention and “likes.”  A lot of us must feel this way, maybe as a generation.  Useless, underachieving, struggling, uncreative.  I’ve felt this way.  After the “me” generation, mothers telling us we’re all brilliant, the world is our oyster.  I think the key in getting by in this world, perhaps in achieving any sort of true, lasting happiness, is in letting it all go.  Perhaps we’re all brilliant in some way.  But it’s a fact that not all will be famous, wealthy, beloved by millions, respected by experts, world champions, successful inventors, world leaders, mountain-movers, saviors of humanity, and the like.  As it always has been.  Why should this be a source of suffering?  This doesn’t mean we need to settle into mediocrity.  Not at all.  We can all be participants, do important things, whether they are small or large, whether they are noticed or not.  I’ve not been feeling too well, in many ways, not that it needs to be mentioned.  In this time, I’ve watched a ridiculous amount of West Wing re-runs.  Brilliant writing, intelligent, insightful.  Watching it, I feel both proud and ashamed.  It’s a show about people making a difference.  Yes, people in positions of great power and sway, but moving, grooving, and improving nonetheless.  And here I am, in the act of watching it, doing nothing.  A great democracy, and I watch, complacently.

Need to remember: small things, small steps, patience, and not to drag myself, my self-worth into the mud.  Also known as letting go.

This has nothing to do with anything, I suppose, but this poem makes me deliriously happy.  Joy.  Small pockets of joy.  We are all the heroes of our own lives, the happy geniuses of our households.

Danse Russe

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,–
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,–

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

William Carlos Williams, (1883-1963)

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is a joy forever.

Dried flowers on a blue plate at my artist friend Diana's studio in Haifa.

passed this window on Dizengoff yesterday afternoon...two beautiful women, or what?

my sister's gorgeously demolished birthday cake resting on a sticky table beside a bottle of Finlandia and cans of Red Bull in a posh night club.

finally got a halfway decent martini in tel aviv - trick is, you really have to say - "very very dry, very very cold, gin martini with two olives in a martini glass, please."

one of my favorite images. it almost seems a dream i was ever there, communing with baby cows on a goan beach. but i was. and it was really that beautiful.

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