Long Look

Long Look
Small alef; poetry Vayera 1

Walk away from the story;
Take a ride on the moon
look at the whole story from without –
G*d’s-eyes;
Long Look.

Blessings
Curses
Deceit
Alienation
Resistance
Argument
Righteous wicked
Sneaking off return
Ambiguous resolutions
Black fire white fire
Spoken not spoken
Mess not mess
All G*d.

G*d appeared
The story is G*d –
All G*d, all over.

jsg, usa

A vision of prophecy or in a dream — Rambam, The Guide of the Perplexed, II:42.

An opening of eyes – Ramban in his Commentary on the Torah.

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Vayera
Maqam* Nawah

Nawa: C D E flat F sharp G

Small alef poetry Vayera 2; I Will Bless You

I Will Bless you

I will bless you and increase you as the earth
as the sands of the seashore as the sea,
look at the algae now
and the horseflies buzzing over your face.
I will make you as great as the horseflies, as the algae,
look up now to the sky, you will be as great as the stars
as the darkness too, you will be as great as the darkness.
As the sand and the sea and the stars,
the mud and the dark and the green,
the sticky stuff on the surf, the horseflies,
the the and the and
the early rains and the later rains
the mud the mud the green the sand the dark.

“And God appeared to Abraham” (18:1)

and said nothing.
Appeared everywhere.

jsg, usa

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Vayera
Maqam* Nawah

Nawa: C D E flat F sharp G

Every Shabbat has a maqam* associated with it, a musical figure. Maqam is cognate to Hebrew maqom = Place.

Dream of America

American Dream

Wednesday, Eid al-Adha
Wings Over the World
An American Airline

In the airplane, somewhere over Kentucky, I shivered to read that this trip coincides with the Feast of the sacrifice, Eid al-Adha; Ibrahim ready to slay his son Ishmael until an angel interceded and substituted a ram. There are two references to it in the Koran. Good sign? Bad sign?

In Baltimore, there is a good sea smell in the air and clarity in the intention of the citizens. The veil of isolation had descended and I couldn’t find the words to ask how to get to DC. I stood in line for a taxi, third in line for a car, a guy asked:

“Taxi – where to?”

“Washington DC.”

“$10,000,” the guy said.

I was about to climb into the car when I was snatched away by one of the secret guild of guitar players, carrying his as I do mine in a case over his shoulder.

“There is a cheaper way to get to DC,” he said, “whatta you playing?”

We exchanged guitar information. He took me with him onto the shuttle to the MARC (Maryland Aficianado Rolling Chemin) train, near the airport.

“How much did they tell you it would cost to get to DC?”

“Ten thousand dollars.”

“They can charge you whatever they want if you go that way. Here’s what you do. Take the shuttle to the train, then take the train to Union Station. At Union Station, you can get a cat. Cats are cheap on Capitol Hill, all the Socrates have to take them so they make it game, but step outside of the zone, it’s going to cost you ten thousand dollars.”

He was chewing on something furiously.

“Thank you.”

I was imagining how a cat was going to get me around DC, special deal for the Socrates in Congress, just how many Socrates are there are in Congress? Some sort of large domesticated Capitol Hill cat.

The shuttle came, I got on, squeezed in, placed my guitar on the rack, my new friend nodding in approval.

We drove through a construction site that turned out to be the train station.

There was a blonde young lady standing next to me, exceedingly pretty in a central European proletarian kind of way (wrong hair – cut too square around an already flat face), and a hideous looking man in a bad leather coat trying to make conversation with her. I descended from the shuttle.

“It’s that stupid hat,” the guitar player said to me looking at the top of my head. “Everyone will take advantage of you in that hat. . .” I knew he’s correct.

I took a train into Washington, DC. I sat in the food car and drank a cup of coffee, spread my papers over a large table, and began writing this story. It started in Italy, on a train that felt to me just like this one.

Union Station. The station is beautiful in the style of train stations where my mother awaited my father when he came home from the War. This station is done up in the turn of the twenty-first century gentrified style, dozens of locations to drink the sophisticated cappuccino, a variety of flavored yogurts, leather stores, etc.

Thank God outside there is still a madman in the plaza in front of the replica of the Liberty Bell singing at the top of his lungs. “It’s your love,” he is howling, “it’s your love, it’s your love, it’s your love. . .”

14th St. and Avenue M
Thomas Circle
Washington, DC

The meeting had been hastily put together. Government work; the organizers were planning an expansion of the work their way when the President’s directive came down. It sent them all scurrying to interpret just what the President meant.

There was a document, but that’s all there was. We all read the document; it actually sounded, in places, as if the President wrote it himself. I could hear him speaking. In other places, there is clearly a documentary hypothesis to account for the various voices. Everyone at the meeting seemed to have been completely surprised by the President’s directive. Now – what did it mean?

“Why doesn’t he just tell us what he means?” asked one of the participants.

There are some participants who are completely distrustful all government motivations. “Maybe they are simply pushing the problem entirely into our hands,” said one participant. “They don’t want to take it on anymore – too hard – they want us to do it.” That’s an angle I hadn’t thought of before.

“Well, I would like to know just what he means,” spoke another. “I am feeling he definitely leans toward my personal definition.”

Silence. I raised my hand.

“I would like to register the opposite opinion.” I sat down. There was an uncomfortable rustling in the room.

“So registered,” said the chief.

The Night Before
Dupont Circle

It was a good walk from the hotel. It felt cold, though my friend who works for the DNC (Don’t Never Curse) said it was a pleasure after last night, which was bitter cold.

We stopped in a nice bookstore, Kramer’s, for a look and a coffee. The Primo Levi book that had been eluding me for four book stores still elusive.

The macchiato was good. We left Kramer’s and headed for the pre-meeting. I wondered but not too much how it was going to work out.

The host really hadn’t done the preparation, but I promised to meet up with some friends from the old neighborhood.

Crossing a street near Dupont Circle on the way to the meeting, my friend took me aside and told me in a Washington DC insider’s voice several commonly known facts that clarified the last twenty five years of American history more than all the hours I had spent pouring over the beloved New York Times. I made a mental note to spend less time on newspapers.

It was a good meeting.

Afterwards, I sat with my old friends in a van in front of the hotel and talked about many wondrous, charming, and tender notions, some about our pasts, some about our present state of holy suspension, some about our legacies. It was luxurious to be closed in a Chrysler Corporation cave with loved ones from the homeland, in Washington DC. I returned to my room in the hotel about 12:30. I couldn’t sleep the entire night.

Next day
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

I snuck out of the meeting, avoiding a confrontation in the lobby with the guardians of faith. I didn’t have the patience to make the obvious arguments. There was also something of the irony of having to assert my freedom to believe an alternative notion in this place, Washington DC, at this meeting organized by my government to help its citizens with ideas that were in no way theoretical.

I left the meeting and went straight to the White House. I practically ran there.

There were signs of construction all around the White House. I stood on the East Executive Drive. All of a sudden, there was no one there. Not even foot traffic. Across the sidewalk was the Treasury Building, also under construction, and another replica of the Liberty Bell. A herd of long dark Chevys were hurrying in and out of the gate.

All the gates opened magically for the fleet of Chevys.

Of that experience, nothing else can be said at this time other than I have an interesting pair of new cufflinks.

I was told that in the Oval Office, there is a bust of Lincoln that when rotated throws a shadow that looks exactly like President Nixon.

“Does that mean there is only one President, many incarnations?” I asked someone.

He laughed, “you’re a mystic.”

“All rabbis are mystics,” I shot back, smart-alecky. He thought that funnier than I could have imagined.

I elected to walk back from the White House to the hotel. I stood in front of the White House for a moment and stared through the gates at the splendor of it. I stood there dreaming about all the beautiful ideas that were built into that building. Several African visitors came up to me and asked me if this was the White House.

“This is the White House,” I said, opening my arms and sweeping the scene behind me, “isn’t it beautiful?” All of us had tears in our eyes as we stood on the sidewalk in the gathering dusk staring up through the gates over the lawns, peering at it rising in the distance, the lights not yet illumined.

“Yes,” said one of the Africans,”it is the most beautiful.”

It was coming on dusk, the sun finding its way home in the west, as I walked through Lafayette Park, McPherson Square, Franklin Park. Everywhere there were dignitaries sleeping on benches with large fluffy gray blankets, white trim.

This is a great country, I sighed. Not three blocks from the White House was a palace underworld sleeping peacefully on benches, angels attending the gathering night, independent of the dreams of the NASDAQ and the scurrying officialdom making their way home around them.

Everywhere on the street back to the hotel were legions of night gentle men and ladies, camping around with their bed bundles and bottles, asking for alms, some sleeping already though it was not quite dark, some squabbling with each other in front of the pharmacy, one clutching a couple of crystals of precious crack cocaine drawing on it through his fist, the same America ascendant and descendant dis-empowered and gentrified, one nation.

I returned to the hotel, and took a taxi to the airport. It was driven by a Muslim man from Mali. We talked about the sacrifice of Ishmael.

“I made it in my heart this year,” he said.
“Me, too.” We rode in silence for a while.
“I went to the White House today,” I told him.
“Ah, so beautiful.”
“Yes.”
I told him about the Africans I met there, standing with them, gazing at it.
“Yes, it is like a dream for us.”
“Me, too.”

We continued on in silence through the night, in love with the same dream of America.

James Stone Goodman
United States of America

We Are Always Leaving; small alef poetry/lecha lecha 1

We Are Always Leaving

We are always leaving our father’s house — [Gen. 11:31]

My father took me as far as Haran
Harry – I am leaving Haran
for you
and me.

Lecha lecha — go, go for yourself
leave your past your name your mistakes —
your inherited enmities;

go to a new land
that I will show you.

And we go
as G*d speaks with us.

Maqam Saba
Sabi: baby boy
D E half-flat F G flat

Something Partial; Small alef poetry; lech lecha 2

Something partial
missing
broken –

chaser;

In Abraham’s generation
what only the future could repair.

Children of Abraham
all the Isaacs and Ishmaels of the future:

Go forth and make a path for your children;

Everything that happened to them
will happen to you. [Bereshit Rabbah 40:6]

From atop Ezekiel’s chariot
Avraham saw and understood everything.

Amen, he whispered.

Maqam Saba
Sabi: baby boy
D E half-flat F G flat

Save Everyone; small alef Noah

Enter the Word

Noah entered the Word
Come into the teivah [Gensis 7:1]

He merits the word
Because he was pressed;

G*d loves the pressed —
The persecuted
The partial the incomplete
The wounded –

This from the Midrash. [Leviticus Rabbah, chapter 27]

Come into the Ark, enter the Word
interpret the world.

Become a tzaddik in loshen
righteous in language —

Save everyone.

jsg, usa

Makam Sigah tri-chord
E half-flat F G

Every Shabbat has a maqam associated with it,
maqam is cognate to Hebrew maqom = Place.

Kohelet, chap. 10

Chapter 10

Putrid dying flies
Corrupt the perfumer’s oil
A little foolishness corrupts honor:

The heart of the wise on the right
The heart of a fool on the left:

Stay firm
I saw some evil under the sun
Some error anyway:

Slaves on horses
Princes walking like slaves
Rich sitting in low places
Stay your place:

Your land is fortunate with good rulers
Nobles
(They eat and drink at the right time):

Be careful what you say
The birds of heaven carry your voice
You may be betrayed by winged creatures:

jsg, usa

Small alef; poetry Bereshit

No Beginning No End

This is the beginning and the end
As if the linear does not apply
It’s a circle a cycle a spiral
We ascend with the ending of Deuteronomy
We begin Genesis
The end implies the beginning
By the beginning we are not naïve to the end.

Ouroboros, the self-devouring serpent
By Plato the first living being [Timaeus, 33]
Self-reflexive
Turn it and turn it
For everything is contained within

By Yochanan Ben Bag Bag [Avot 5:22]
Who knew the chambers of the Torah. [Tosefta Ketuvim 5:1]

There is a life force
A point existing within each thing
A sign of divine origin
When you attach to this point
You become partners in creation
It is generative. [Sefat Emet on Genesis]

Ha-chayot she-m’cha-yeh chol davar
The life force that enlivens every single thing
It gives life.

You who attach to it
Ha-adam ha-di-buk b’ne-ku-dah zeh
The human being becomes glued to this point.

When we meet
We are so bonded —

In the deepest place
No beginning no end —

Center.

jsg, usa

Maqam Rast C D E half-flat F (Rast on C)
Similar to the Arabic Ras
Hebrew Rosh
The beginning of Bereshit, Genesis Shmot Exodus
And Vayikra, Leviticus
(not always Bemidbar , Numbers
and never Devarim, Deuteronomy
the Shabbat of Vision, the Sabbath preceding Tisha B’Av, requiring Hijaz).

Kohelet, chapter 9

Chapter 9

All this I laid into my heart and to clarify
Everything is in G*d’s hand
Love, hate, what we don’t know, everything:

Everything comes to them as it comes
One standard
For the pure the unclean
One who gives one who doesn’t give
The sinner the non-sinner:

So there is madness
And wickedness
Great evil done under the sun
One Matter
Then we go to the dead:

Alive there is hope
We know we are going to die:

Love hate all under the sun
Eat joyfully drink
G*d has you already:

Wear white
Anoint your head with oil:

Enjoy your life with someone
All the days of your life of penumbra
G*d has given you under the sun:

For that is your portion
You toil under the sun

If you have the strength to do
Do it
You’re not taking it to the grave:

I returned and saw under the sun
The race does not belong to the quickest
The conflicts to the strong
The wise don’t eat better
They don’t get rich
The rich are nimcompoops
Time and fate overcome them all:

A person does not know when —
A fish caught in a net
A bird in a snare
Death falls upon us:

I have seen wisdom under the sun
And it seemed large to me:

There was a small city
And Few people in it
A great King came upon it and
Surrounded it
And built great walls:

And there was found a poor wise man
And he saved the city through his wisdom
But he was forgotten:

And I said,
Wisdom is better than big shot-itis
but the wisdom of the poor
Is despised and not heard:

The words of the wise are heard
When spoken
Quietly
Softly:

Wisdom is better than weapons
And one dummy destroys
Much good.

jsg, usa

Kohelet, chaps. 7 and 8

Chapter 7

Better than anything a good name
Get familiar with the house of mourning
Laugh into your seriousness:

Let someone smart take you down
Better than the love of fools;

Fools’ words —
A breath:

The ends better than beginnings
Patience:

Learn to avoid anger
You become a fool:

The days of old
No better than these:

Wisdom is good when connected
Toward the sun:

Wisdom means life
G*d’s work is good
You might not straighten out the crooked
You straighten out yourself:

In G*d’s eyes
A day of good
A day of adversity
The same:

After Me
What will you find?

I have seen everything in these days of a breath
Righteous perish
Evil prosper:

Don’t be so righteous
Think it through and
Let G*d be G*d:

Wisdom gives strength to the wise
More than all the big shots
And you’re not such a big shot yourself:

What was is far away
Laid deep
Who can find it?

I look with my heart
I have found with my heart
Said Kohelet
Add one to another:

What my soul sought —
A man
A woman;

I found
I did not find:

G*d made me straight
With crookedness:

Chapter 8

Who knows the meaning of a thing
Wisdom lights up your face:

I am ready
Give me the commandment of the King concerning
The oath of G*d:

Stand in front of G*d
Don’t say anything:

Know time and justice
You have no notion of what will be:

I saw all this
I gave myself to the work under the sun:

I saw them all come and go
They will be forgotten in the city
This too is a breath:

There is a breath on the earth
Good suffer Wicked prosper
I say, this too is a breath:

I raise joy
There is nothing better under the sun
Eat drink be merry
To Be accompanied all the days G*d has given
Under the sun:

I won’t find it
The deed done under the sun
What it means
What a wise person claims to know —
I can’t find it:

jsg, usa