Beads; Sleepless #12

We Were Thumbing Through the Beads

With each bead
Calling out one of the ninety-nine names;

Marking the cognates
In our languages –

Ha-Rachaman Al-Rachim
Allah Elohim —

We were praying
The names of God;

We could tell our story
Any way we liked;

And we could lose ourselves
In each other;

We could die to ourselves
And be reborn in each other.

jsg, usa

Sleepless; #12

We Lose Everything; Sleepless #11

We Lose Everything

We lose everything
Every day of war;
When it’s over we compare Losses.

Welcome treaty makers;
Have tea together
Drink from unremarkable white cups.

We can make out the cognates
In our languages
Without translation.

Consult the silence
The name beyond names —

I am Nothing;
In Nothingness —
May be Our only Salvation;

Pitiful codifiers of names, said the Prophet,
If you were thirst if you were hunger
Your waiting would save the world.

jsg, usa

Sleepless; #11

Big Hands; Sleepless #10

Big Hands

Big Hands gather us up
We are good held by them

And then we are waiting
Good waiting

And righteous
Because we are patient
And because we are patient —

Something happened around us
That would not have happened
If we weren’t so

And yearning good —
We are full with hunger.

jsg, usa

Sleepless Series #10

Peace on the Edge; Sleepless #9

Peace on the Edge

Everything has a dual nature
My heart is two
Our prayer place is built of two
The meeting of two worlds like a city joined together
If only we could make the peace prayers properly
The world would be redeemed

Master of all the worlds
All the prayers are peace
Drip drip dripping
But the words have no lift

The lower worlds are bestirring themselves
The Great Heart of the World longs for peace
We are waiting for the true persons of compassion
You know who they are
We are yearning for peace
the silent peace, the true peace

May great peace flow from the upper worlds like a fountain
It will be beautiful
Like our lies

But for now
Save us
For a few more
Twenty four


jsg, usa

Sleepless; #9

Occupation; sleepless #8

Occupying Enemies

What is this certainty —
you speak a truth
I counter with a correction
before we fling missiles
we speak our certainties
to each other.

When we make peace
I will discard everything
every single thing I believe
as will you —

I will become you
you will become me;

We will climb into each other’s skin
invade each other’s territory
when we return to ourselves
we will remember everything
we saw and felt —

It will be a peacemaking of the highest order
me forgetting who I am
ignoring myself entirely
shedding my skin;

Occupying your soul
your soul occupying mine.

jsg, usa

Sleepless #8

They Came Back From the Dead; Sleepless #7

They Came Back from Dead

They came back from dead
Three of them

Which three

Three of the greats.

Which one first?

What difference does that make?

One of them came first
One came second
One third.
Which ones.

They came together
All three of them
They were holding hands
And they all squeezed through the same doorway
In the sky.

No they didn’t.

My mother came back
She came back carrying a shopping bag
And she said this:

It’s the most awful
And you must stop.

She came from the other side
So everyone listened to her.

We believed her and she said it
Again and again:

War. Stop.

We expected Moses or Jesus or Mohammed
But it was my mother
I told it just as it happened.

jsg, usa
Sleepless Series #7

Sleepless #6

Jeremiah’s Plan for Peace

A new agreement
a starting over always
My teachings shall I place
in your deepest root –
in your hearts.

I will be G*d
you will be human beings
we will each live
up to our dream
of one another,

Certain knowledge
no one will blame
accuse or intimidate –
everyone will know Me,
from the littlest to the highest
starting now.

The past –
entirely forgiven.
I have forgotten it
we will cease calling it
it is now
– the future.

Who lights the fires of the future?
Who writes the stories?
The sun by day
The passing of the moon
the lights by night
who stirs up the Sea?

If you can measure heaven above
search out the earth below
– just as likely
I will abandon you.


jsg, usa

Behold, the days come says G*d
– Jeremiah 31:30 ff.

Sleeplessness Series #6

Sleepless #5


The Chiliasts are praying for the utter destruction of interlopers
they pray they arm they dispatch their rockets
when the war was brokered by the army of God
beyond the border.

Secret ascent hidden in descent
cockeyed optimism
pray for the redeemers
every day the saddest day of the year —

The holy man has miracle stories to tell
miracles are happening at every moment, he says.

The refugees say —
God has brought us home
God will protect us.

They walked across a continent to arrive here —
God must love us, they say,

And in one of the nicest towns this side of the border,
— see that guy bowed in the sun in Chassidic black?
He used to be the stage designer
for Frank Zappa.

jsg, usa
Sleepless Series #5

In Spain With the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
August, 2006

It’s past midnight and we are trying to decide on a plan
some of us ready for tonight’s rehearsal
some withholding —
Beethoven’s Ninth.
Most of us haven’t the strength for it just now.

We have brought our politics with us into the practice tent
the original dream of our collaboration corrupted for now
we don‘t have to agree — on that we all agree —
still, we are stuck, unsure how long.

Our project is called Divan in Arabic Diwan
a compilation of music or poetry.
Our ensemble takes its name from Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan*
his last great cycle of poetry —
Goethe himself inspired by the divan of the Persian poet Hafiz.

*The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said in 1999. We are not generals or politicians, we are musicians. We are not solving even our own problems, much less the world’s problems.

We are hosted in Spain, Andalusia,
the president of Andalusia* remembers the Jews, Muslims, and Christians
who lived in his part of Spain,
one thousand years ago
a kind of Golden Age.
He remembers us for them.

*The president of Andalusia and maestro remind us of our history and our vision. We are musicians from different sides of the wall, we might not have gotten to Beethoven’s Ninth this year, nor the Leonore Overture No. 3, nor Mozart’s sinfonia concertante for winds, Bottesini’s Fantasia on Themes by Rossini, nor Brahm’s First Symphony.

There are 92 of us in the orchestra
we have written a statement* that we break out
every concert: there is no military solution
our destinies are inextricably linked
our project stands in sharp contrast to the cruelty and savagery of the present war.

*Still – seven of us voted against it but it stands, our little declaration of principle.
It stands for the peace we seek through music – one of our violinists said,
you don’t have to agree on everything to be friends. We live on different planets –
this has opened my eyes.

Said maestro,
if there were no conflict
there would be no need for our project.

I hear the strings warming up —
here in Andalusia the night is stale.
Past midnight
are we going to play?

sleepless for peace, #4

Beyond the Fence

My Friend Beyond the Fence

My friend beyond the fence
Calls it a Wall

We will turn all walls into fences
Then our children will sit with each other over Ful M’dammas
Sweet tea
Strong coffee

I will speak with Farid al-Atrash playing in my mind
Umm Kulthum singing through me —

Whenever you speak
I will listen for the musical Shlomo

What if I told you
I am you

What if I felt that way
And we had no history
At all

jsg, usa

Sleepless Series