Wednesday, March 29, 2006

recovering notes from the deep

north side pittsburgh circa 1965

cobblestones are hot in the summer
to the point of burning
with a touch
dropping fliers can be dangerous
scooping them up
as we did so many times
but not as dangerous as being ignored

jobs for youth wasn’t just a slogan
my friend ron L called me from cleveland
in the morning
to tell me that hough was jittery
youth without jobs ignored
he said

phyllis found herself that summer
on the north side for a project
with the words of the good doctor
w e b dubois in her rucksack
rebel girls & boys
bureaucratic conformity
the dominating culture
street lights breaking shadows
on restless stoops
at midnight
rolling stone or maybe the marcels
booming from a radio
my hand touched her shoulder
but it wasn't noticed
that i was giving

the iron gates surrounding
downtown fathers
never opened
they told us to stop using jobs for youth
to incite unpatriotic restlessness
better watch who we associate with
didn't know at the time
we were the test bed
for fbi cointelpro
the old white men from grant street
just dispatched more red squad operatives

never said a word
as we turned in a thousand signatures
on the jobs for youth petition

hough exploded the next summer
manchester burned two summers later
phyllis went on to berkeley
the war spun death for many years
the conformists and apologists
ran out of excuses

i still touch the heat
of a cobblestone
when i get the chance

--- e b bortz

(published in The City Poetry, issue 20, Sept 2007)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

earth note 97

still falling down drunk
from last year's binge
swallowed up by
the buds are reluctant
to climb out of bed
sun hides most of the day
chills from a hollow winter
lacking commitment but
nonetheless refusing
to break the habit

--- e b bortz

Monday, March 27, 2006

earth note 96

israel september 1991

i asked a woman
at a crossroads cafe
frazzled in the morning crowd
how's the backroad to jerusalem
pointing to the map in my hand
my quebec campanions gazing through
a sunny front window
french whispers
our bicycles standing together
supporting each other in the courtyard
"many arabs in those villages"
she answered
how's the road i asked again
noticing the workers and customers
packed in at the little tables
rich brown hands and coffee
immersed in hebrew and arabic

only a few kilometers
from a monastery of winemakers
a shalom kibbutz of peacemakers
so how's the road
"i've never been on it"
she said

maps in israel
are purposely obscure
many roads without numbers
letting you wander forever
asking strangers
not that we minded

after a few kilometers of downhill
we turned on to a narrow asphalt road
a simple sign "395" and then a second one
something like 12 kilometers
with an uphill symbol
pine forests covering the hillsides
pushed us in and out of canopies
deep green vistas
rocky loose ends near the horizon

within a few thousand meters
we were all pushing our bikes
steep even for goats
an afternoon sun emptied our water
farmers with olive groves maybe
at the end of the climb?
one passing car in the past hour
we reached the village of zova
a barnyard full of chickens
a water hose offered in arabic
another voice tells us it's almost
rosh hashanah
i should of known that
we listened & drank for an hour
we had much to learn
a plateau in the nick of time

the last leg of the ride
brought us to the jasmine hostel
a crumbling beautiful stone house
in jerusalem
as the sun was setting
the common living room was quiet
a few german & dutch backpackers
in the kitchen
sharing their soup with us
we shared our stories

by midnight
she and i were still on the couch
sinking deeply into the over-stuffed pillows
her traveling mate snoring in the double bed
we needed to make for three
at some point
but right now
our bodies unraveled

merged with the smells
pine forests
chicken coops
cooperatives too extensive to explain here
a simple moment
no past no future

--- e b bortz

Friday, March 24, 2006

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

where are the repentant nader bashers?

you know
the ones that were so quick
to escort the corporate lawyer
forever staining
a voter’s right to choose
they need to drop all derivatives
of the word democracy
remove it from their oblique

--- e b bortz