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Selkie Girl by Jessica Shirley with kind permission
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Haiku My Heart: "Abrazo"/ Photo by Michael Ioanidi

Abrazo by Mikhail Ioanidi

 A Cold Rush of Wind
Invites the Warmth of Embrace
My Gift to Myself.
--Noelle Renee

     I remember, as a child, spending a lot of time alone. I was often shy and took great pleasure in reading and in writing poetry. It was difficult for other children to understand. At the age of ten, I wrote a poem about a brown and white spotted cow named Bessie and submitted it to a section for children's poetry in a local newspaper called The Pasadena Star News. It won first prize of $25.00. It was a huge achievement for a ten-year-old; one can only imagine. Even now I have not forgotten what pride I took in seeing my poem about dear Bessie in the newspaper. When I see the photo of this beautiful child with her arms about herself, with such open joy in her face, I think of the little gifts, like this,that we can offer ourselves: a memory of one great day that somehow encompasses much of who we are and evokes that of which we are truly capable. 
     Billie Holiday (née Eleanora Gough McKay) had a very difficult life and her phenomenal talent and legendary recordings remind me of the inner strength and profound beauty of the human spirit. I give you Eleanora Gough McKay, the indomitable "Lady Day" singing "Embraceable You." Give yourself a hug. 

–Noelle Renee (all rights to Haiku reserved by author).

Ioanidi photo from
Lady Day (Billie Holiday) Embraceable You 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Imagine the Angels of Bread By Martin Espada

This is the year that squatters evict landlords,
gazing like admirals from the rail
of the roofdeck
or levitating hands in praise
of steam in the shower; 

Manila Favelas
this is the year 
that shawled refugees deport judges
who stare at the floor
and their swollen feet
as files are stamped
with their destination…
The Nakba 1948 "Catastrophe"--Expulsion and Dispossession of Palestinians from their homes
This is the year that those
who swim the border's undertow
and shiver in boxcars
are greeted with trumpets and drums
at the first railroad crossing 

Mexican Border Wall Arizona
If the abolition of slave-manacles
began as a vision of hands without manacles,
then this is the year; 

if the shutdown of extermination camps
began as imagination of a land
without barbed wire or the crematorium,
then this is the year; 

Auschwitz Krema
if every rebellion begins with the idea
that conquerors on horseback
are not many-legged gods, that they too drown
if plung
ed in the river,
then this is the year. 

Che Guevara
So may every humiliated mouth,
teeth like desecrated headstones, 
Congolese Woman
fill with the angels of bread.
From Angels in America
In the Arms of the Angel by Sarah McLachlan

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"The Blue Dress" by Sharon Olds

The first November after the divorce
there was a box from my father on my birthday—no card, but a
big box from Hink’s, the dark
department store with a balcony and
mahogany rail around the balcony, you could
stand and press your forehead against it
until you could almost feel the dense
grain of the wood, and stare down
into the rows and rows of camisoles,
petticoats, bras, as if looking down
into the lives of women. 

The box was from there, he had braved that place for me
the way he had entered my mother once
to get me out.  I opened the box—I had
never had a present from him—
and there was a blue shirtwaist dress

blue as the side of a blue teal
disguised to go in safety on the steel-blue water.

Blue Teal
I put it on, a perfect fit,
I liked that it was not too sexy, just a
blue dress for a 14-year-old daughter the way
Clark Kent’s suit was just a plain suit for a reporter, but I

Felt the weave of the mercerized Indian Head cotton
against the skin of my upper arms and my
wide thin back and especially the skin of my
ribs under those new breasts I had
raised in the night like earthworks in commemoration of his name.

A year later, during a fight about
just how awful my father had been,
my mother said he had not picked out the dress,
just told her to get something not too expensive, and then
had not even sent a check for it,
that's the kind of man he was.  So I
never wore it again in her sight
but when I went away to boarding school I
wore it all the time there,
loving the feel of it, just

casually mentioning sometimes it was a gift from my father,
wanting in those days to appear to have something
whether it was true or a lie, I didn’t care, just to
have something.
--Sharon Olds (The Gold Cell)

Father and Daughter (pencil sketch) by Kevin Candon

"I'll Stand By You" from The Pretenders sung by PS22 Children's Chorus

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?
Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), and Jack Haley (Tin Woodsman) in Wizard of Oz 1939

Eva Marie Cassidy (February 2, 1963 – November 2, 1996) was an American vocalist known for her interpretations of jazzbluesfolkgospelcountry and popclassics. In 1992 she released her first album, The Other Side, a set of duets with go-go musician Chuck Brown, followed by a live solo album, Live at Blues Alley in 1996. Although she had been honored by the Washington Area Music Association, she was virtually unknown outside her native Washington, DC when she died of melanoma in 1996.
Four years later, Cassidy's music was brought to the attention of British audiences when her version of "Over the Rainbow" was played by Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2. Following the overwhelming response, a camcorder recording of "Over the Rainbow", taken at the Blues Alley, was shown on BBC Two's Top of the Pops 2. Shortly afterwards, the compilation album Songbird climbed to the top of the UK Albums Charts, almost three years after its initial release. The chart success in the United Kingdom and Ireland led to increased recognition worldwide; as of 2008 her posthumously released recordings, including three UK #1s, have sold around eight million copies.[1] Her music has also charted top 10 positions in Australia, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland.

Eva Cassidy "Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Iguana by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

In the reserve I have sometimes come upon the iguanas, the big lizards, as they were sunning themselves upon a flat stone in a river-bed. They are not pretty in shape, but nothing can be imagined more beautiful than their colouring. 

They shine like a heap of precious stones or like a pane cut out of an old church window. When, as you approach, they swish away, there is a flash of azure, green, and purple over the stones, the colour seems to be standing behind them in the air, like a comet's luminous tail.

Once I shot an iguana. I thought that I should be able to make some pretty things from his skin. A strange thing happened then, that I have never afterwards forgotten. As I went up to him, where he was lying dead upon his stone, and actually while I was walking the few steps, he faded and grew pale; all colour died out of him as in one long sigh, and by the time that I touched him he was grey and dull like a lump of concrete. It was the live impetuous blood pulsating within the animal which had radiated out all that glow and splendour. Now that the flame was put out, and the soul had flown, the iguana was as dead as a sandbag.

Often since I have, in some sort, shot an iguana, and I have remembered the one in the Reserve. Up at Meru I saw a young Native girl with a bracelet on, a leather strap two inches wide, and embroidered all over with very small turquoise-coloured beads which varied a little in colour and played in green, light blue, and ultramarine. It was an extraordinarily live thing; it seemed to draw breath on her arm, so that I wanted it for myself, and made Farah buy it from her. No sooner had it come upon my own arm than it gave up the ghost. It was nothing now, a small, cheap, purchased article of finery. It had been the play of colours, the duet between the turquoise and the 'nègre' -- that quick, sweet, brownish black, like peat and black pottery, of the Native's skin -- that had created the life of the bracelet. *

In the Zoological Museum of Pietermaritzburg, I have seen, in a stuffed deep-water fish in a showcase, the same combination of colouring, which there had survived death; it made me wonder what life can well be like, on the bottom of the sea, to send up something so live and airy. 

I stood in Meru and looked at my pale hand and at the dead bracelet. It was as if an injustice had been done to a noble thing, as if truth had been suppressed. So sad did it seem that I remembered the saying of the hero in a book that I had read as a child: "I have conquered them all, but I am standing among graves.
Isak Dinesen's profound insights regarding the impact of colonial life and culture on indigenous people and their land is elicited beautifully in this short story in several colorful, detailed and deeply moving analogies. Her experience living on a coffee farm in Kenya gave her ample opportunity to gain a conscious awareness of her surroundings and a respect for the people who lived near and about her. She wrote Out of Africa in 1937.

I leave you with Somalian singer, K'naan's song, Waving Flag, as an affirmation of what is both noble and unsuppressable. He is a singer who offers hope to future generations.

Waving Flag by K'naan 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sunflower Songs but no Van Gogh

"If I remember the sunflower forest it is because from its hidden reaches man arose. The green world is his sacred center. In moments of sanity he must still seek refuge there." — Loren Eiseley

Sunflowers for a Friend
Stephen B. Watley


by Loren Eiseley

When the red cardinal comes to the window ledge, I feed him
sunflower seeds that's brought from places that I know
and he will never see:   waste fields far west
drear country that I own
nor can I relinquish it ~ my brain, that is, my brain that holds
this lifetime setting in a city street.  The cardinal lifts his crest
and recognizes
seed he's never seen upon a flower, knows how to split them,
flies off, and presently, it being spring, his voice floats down,
"cheer,    cheer,"
with many other

Sunrise over Sunflowers
Aaeannao Na&#
trills and soft whistles all intent on shepherding
some cardinal lady into this year's nest. The sound
comes down to me. I think upon these seeds now being spun
by some adroit bird magic into notes that move
more than a bird's heart. Oh dear God, how far
the golden yellow of the sunflowers now, far off as youth, far off
by twice a thousand miles, and faces lost
deep in the sunflower thickets underneath the loam.
Sunflowers by Nino
This bird sings on high in the apple tree, the notes sprinkle the ground like petals, like all springs that went awry a score of years ago and twist the heart with sweet blind pain and
unresolved regret I tell myself
it is the seeds that sing, that, without seeds,
the cardinal could not sing, and seeds are brought
up from the leaf mould underneath the dark, formed, shaped
within a flower's heart, encased and strewn
for any bird, like those piano scrolls we pumped at in our youth,
the music sounding
all through the house, so here the brisk red cardinal
sings a bright sunflower song dissolving
Cardinal by Poppy

the sullen silence of this eastern spring. I think this bird a miracle to so transform a seed, but then I think the flower also a miracle and so work down to earth, the one composer no one has ever seen but all have heard."Cheer," I say it on the page, "cheer, cheer," my fingers stiff. I eat one of his sunflower seeds and try
Sunflowers by Jedzer
And finally...
with all this fanciful talk and imagery of sunflowers, there must be music for sunflowers
and here it is...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

(Not) "Above Jazz"

      Billie Holiday
The photo above is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen of  'Lady Day'.
Philip Levine is one of my favorite California poets hailing from Fresno, California. I first heard this poem many years ago and felt then and still do now that it is a poetic description that speaks to the elemental nature of jazz. It is a music  with soul that is so deeply a part of our collective humanity.  The video below is of Bobby McFerrin and Richard Bona doing a wonderful improvisation together Live in Montreal, Canada. Bona is a bassist living in Montreal but originally from Minta, Cameroun and his given name is Bona Pinder Yayumayalolo.

Above Jazz
    “A friend tells me he has risen above
       Jazz. I leave him there. . .”  Michael Harper
There is that music that the hammer
makes when it hits the nail squarely
and the wood opens with a sigh.  There is
the music of the bones growing, of
teeth biting into bread, of the baker
making bread, slapping the dusted loaf
as though it were a breathing stone.
There has always been the music
of the stars, soundless and glittering
in the winter air, and the moon’s
full song, loon-like and heard only
by someone far from home who glances
up to the southern sky for help and finds
the unfamiliar cross and for a moment
wonders if he or the heavens
have lost their way.  Most perfect
is the music heard in sleep—the breath
suspends itself above the body, the soul
returns to the room having gone in dreams
to some far shore and entered water
only to rise and fall again and rise
a final time dressed in the rags of time
and made the long trip home to the body,
cast-off and senseless, because it is
the only instrument it has.  Listen, stop
talking, stop breathing.  That is music,
whatever you hear, even if it’s
only the simple pulse, the tides
of blood tugging toward the heart
and back on the long voyage that must
always take them home.  Even if you
hear nothing, the breathless earth
asleep, the oceans at last at rest,
the sun frozen before dawn and the peaks
 of the eastern mountains upright, cold
and silent. All that you do not hear
and never can is music, and in the dark
creation dances around the single center
that would be listening if it could.
--Philip Levine from Unselected Poems

 Bobby McFerrin and Richard Bona Improvisation (Is this what heaven sounds like?)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Banksy in Palestine

We couldn't work out if Banksy's taging of the Segregation Wall Palestine was 'Cheap publicity from other peoples misery' or 'Publicity for Palestinian misery'? So here is a review from the Intifada.
Well-known UK graffiti artist Banksy hacks the Wall
Nigel Parry, The Electronic Intifada, 2 September 2005
Whitewashing the Wall
In June 2003, I received an e-mail in EI’s inbox from a Nathan Edelson, who introduced himself as “a design critic whose features on architecture have been published in major U.S. newspapers,” which a Lexis-Nexis newspaper database supported. He was writing a story “about architecture in Israel, with emphasis on the new security ‘fence’ which you rightly call a wall.” His request was for larger images of the Israel’s West Bank barrier for study, and explained that “the premise of my article is that one can argue about the desirability of a wall, and certainly where it runs, but if it is going to be built it should not be an aesthetic monstrosity.”
As you can imagine, we get a lot of crazy mail at EI, ranging from the fundamentalist who has for years been weekly mailing Zen-like one-liners such as “Biblical Christianity will one day return to the Holy Land,” to the ex-Israeli soldier who sent photos of him in service across the occupied territories with accompanying narratives of how much he enjoyed mistreating the Palestinians he came across. But somehow, this e-mail from internationally-respected design critic Nathan Edelson won my vote for the most clueless communication that has ever received.
Usually, all correspondents to EI receive a polite response with links to more information. But when a clearly educated person tries to get you to swallow soup with a turd in it, there’s got to be a cut-off point for pleasantries.
“That's a little,” I replied, “like arguing for nice faux painting on gas chamber walls or calling for Martha Stewart torture chamber bed sets. Clearly ethics play no part in your school of design criticism.”
Edelson’s reply was truly surreal. “I could accuse you of having no ethics because you want the security wall to be as repulsive as possible so it will stir up the maximum possible resentment, which will translate into more violence.”
“I care very much about where the security wall runs,” he continued, “as well as how it looks. My upcoming article will hopefully elicit meaningful conversation between the sides based on a joint desire to make a bad thing better, and this can help create the trust which can change not only the look but the routing of the barrier.”
Of course, the second the beautification of the barrier is complete, the Israelis, who bulldozed and confiscated countless acres of Palestinian land to build the wall, cut off thousands of farmers from their sole livelihood and, in one example, surrounded a single Palestinian family home in a mini-wall, will sit down for a meaningful conversation with their new Palestinian friends about the route of the finished barrier! I was also chastised by Edelson for being less than “civil” in my response to him.
“There is nothing you can do aesthetically,” I wrote in my reply to Edelson, “which will make this wall benign. There is no making it ‘better’. Want a big picture of the wall? Here's one attached. Do you think a nice mottled green would help it blend in to the indigenous landscape nicely? Or perhaps some arches and battlements for a more traditional medieval flavor?”
“If you actually intend to actually write an article arguing for this monstrous whitewashing of a visible human rights violation -- and it says so much about the state of ignorance in America that you are even thinking of it or if indeed there is any likelihood any serious newspaper would print it -- I would suggest you first get on a plane and go visit Qalqiliya and Rafah and see the reality for yourself. Speak to the people who live there. See how the thing plays out on the ground.”
“What you propose -- using art to serve the interests of what is a dictatorship for the 3.2 million Palestinians who didn't vote for the system that rules over them -- follows in the footsteps of Leni Riefenstahl and Richard Wagner. While I totally concur with your point about the need for civil responses to civil questions, there was nothing "civil" about your enquiry. It was a perfect example of 21st century barbarism.”
“Hats off to Nathan Edelson, the man who came up with the wonderful solution to a century of conflict: simply paint the cage a new color and watch the prisoners dance.”
Hitler with Leni Riefenstahl (R), an otherwise brilliant
film maker who made propaganda films for the Nazis.
Edelson didn’t give up, and responded one last time, expressing hope for a resolution to the conflict, making a final statement about the aesthetics of the barrier. “I also believe, however, that given any particular routing decision, it is immoral to create any more ugliness than is absolutely necessary.”
Enter Banksy
When I first encountered some of the graffiti art and sculpture of “Banksy” in London several years ago, I was struck by the importance of where his pieces were located. In Banksy’s work, location itself is a large part of the message, a key component of the resulting metaphor. Whether he’s hanging a fake rock pictogram of early man pushing a shopping cart in the British Museum, or installing an amalgam of the Statue of Liberty and Statue of Justice clad as a prostitute at the site of his last arrest, the environment is usually part of the message.
The “Manifesto” on Banksy’s website contains only a diary extract from Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO, who was among the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945:
“It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.”

The Holocaust Lipstick motif in Banksy's art (see above right), which accompanies the text on his website, has also appeared on the streets of the UK and aptly captures the deliberate incongruity of his large body of public work, which highlights and satirizes the dehumanizing impact of modern society and government by disturbing our sense of place and appropriateness.
Familiar images -- the Queen, smiling children, policemen -- are given a dark twist designed to wake observers up from the 9 to 5 rat race -- also a common Banksy theme, typically delivered in person by talking rats -- a rat race that literally itself streams through Banksy’s borderless gallery of streets to make you reassess the structures and symbols that form the backdrops to our lives.
Banksy hacks the Wall

Whereas Nathan Edelson wants to create no “more ugliness than is absolutely necessary”, Banksy’s the kind of guy who prefers to draw a 20 foot high arrow pointing at the ugliness to encourage us to ask why the hell it’s there in the first place.
When I first learned of Banksy's summer trip to the route of Israel’s West Bank barrier, which the artist describes on his website as “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers” -- I knew even before I saw the first image that this was going to be interesting.
How illegal is it to vandalize a wall,” asks Banksy in his website introduction to his Wall project, “if the wall itself has been deemed unlawful by the International Court of Justice? The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin wall and will eventually run for over 700km - the distance from London to Zurich. The International Court of Justice last year ruled the wall and its associated regime is illegal. It essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open-air prison.”
Much of the art he produced on the Wall visually subverts and draws attention to its nature as a barrier by incorporating images of escape -- a girl being carried away by a bunch of balloons, a little boy painting a rope ladder.
Other pieces invoke a virtual reality that underlines the negation of humanity that the barrier represents -- children in areas cut off from any access to the sea playing with sand buckets and spades on piles of rubble that look like sand, and corners of the wall peeled back to reveal imagined lush landscapes behind.
Banksy's site offers two snippets of conversations with an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian who happened upon him while he was in the process of creating the series of nine pieces on the Wall, in Bethlehem, Abu Dis, and Ramallah.
Soldier: What the fuck are you doing?
Me: You'll have to wait til it's finished
Soldier (to colleagues): Safety's off
Banksy is the anti-Leni Riefenstahl and anti-Richard Wagner, reclaiming public spaces as a space for public imagination and enlightenment where they have become propagandistic barriers to thought and awareness, as is the very terminology for Israel's West Bank barrier itself. Banksy's summer project on Israel's Wall stands out as one of the most pertinent artistic and political commentaries in recent memory.
Perhaps the last word, perhaps the clearest answer to the Nathan Edelsons of this world who wish to whitewash all that is ugly rather than change its basic nature, should come from another conversation Banksy reports having with an old Palestinian man:
Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.
Me: Thanks
See full clipRead more at www.briansewell.c