Posts Tagged ‘Zoë Patrick’

My amazing Miłosz legs

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

legs3Can poetry matter? At a time when poetry is put on subway signs and the backs of buses, in a desperate attempt to show its relevancy to our times, I decided to vote with my feet. Or rather with my legs.

Okay, okay … I know it was a bit naff. But when I saw poet Molly Fisk‘s Facebook post about a woman in Israel who makes Emily Dickinson tights, I knew I had to have a pair. But given a choice among poems to choose … with myself as a sort of billboard… what could I do?

The international package arrived a few days ago from “Coline” in Netanya – elegantly wrapped and tied with a red ribbon. Black letters on dark gray tights, in a photo taken by my artiste daughter, Zoë Patrick. (Here’s the link for Coline’s magic tights – here.)

What did I choose? Who else but Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz! It’s poet Jane Hirshfields favorite poem, and soon became one of mine – she reads and discusses the poem in the video below. Not the usual thing to have on one’s legs, admittedly but it’s a great poem for the middle-to-the-end of life, and a great poem as we roll into a California winter. So here’s what’s written on my legs (translation by Robert Hass):


The pungent smells of a California winter,
Grayness and rosiness, an almost transparent full moon.
I add logs to the fire, I drink and I ponder.

“In Ilawa,” the news item said, “at age 70
Died Aleksander Rymkiewicz, poet.”

He was the youngest in our group. I patronized him slightly,
Just as I patronized others for their inferior minds
Though they had many virtues I couldn’t touch.

And so I am here, approaching the end
Of the century and of my life. Proud of my strength
Yet embarrassed by the clearness of the view.

Avant-gardes mixed with blood.
The ashes of inconceivable arts.
An omnium-gatherum of chaos.

I passed judgment on that. Though marked myself.
This hasn’t been the age for the righteous and the decent.
I know what it means to beget monsters
And to recognize in them myself. …


Read the rest here. Or listen to Jane below:

Badass birds for Christmas … and not for your dinner table.

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Piero Francesca’s … the new, improved version…

During my online rummaging before the coffee and the Nexium kick in, I ran across this intriguing article, in time for Christmas: “The Surprisingly Badass Birds of the Bible, written by Debbie Blue, author of Consider the Birds.

picassoRemember that it was a dove that brought back the branch to Noah?  And a dove descended at the baptism?  And Pablo Picasso‘s dove (left), often used for a generic Christmas card image? Cancel all those mental pictures of fluttery white birds, symbols of peace and love and every good thing.  Now Ms. Blue tells us we have it all wrong. The bird referred to is most likely a “rock dove,” commonplace in Palestine and indeed everywhere else – not white, but gray, with an iridescent green and violet neck. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  And a bit familiar …

I’ve always liked pigeons, with their gentle coo, their tendency to flock together for company.  So in honor of this new revelation, the Book Haven has commissioned our favorite artist … alright, alright, it’s my daughter… to recreate Piero della Francesca‘s famous mid-fifteenth century painting, “The Baptism of Christ.”  Of course, a pigeon hovering over one’s head brings more nervous associations to mind … we can’t help that.  The women at the left of the painting look understandably anxious.

vultureBut what are we to do with T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”?

“The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.”

A pigeon doesn’t quite evoke the same juxtaposition of mercy and terror, fragility and force.

There are more problems. According to Ms. Blue, the Hebrew word “nesher” is usually translated  as eagle, but most scholars agree that it’s probably a “griffon vulture.”  Wait, wait… don’t jump to conclusions. Blue insists that vultures are “some pretty badass creatures”: “They are remarkable purifying machines. They take care of rotting remains that could otherwise spread diseases. They have uniquely strong digestive juices that kill bacteria and nasty pathogens. The Mayans referred to the vultures as death eaters. This struck them as a good, godlike thing. It makes sense. We need something to eat death (digest it, rid it of its toxicity). Vultures stare death in the face and fear it not at all.”  I’m not so sure they’re all that grand.  According to Wikipedia, “It grunts and hisses at roosts or when feeding on carrion.”

Un grand merci to Zoë Patrick for the adaptation of Piero della Francesca, and try to get your head around this clip from 1981’s Chariots of Fire. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles” … and try not to think of the grunts and hisses as they dismember a deer carcass.