Wednesday, August 20, 2008


It's closing in. November.

I often wonder if I am doing enough in my own world to change the political scene... A separate entry to follow on that, but in the meantime, here's a poem I wrote based on our experience at the start of the Iraq war. In the aftermath of dejection that followed the elation of the San Franciso peace march, we fled to Amsterdam for a week. The poem is modeled after a Ruth Fainlight poem. Her poem below too.

Amsterdam Bar, March 2003
(after Ruth Fainlight's “Handbag”)

The Amsterdam bar, dark at noon
crowded with people from anywhere
some, like us, trying to escape
the news of war. The smell of the bar: wood
and smoke and something like electricity.
Elbows leaning, fleshy buttocks edged
to the seam of high stools, all of them
doing their best to push aside
the loneliness of being human
at the start of the twenty-first century.
The looks on the faces of those others,
alight, then fallen, then hopeful,
read, and refolded so often.
Faces I see every day and will never
see again; the flash of CNN on the TV
monitors over our heads, we had to strain
to look, our necks in knots. Odor
of long wood burnished to a glossy finish,
gin and smoke, which ever
since then has meant strangers,
and love, and anguish, and war.

Handbag by Ruth Fainlight

My mother's old leather handbag,
crowded with letters she carried
all through the war. The smell
of my mother's handbag: mints
and liptsick and Coty powder.
The look of those letters, softened
and worn at the edges, opened,
read, and refolded so often.
Letters from my father. Odour
of leather and powder, which ever
since then has meant womanliness,
and love, and anguish, and war.

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