Israel 1984

ISRAEL.  1984.


1 Aug 1984. El Al Airline in route to Tel Aviv. 

high agitation after ordeal in airport… grill… surrender of 140 shillings to 2 officials (money directly into pockets, not exactly circumspect)…  why, I ask myself, echoing one of the stern El Al inquisitors, am I going to Israel? I don’t even know where I am going in Israel… I don’t even have any friends in Israel… well, no matter, somehow I ended up in 1st class & I enjoyed quite a decent meal, sloshed down with a difficult red wine & multiple cups of coffee, and capped with tasty little chocolates, all to the happy effect of placating me… also my first green olive (the evening is therefore noteworthy)

a time for recollection — always involvement, always engagement, a species of passion — endearing perhaps, or not — a strength? why then do relationships seem strange? friends do not know me, though I don’t say they need to — have I lost something of value?

2 Aug 1984. Kibbutz Lochame’i-Hageta’ot. (Ghetto Fighters Kibbutz — founded by survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1949)

lazima kwangu kuandika kwa kiswahili kwa sababu kuna watu hapa kama watoto ambaye hii wata labda — siku kwanza…  nafikiri nitapendeza, lakini…  (kwa mfono) kuna mtu moja tu ambaye anapenda kusoma


4 Aug 1984. Beit Lochame’i Hageta’ot (Ghetto Fighters Museum)

  • Ardyn Halter paintings — ornate gothic German calligraphy superimposed
    • lebensraum (“living space” — Ger. euphemism for expansion, conquest & expulsion)
    • fremd — “foreign, strange, exotic” — Nazi: “alien, un-German, undesirable”
    • entfernung — “distancing” — euphemism for annihilation
    • aufraumung — “mopping up”
    • Janusz Korczak: “My life has been difficult but interesting. In my younger days, I asked God for precisely that: ‘Give me, Lord, a hard life, but let it be beautiful, rich & inspiring.'”
    • Zyklon — poison containing cyanide, camouflaged as insecticide — prisoners given “soap” (a soft stone) & led to the gas chambers
    • Max Bueno de Mesquita  b. 1913, survived Auschwitz
      • “My Sister Kitty in the Gas Chamber” (cubist painting)
      • “The Number Which Survived” (his number was 151876)
      • Elsa Pollak – Auschwitz 5170 — black elongated sculpture
      • Miriam Novitch — museum curator


10 Aug 1984.

a hundred half-songs

and I cannot say why

is it terrible to be lost?

11 Aug 1984.  Zefat (Safed) — on the back of Stefano’s gray Vespa

  • Artists’ Quarter
    • Judith Gallery
      • Ben Avram, Jerusalem painter
      • allusive
      • acryllic, ink, oil, water color
  • Glicenstein Museum
    • “Moses”  (cf. “David” — big hands)
    • “The Wandering Jew” — Christlikeness
  • Isaac Lichtenstein
  • Nimrod Castle — Crusader castle in the Golan Heights — through a Druze village — climbing over crumbling walls after the castle had closed
  • spiritual quality of Jewish art — cf. Hindu art, though latter far more stylized


12 Aug 1984.

  • meanwhile the volunteers play truth-or-dare at the pool — how big is your dick? how often do you wack off?
  • “Shakespeare is overrated,” opined the 19-year-old. He fancied Kurt Vonnegut & Harold Pinter.
  • interesting to see a friendship crumble and perceive the inevitability of it from the beginning
  • the charm of Square One… are the other little squares illusory?
  • we’ve our secret relationships, attachments of special significance to us that no one else perceives … they sustain… & then they are gone
  • a poet has nothing to say… how beautiful
  • such a fearful thing to be out of one’s element, but we learn


13 Aug 1984.

Disco in the Bomb Shelter — men dressed as women & vice versa — said of me by a cockney lass, “ee looks feminine even with the bloody beard!”

14 Aug 1984.

cottage cheese & chocolate milk & cucumbers

15 Aug 1984.

at the museum — Miriam Novitch:

  • “To me these little children are as beautiful as the most beautiful Madonnas of the Italian painters.  And they were killed.”
  • “They went to the showers expecting water to come out, & it was gas.”
  • “I’m not popular in the kibbutz. I have to go & get my leg worked on, but no one wants to take me, they say I talk too high things about the Holocaust… I understand, it was too horrible, it left a mark, left a mark on me, I talk about it too much, maybe I am wrong & they are right…”


Sophie’s Choice at the kibbutz cinema… a kibbutznik woman behind me wept & left early… another complained that it was offensive to make such a story about a Polish woman

there is humor and sparkle

and madness and wit

but let a few suffer less because of you

and then die in peace

20 Aug 1984.

pleasant dreams have done their work

we cannot presume to discern the correspondence of things…

but yes we smile at our intuition

the gradual dawning of poetry

23 Aug 1984.  Nazareth. with Stewart Campbell

the gods once favored me with their anticipation

& they have turned routinely to other things…

what sort of path should it be for me

were I blessed with their attention?

let me concede with a tentative smile

my incapacities & persist

in the great sadness & joy of wandering

25 Aug 1984.

did you hear the river sound receding

as we walked

or was it something else…

you see it is all very difficult

I have not yet grown so old

tell me something that occurs to you

and we’ll pass the time in telling

or would you rather scribble lines with me

I’ve the paper and the pens

27 Aug 1984.

I have seen the difference in myself & felt the premonition of difficulties.

2 Sep 1984.  Jerusalem

the Old City… the Arab Market… the Church of the Holy Sepulchre… Dome of the Rock

in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, at the lowest level, kneeling to read a Latin inscription on a tomb — a man in monk’s garb says, “Forbidden! You not go there! Forbidden! The Devil down there! If you love God, not go there!”  He then embraced and kissed me.

“What’s love got to do with it?”  –Tina Turner

3 Sep 1984. Jerusalem

Dead Sea — effortless float, amazing bouyancy

-Jaffa Gate Inn, chatting with friends but speaking to the girl in the adjoining room, an ordinary evening in Jerusalem

4 Sep 1984. Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock… chiefly blue with green, gold, yellow, brown, white… capped by the awesome golden dome… Arabic calligraphy in white

Gethsemane Church — at the base of the Mount of Olives… dark, holy, comforting, ancient… what a church should be… Mass

-top of Mount of Olives

Pater Noster Church… Lord’s Prayer plaques in many languages

Dominus Flavit Church… open window at the altar looking out upon the old city of Jerusalem

Russian Church of St. Mary Magdalene

King David’s Tomb

Holocaust Museum

-at a popular bar in the old city, two lovely French girls… & I happened to be reading Proust… then, neither of them ambled over & said, “I see you like Proust…”

12 Sep 1984

i have seen into myself & the secret there is no great matter… what is at the core? bits & pieces, remnants of this & that, banality… absurdity is a glamorous word, the stuff of garish philosophies… there is nothing of absurdity at the core of things, nothing so dramatic, nothing so self-inflating… if there were, then i would breast-beat and belly-ache in peace & imagine myself at various lonely pinnacles discovering marvelous depressing absurdities… but one simply sees banality and carries the matter no further

13 Sep 1984

reading Proust… discovering a new order of beauty, a new standard by which to assess all beautiful things… reading single paragraphs & lingering…

Israeli folk-dancing… I’ve such a weakness for beautiful dancers…

“Grace is given by God. All else can be learned.”  –Nijinsky

15 Sep 1984

some days I wouldn’t mind dying… some days I would mind

graceless myself, but for the little adaptation to the stream of things i have learned, i never fail to experience a singular quiet ecstasy in the presence of true grace

16 Sep 1984

a perceptive person knows of a wicked self-disgust… is it some evidence of maturity to manage a casual self-loathing?  tedious subject…

stringing together moments of self-forgetfulness

20 Sep 1984

here is this vast silent thing, the night

but is it silent?

or does it murmur

recollections of last nights —

atmospheric observations and such,

a hundred thousand things

to squeeze the minutes out of time

22 Sep 1984

parked on cubicle Earth

weary search for middle souls

souls that distract me since

I am the people who best distract

25 Sep 1984

reading Proust, listening to another rehearsal of Hebrew folk songs, thinking of… (how I long to write it, to speak it)

27 Sep 1984

to speak of deep affection, etc.

music alone

so many solitary moments

force the final moment prematurely

but it is nearly what i should have wished

(how will she react?

lovely silent thing shuttling me

to and from the moment)

2 Oct 1984

dream: on a horse after skipping dining room work in the evening; raining; me & someone (?); she (M) jumps on — immediately throws away my Roget’s I’m reading — feeling of confusion & release

8 Oct 1984

from a letter home:

…Where was I? Yes I shall be here a little while longer… Incidentally, I’ve found de-goil-a-me-dweams… a lovely young Israeli girl named Mikhal (July 4th 1966), so far in advance of her years on many levels, but a child at heart like me, my twin soul if ever God designed such a creature. Everything she has uttered in her halting English might as well have issued from my own soul. We have the same peculiar views about God, about relationships, about the arts, about the tedium of group mentalities, etc. She’s a lovely dancer & has a beautiful voice… & though she’s an independent creature & a source of strength for others, she has that sweet longing for tenderness & honesty with which I am intimate. And she does the most wonderful things… like urging me to read aloud my favorite poets, like writing letters instead of coming to see me if she knows she needs to write letters, like asking me to explain all my little pictures from home, like walking around the kibbutz at night with me & talking about a hundred things that make the world seem right, like loving my little cracker-box room (my room is always me… people who don’t realize that fact don’t realize much of anything interesting to me). Ah well, et cetera. I should emphasize that I am not in lerv, harboring as I do an aversion to whining, pining, illusory distractions… well, I do the occasional pine, but chiefly I string together lovely moments… my circumstances satisfy me… there is nothing of splendor here, nothing extravagant — merely simplicity. Of course I cannot avoid the inevitable petty conflicts of community life, nor do I manage any better here than elsewhere my difficult moods, but really, careful scrutiny of pros & cons is a tedious thing when one is simply essentially happy.  I’ll be off.  Mikhal is sick and I must scout about for flowers. Isn’t that absurd? Yes Ken, that is absurd. After which, another evening of Beethoven, brandy & amiable conversation with my culture vulture pal-buds across the way.

Toodles loved ones,


[I told Michal sometime in this month that one can either write a poem or live a poem, but not both.  I did not write anything more in my journal while I was in Israel.]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: