II. Hugs for Gretti and Sue
In the dark days of this winter we lost two fine poets whose work has often graced these pages. Gretti Izak, who was born in Bulgaria in 1928, passed away on November 28, 2016; Sue Tourkin-Komet, on January 4, 2017. Below are one more poem by Gretti, which appeared in the Voices newsletter in 2015, and one more piece by Sue, sent to us a few months ago. On January 2, 2017, a poetry reading was held in Gretti’s honor at her apartment, with readings of Gretti’s poetry and of tributes by her friends, including the poems by Avril Meallem and Esther Lixenberg-Bloch, reproduced below. We have posted on our website a “retrospect” for each poet, consisting of the poems we have published over the years, and would also like to mention that Sue’s long-awaited book Jerusalem Out Front, Bethlehem Outback: Prose & Poetry will be appearing soon, thanks to the efforts of Batsheva Pomerantz. May their memory be for a blessing, and may their words continue to inspire us.
For the Well-Behaved Children
Saucy mistress that she is today
always looking for a new lover,
Tel Aviv was once a flower child,
innocent and sleepy.
They loved her rolling sand dunes
and the great labyrinth of her pretensions
for weren’t they well-behaved children
from good schools when the scent
of the city was fresh like orange blossoms
in the Sharon valley, purging thoughts
from dark uncertainties,
the Mediterranean roar unheard
because of their dreaming.
Sometimes they’d take a bus to go
rowing on the Yarkon river.
Bencho would maneuver to sit
next to Gretti, Berto and Renny
would double-count the present—
no one should be missing,
none lost to the current alight
with lotus flowers that burnt
signs along the shore,
that spoke to the full moon
in which their reflection was held captive
by the moment, playing hide and seek,
the moment that waited between the waves
to catch and splash them in the foaming river.
FOR GRETTI (in memoriam)
From the trams of Sofia
to velvet galaxies and slivered moons,
you drew us in
with a welcoming smile
to spin in enchanted orbit.
Picasso and petals,
azalea and fuchsia chimes,
silvery Chopin mazurkas,
amongst lace and china
revealed the motifs of your heart,
as shells unfolding on a shore
rain soaked and milky green,
proffered their votive offerings.
Perfumed memories resonated
through the Bulgarian music of your voice.
A rich treasury of words
carved with glorious synergy of love and learning
from nature’s bounteous beauty.
All converged on Jerusalem,
where thirty six righteous men
under the poinciana tree,
must have gifted you
the key to complex harmonies
charged with meaning.
How you opened worlds for us!
Worlds of art and wisdoms classical
that waltzed and twirled
across the stellar continuum
of your thoughts.
How you navigated history,
fused its vicissitudes with line and colour
never averting your eyes
from the human condition,
ever swinging the compass
back back to country and nation.
You warred with war
battled tragedies and loss with erudition,
You spoke to prophets
strong lines of vehement love,
that lit us all,
and took joy
in prising from our souls and sensibilities,
a new birthing
of odes and hymns.
—Esther Lixenberg Bloch
DEATH COMES SUDDENLY
death comes suddenly.
your friend has an illness
you know what the result will be
but it’s not part of reality,
you talk, you have long conversations,
and then the grim reaper comes in a dark coat,
you want to poke her awake
and tell her about it
but you can’t…
—Lois Michal Unger
My Imagery ‘Cave Journey’ Experience (four days after Gretti z’l passed away)
Soaking in a hot bath and thinking of Gretti z’l, I visualised myself entering a cave and waited to see what would happen...
I became aware that I should take the path on the right and found myself climbing down a rope ladder.
Reaching a hard surface, I saw that I was in a long tunnel with a door in the distance.
I arrived to the end of the tunnel. There were doors everywhere!
Which one to choose?
They all turned out to be mirror reflections of just one door.
I opened this door and entered a vast banquet hall lit by elaborate, crystal chandeliers and filled with people, sitting at long tables that were covered with white table cloths.
There were no plates, cutlery, glasses, food or drinks which seemed rather weird, yet there was a feeling of great joy and love.
In the middle of the hall there was a grand piano that was playing music but the pianist wasn’t touching the keys!
My parents and grandparents appeared but they seemed unaware of me.
I wondered if Gretti was here too but I couldn’t see her.
Suddenly a brilliant white light filled the hall, obscuring everything else.
A powerful gust of wind lifted me up and whooshed me away.
I found myself sitting on a huge rock.
There was absolutely nothing else around, no earth, no sky, no trees, just nothingness...
Then I felt a presence behind me, giving me a hug. I guessed it was Gretti but wasn’t sure. Her gold watch was put into my hand (it was too big for her and I had always wondered how it didn’t annoy her being so loose!) so I knew that it really was Gretti.
She said that she can hug me, even though I can no longer hug her, as a human body cannot hug a spirit.
I told her that I can hear her speaking but that it didn’t sound like her voice.
She said that it was because there are no actual speech sounds and that I just know what she is saying.
She told me that she is in a beautiful place and not to worry.
I asked her if I could see her and why she couldn’t hug me from in front.
She said that I can’t see her, but to know that she is all around me and that I am within her.
She continued saying that she will now be the one to comfort me with hugs as I had always done for her. Also that she will be with me when I write from a deep place within myself.
Then she told me that it was time for her to leave to continue on her journey and that I should tell others about all this.
I asked her how I would get back and she said that I just will, and then disappeared.
My eyes filled with tears and then the rock was no longer there.
I was whooshed away backwards, and opened my eyes.
Then I started crying from the depth of my being, overcome both by the awe of the experience and the deep sadness of separation.
CONFESSIONS of a “S. A. P.” = SLAM ARTISTE POETESS
Part of the fun... of “poetry slams” in Jerusalem was wondering what I would encounter: “Yankee” English, British English, Canadian, “Aussie” or real African English or Indian [Asian] English? Or Hebrew or Hindi, Arabic or Afrikaans, French or Farsi [Persian], Dutch or Deutsch, Spanish or Portuguese, or Japanese or Russian or Italian?
Part of the fun ... is where we performed—in the Zusha pub-style candle-lit darkened basement in the Modern Orthodox synagogue Yakar… or... in the T’mol Shilshom [“Yesteryear”] Bookshop-Coffee House-Restaurant first-of-its-kind combo off main-street Jaffa Road Jerusalem. Part of the fun ... [which I “converted” to] was the mock Olympic-style scoring system [started in 1987 decades ago in Chicago] with poetic “gladiators” dueling it out in front of judges. An American invention—poetry slams—imported into Israel, and not by lil’ ol’ me.
Mentioning duels... part of my fun... was my sighting-out or psyching out which new duo’s at the slams might make their combined ways towards standing together under The Wedding Canopy, especially as I’ve been a professional Match Maker since 1971. I’m aware of some eighteen persons, a lucky number in Judaism, who were couples at those slams who later tied the knot. I was at many of those weddings, and a good many children have been born of such duo’s / couples!
Part of the fun... after I’d listened to others read their short stories or imitation James Joyce / Saul Bellow confessional run-on novel-like chapters, in the guise of poetry at slams was to dare to read a RESTAURANT REVIEW of mine written in a Literary and Travelogue Style, de rigueur, causing a modest riot there!
Part of my fun... was my rattling the emcee, brilliant Dr. Mark Kirschbaum, a bone-marrow oncologist [may we never need such treatments] by my occasionally signing up on the sign-up sheet with my pseudonym and when he triumphantly called up a “NEW POET!” and li’l ol’ me perkily slunk up on stage, and he ruefully realized he’d been had, he hit the ceiling, eliciting the normal hysterical laughter that erupted en mass. I’d been attending slams non- stop since 1996 so I was hardly a new poet around town.
Part of the fun... was that much of my poetry is morbid & dead serious, so that when I straightforwardly performed a rare satirical or humorous one, like “GONNA BE A POETRY PERFORMER” it also raised the roof, as no one, myself included, expected li’l ol’ me, then looking 30+ but really becoming 50+ to read and perform “rap” poetry. [I barely knew of the “rap” poetry scene when I started to write a few of my own... ]
Part of the fun... was having “fans” surprise me on the streets of Jerusalem to discuss my poems with me. Once, a towering fan accosted me and grabbed my poem out of my hand, when I went “downstage” because she absolutely had to copy it and email my poem pronto to some Significant Other in the States, and I didn’t even know what email was—then.
Part of the fun is my “reality-show”: a publisher’ll cut me a deal over coffee, cake & poetry?
ELEGY FOR A SLAM ARTISTE POETESS
Sue, when it came to confrontations you were not evasive.
There were times when I was tempted to consider you abrasive.
You got a mean kind of cancer and fought it like hell;
On more than one occasion you fought with me as well.
You wrote slam poetry, a genre which drives me up the wall,
though I had to admit your stuff had energy and plenty of gall.
But it was you of all people who tried to locate
a filmmaker who’d make a movie about my weird fate
and when I sent you my craziest piece of lit—
a Wuthering Heights type story told in the form of textual crit—
you actually read it and said something about eighteenth-century prose,
showing there were sides to you that I hadn’t supposed.
The last time I saw you was at the reading at my place.
You stayed after and read some traditional poems aloud with feeling and grace.
At the funeral they told about many acts of kindness you’d done.
I guess the “abrasive” mask shouldn’t have fooled anyone.
There were many it didn’t fool, the funeral drew a good crowd.
Now that you’ve gone upstairs, I hope your voice is still loud
and you’ll give them the edge of your tongue until, just to have some peace,
they’ll send Mashiach already. Then with tzaddikim you’ll feast!