Spring Poetry Special

Poetry is not my life

Ferllenghtti sits perched atop the bathroom radiator
And I savor a page every time my body recycles
Thanking God for the openings and the hollow places
And the subtlety of uncapitalized letters

Though a dozen boxes of notebooks with scribbled fragments of verse
will crush you if you attempt to open my closet door
Poetry is not my life
Though there was a time
When I left my cozy air conditioned world
rode a beat up bicycle to the dangerous part of town
Picked through dumpsters to find relics that spoke truth
Searched for poems in the broken glass under the train tracks
Talked to old folks, bodies reeking of ten varieties of decay,
Untreated wounds festering, discolored,
Rotting teeth clicking a different rhythm for each tale,
The young people called me ain’t from the ghetto
And that, too, I made into a poem

Poetry is not my life
What is?
Let me begin by saying that I’ve changed a thousand diapers
A real man changes a thousand diapers
But my beloved changed two thousand
So I best not open my mouth
Poetry is not my life
I pay bills for natural gas
I insulate the attic – it’s itchy
I work in front of a computer screen
I wash out the thermoses from the kid’s lunchboxes
Poetry is not my life
Thank God I have money
I like those English water crackers with a slice of fancy feta cheese
And my children have health care coverage
And I can do my laundry in machines in my basement
When you have too little or too much
Money plays with your mind
Since I have some money
Poetry is not my life
My life is taking the shortcut through the tire store parking lot to catch the train
My life is trying to change the world by making minor adjustments
My life is trying to get my kids to finish their Cheerios
Oil changes
Dental appointments

And though I wish I could end with graceful poetic irony
Poetry is not my life

- Daniel S. Brenner


On Alzheimer's

Rev. Jim Forbes from Riverside Church tells a story about his Father:

When 'Bishop' sat in the nursing home, his mind rattled by demensia, he was called by the nurses "Praise the Lord" -- Why? Because whatever happened he said "Praise the Lord" lunch - PTL, blood drawing time - PTL, light on - PTL, light out -PTL. As the 'dust was shaken off' -- as his memory slipped away and he turned to the 'winter' in his life (with the leaves falling off the tree) his trunk and roots were still soaking in the light of God's presence.

Then Forbes read Psalm 139, emphasisizing the angry screed that comes in the penultimate lines. "That anger," he said, "was for the moment when "praise the Lord" left his mind and he lay confused before dying.

This was one highlight of the Alheimer's Conference today at Auburn.


A Muslim - Christian Delegation Vists the Rabbi

Last week I hosted the following three folks for a lively lunchtime meeting:

Dr. Antoine Messara (Lebanese Christian) is a professor at the Lebanese University Department of Communication, and is the general director of The Foundation of the Lebanese Association for Permanent Civil Peace in Lebanon. Antoine established The Foundation of the Lebanese Association for Permanent Civil Peace in Lebanon during the civil war in Lebanon by bringing Christians and Muslims together. He is active in issues related to democracy, human rights, and Christian Muslim relations. Antoine has many articles addressing the issue of democracy and co-existence.

Samir Morcos (Egyptian Christian) is the former associate general secretary of Middle East Council of Churches. He has consulted for the Coptic Center for Social Studies, Al Fustat Center for Studies and Consultations, and for The Unit for Citizenship and Dialogue in Cairo. Samir has written multiple books in the area of development including: The State of Civil Society in Egypt: Preliminary Observations and Future Possibilities; and, Civil Society in Egypt: From Dormancy to Action-The Struggle over the Civil Associations Law. He is currently writing a joint study entitled Civil Society in Egypt: Challenges and Future Prospects, as well as a critical review of development concepts and practices in Egypt over the past 50 years. Samir was awarded the annual prize in 2004 of the Norwegian Academy for Literature and Freedom of Expression.

Nadia Mahmoud Mustafa (Egyptian Muslim) is a professor in the political science department and on the faculty of economics and political science at Cairo University. She has taught the following subjects: The Evolution of International Political Relations; Political Development; Arab Foreign Policies; Contemporary Global Issues; Islamic Political Thought; Arab World in International Politics; and Theory of International Relations. She has also written multiple books, including: Strategy of Islamic Cultural Activity in the West, and Developing an Islamic Perspective to the Study of International Relations: Dilemmas of the Experience of Teaching and Research.

Highlights included Samir speaking of the Darfur crisis as a battle between China and the U.S. for resources. I ended up spending twenty minutes or so after the public program engaging in a debate with Nadia, who dismissed all "grassroots" efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. "Peace must come from the governments above! How can the occupied speak with the occupier!"