This year's Purim doggerel

Gallows humor can be lame. And
Dangerous, too. (See under: Haman.)
But what did his ten sons* do wrong?
"Their names rhyme! Put 'em in the song."

פּורים: אַ באַגרעבעניש די שׂונאים!
מאָגן: אַ קיכעלע מיט מאָן אים!
הלכתא רבתא: עד דלא ידע!
די איבעריקע: יאַדאַ יאַדאַ יאַדאַ!

Happy Purim from Zack, Celeste, Blanca, and Micah!
אַ פֿרײלעכן פּורים פֿון שלום, סעלעסט, בײלקע, און מיכל!

*And 70,000 innocent others.


What's that you're reading?

The below isn't mine. It's an excerpt from an article Why Live Without Writing by a famous German poet I've never heard of called Durs Grunbein, translated by Michael Hoffman and printed in the newest issue of Poetry. Except there is no such person, Durs Grunbein. There is a person "Durs Grunbein" whose "u" has an umlaut, but I don't feel like putting it in.

In his diaries, Hugo von Hofmannsthal brings up the story of a German officer in China who, following the Boxer Rebellion, participated in a penal expedition:

The officer sees a line of men sentenced to death, standing in a field. With his sword the executioner goes from man to man. There is no need for his assistants to tie or even to hold down any of them; as soon as it’s the next man’s turn, he stands there with feet apart, his hands gripping his knees, his neck stretched out, offering it to the blade. One of the last in line, still some way from coming due, is completely immersed in a book. The officer rides up to him and asks: “What’s that you’re reading?” The man looks up, asks back: “Why are you bothering me?” The officer asks: “How can you read now?” The man says: “I know that every line I read is something gained.” The officer rides to the general who has ordered the execution, and begs him for the man’s life for so long that he gets him off, rides back with the written acquittal, shows it to the officer in charge, and is allowed to go and take the man out of line. Tells him: “You’ve been acquitted, you’re free to go.” The man shuts his book, looks the officer in the eye, and says: “You have done a good thing. Your soul will have profited greatly from this hour”—and he nods to him, and sets off across the field.


If you read only one article on health care reform...

...then you've probably read it already, or you're never going to at all. But in case you haven't found that one article, hie yourself to The New Republic. There Harold Pollack has some clarity on the relationship between universal coverage and improved mortality
would universal coverage make people tangibly healthier? You betcha.
but says something else even more important:
there are other ways to save thousands of lives that are much more cost-effective than expanding health insurance coverage. We systematically neglect these other opportunities.

"With all that's forgotten I've long been obsessed": some of my obscure preoccupations online

A selection of my poetry in Yiddish and English is now available on-line through the good offices of Andrew Firestone of Melbourne and the site Yiddish Poetry. Recordings of someone else reading these poems will be uploaded soon. Please comment!



I inherit
all knowledge left unwritten with martyrs
jokes that float to the edge of the glass
and pop, forgotten.

I speak ritual
storing emotion
for the controlled explosions
fusing life and death.

A thousand words from everyone,
each singing and dancing,
a little drop
in my labyrinthine neuroscape.


The government of Israel mourns Sutzkever...not so much

Jeremy Dauber wrote a lovely piece for TNR (the print version only, it seems) about Sutzkever, though he skipped lightly over the problematic relationship between Israel and Yiddish:
To be the Yiddish poet of the State of Israel, winner of the Israel Prize and institutionally supported by no less than the Histadrut and Zalman Shazar, is no mean accomplishment, at a time when a commitment to “the negation of the Diaspora” and the negation of its mother tongue were standard procedure.
Nice use of the past tense, that ("were standard procedure," indeed). One would be more sanguine about the title "Yiddish poet of the State of Israel" if the State of Israel - or even the city of Tel Aviv - had bothered to send someone to the poet's funeral.