A Poem by Amy Holman

Bloved Bleaders,

So it’s like actually 2009. And it’s dark already here in the afternoon.  So let’s all curl up around the humming screens and read a poem together.

This is by Amy Holman.

1,500 Parakeets Rescued from 2-room Apartment

In flight, the veterinarians said, nets
bulging with crossly chirping green and blue.
To see a parakeet in a dream bets
you lack initiative and spontaneity,
are immature and dependent, need a new
idea. That bored old retiree
bought and bred the birds until
the rooms were full; popcorn in a foil tent.
So close in flight their feathers frill
and down the floor — what pastel loft
for pillows sadly spent
with acrid poo. Neighbors coughed
and called, but man was dependent
on the chirping flock of green and blue
crisscrossing his plaster firmament.
Still, breeding lovebirds breaks convention
when pals are playing golf. A foiled intent
for extra cash beyond his pension
stutters in the fluttering hearts of greeting.
It’s immature to capture birds
in buildings, not to sweep, or hear their pleading,
yet, the vets said the parakeets were freely flying.
Seven hours of casting nets and foul words,
then releasing to shelters in Berlin and outlying.
I write in a 2-room apartment and find
all the perches parakeets take purchase
of from shelves to frames to cluttered mind
and the screeching has no volume control.
It has verses, beats, and searches
for more — a hole, or the sky to extol?
They must have flown in shifts.
Cops arrested the retiree for captured birds.
Think how many parakeets will be yuletide gifts
this year. Call them Budgies like in Down Under,
divided into pairs for special purchase.
Who decides with whom? Yet another blunder.
Wing tangled nets of blue and green
give way to days spent sadly
adjusting. Where’s the man we’ve always seen?

[January 2, 2009]


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The snow is bipolar in Brooklyn today.

Yes, I mean that all four ways.

Day before 2009.  It’s almost the end

of the year on shiny eye glasses

double zero for eyes.

Try that in 2010.

You’d be striped blind.

See?  I celebrate all that we have.

My constant kissing of the reader

disturbs.  Shall I also overkiss

my bleader?  Yes.  Tsk.  This.

Yes.  This is your New Years kiss.


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Happy Old Year


This is another picture.

This is a link talkin’ bout my happiness book today.

I’m embarrassed to call so much attention to myself, but Crane said the game enforces smirks and yet I can still find a kitten in the wilderness!  Always Be Closing people.

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Today I am a Red Bird in a Thicket of Branches

[December 29, 2008]

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Hanukkah for Humanists from your Happy Historian (something to mull on a gray day in the no man’s land between xmas and new years.)

Want to read my essay for the New York Times two years ago?

BTW any article I ever wrote was edited more than all my books together.  But my prose is a little um, poetic, for the NYT.

So we sent drafts back and forth.  Regular bleaders, see if you can still hear me in there.
December 15, 2006, 5:14 PM

My Real Holiday


Hanukkah has an identity problem — and not just because it’s overshadowed by Christmas. It is often disowned by the very people who celebrate it. Must my fellow Jews forever explain to Christians how Hanukkah is not a real holiday, even though it is the only Jewish holiday represented at the local drug store? Maybe if they knew more about Hanukkah, they’d understand that it is celebrated precisely because it is a Jewish alternative to Christmas. The story of Hanukkah is old; only its celebration is new.

In the 19th century, many Jews lived secular lives, practicing few of the laws of Moses (the Jewish dietary, ritual and prayer laws). Meanwhile, Christmas was becoming a consumer bacchanal, with feasts, presents and solstice friendliness called “Christmas cheer.” Throughout the world many progressive Jews saw no harm in joining in. Others worried.

“A misuse has arisen in Jewish families,” Rabbi Michael Silberstein wrote in 1871, “namely, the observance of the Christmas holy day as a day of Jewish sanctity.” He and others wanted a separate winter party compelling enough to keep secular Jews from decorating a tree. The Jewish calendar had a ritual in December, Hanukkah, during which candles are lit for eight nights, using a lighting candle called the shamus. Silberstein and others decided that “the festival of Hanukkah should be turned into a family celebration” with a big fuss in school and at home. The plan worked nicely. Today Jews can stake their identities over by the electric menorah and join the Christmas party, the big American winter festival, without feeling too displaced.

Yet what many progressive, modern Jews may not realize is that the real Hanukkah story directly contradicts their social values. The toned-down, one-sided version we give children tells how a Greek empire conquered ancient Judea and, using Jewish turncoats, stole from the Temple and later outlawed Judaism. The emperor even put a statue of Zeus in the Temple! So Judah Maccabee led the Jews in rebellion. Hanukkah’s heroine was Hannah, who saw seven sons die rather than bow to the emperor’s idol. Against all odds, the Maccabees won. When the Jews went to reconsecrate the Temple, they found they had only one day’s worth of oil; it would take eight days to get more. Yet the oil they had lasted until the supply could be replenished. It was a miracle.

That familiar tale is skewed, however. In the second century B.C., when the Hanukkah story took place, the Seleucid Empire took over Judea from the Ptolemaic Empire. The Seleucian rulers of Judea, like the Ptolemaic leaders before them, allowed the Jews to live under their own laws. Still, when the Seleucids arrived, they brought Greek culture with them, in the form of architecture, books and theater. For Jews, this meant an economic, social and cultural boom. Jews took on Greek names — Joshua became Jason, Saul became Paul. And they built a gymnasium — a Greek center for training in sports, philosophy and politics — at the foot of the Temple Mount.

According to Maccabees II (in the Catholic Bible), Temple “priests ceased to show any interest in the services of the altar” and would hurry off “as soon as the signal was given for the discus.” Many Greek-educated Jews of the upper class (often the elite priest class) ignored the laws of Moses, which seemed restrictive and dated. Abraham became their great father because, predating Moses, he did not keep kosher.

Some of these Hellenized Jews came to resent their Temple taxes going up in smoke in the form of animal sacrifices. The Talmud tells how Miriam, a Hellenized Jew, removed her sandal and struck the Temple altar with it, yelling: “Wolf, Wolf, you have squandered the riches of Israel!” Others of this group, led by the high priest Menelaus, asked Emperor Antiochus IV to put Judea under the empire’s laws and ban the laws of Moses. Progressive, urbane Jews were already living this way, but the pious, poorer Jews were outraged and rose up.

The violence began when, according to Maccabees II, “a certain Jew” went up to give sacrifice to the Imperial idols and Mattathias’s “wrath was kindled … and running upon him he slew him upon the altar: Moreover the man whom king Antiochus had sent, who compelled them to sacrifice, he slew at the same time.” The killer’s son Judah would come to be called Maccabee (the hammer) for his ruthless soldiering. Wherever the Maccabees triumphed, secular Jewish men were brutalized, even beheaded. Of Miriam’s fate, the Talmud tells only that she “was punished”; we may assume other women were, too.

Outside Judea, the mix of Greek and Jewish cultures carried on. Other ancestors of modern Judaism would ignore the military tale of the Maccabees altogether. In fact, Maccabees I and II are not included in the Jewish canon, and can only be found in Catholic Bibles. Today, rabbis are happy to commemorate the rededication of the Temple, but gloss over the gory details.

This year, my family’s Hanukkah will be a celebration of Hellenized Jewry. These ancestors weren’t turncoats, after all — they were good cosmopolitan Jews. On our family’s menorah each candle will represent a voice in the chorus of Judaism, lit from the shamus candle that is our history. Judah Maccabee and Hannah are in our story, but so is the nameless Jew martyred for a multicultural gesture, and Miriam who thought of sacrifice as superstition. This version of Hanukkah is meaningful to me — a real holiday.

Of course if you want to know more it’s all in my Doubt: A history, with ample footnotage.  Doubt: A History

[December 28, 2008]

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What the Hecht, I’ll post the links


Poetry Brothel Video

Al Jazeera Papacy fracas


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Al Jazeera and The Poetry Brothel, within a week or so, or a Slice of This Poet’s Life

Bleaders and Celebrants,

I come to praise the year, not to bury it.  What a wack bag of tricks this passing year was, a scatter of events as cracked as a cubist.  Great lows, great highs (yes we can), and great contradictioned collisions.  Of the last, a local case in point:

I decided a few years back that I’d say what I think and feel, if I can, even should it cause me some trouble.  It isn’t that I am unusually radical in any direction, but that I hold so many directions that especially in this age of branding, I confuse my audience.  A person who varies their actions along with their interests makes the shopper nervous.  I myself remember, as late as grad school, being a bit rattled when I saw in the learned astronomer’s Also By This Author included in the list some oddfellows: poetry or a cookbook.  What the?  In a phrase we all learn from our Indo-American friends: “What is he playing at?”  I was even then a poet/historian but it still made me twitch.  Well, children like their food unmixed.

I have a poem in my new unpublished that is called Please Use This Against Me, where I note that “future me” might be offered fruit or office and be tempted to join the bad machine and how can I stop her?  By telling you my fellow knees and Miss. Dee Meenors. My sins on a platter.  But I tell em slant.  Still, it’s a good idea, right?  So I’m already sunk and can do what I want.

Still, Imagine being on video, on the web, in two different news spots within two weeks, (no, not news videos that many of you likely normally watch) one on Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan show, I’m arguing with a priest about the Vatican’s recent condemnation of all contraception and stem cell stuff, etc.; and the other on Agence France Presse (AFP) being “The Professor” at the Poetry Brothel (the production of Stephanie Berger and Nick Adamski, graduates of the New School MFA) (there will be another Poetry Brothel soon, in January I think — I’ll let people know here and on Facebook yes, Friend me, I’ll click you in).

I mean really!  I’m not linking to these things because the latter one makes me blush and the former one, while I’m pleased with my own performance, the priest I am arguing with speaks so slowly and repeats himself a lot so it is dullsville.

Anyway, you get the idea without moving visuals.

So there you have it.  Against the slogan of our fine military, I believe we should Be All That You Can’t Be.

Heh, heh.  I think I’m almost there.

And you, my ethereal friends?  Are you too many things, and feel it’s to your own good?

Despite the nervousness it causes in others?  I bet you do.  Because you rock.  I can tell from here.

Happy holidays!

December 24, 2008

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