Monday, December 29, 2008

The Thing with Feathers

Last night a bunch of us were at a poetry event in a Florentine bar. The MC said that he is sick of readings full of poems celebrating wonders of nature such as quinces. "What the hell is a quince, anyway?" he asked.

Then came several people who read poetry not about quinces. Most of the works were very dark and violent. This didn't hit me right. I've been following the dreadful war the whole day, then mediated a panel about social descrimination and stigma in Israel. Renana, sitting across from me, just came back from a joint Jewish Arab event that turned tense and depressing by the current atmosphere. Following yet another poem about rape, prostitution and urban grit, I leaned over and told her: "Damn it, I need some hope".

The poet on stage read the title of his next piece: "Masturbation".

"I suppose that's better than nothing," I surrendered.

The only bit of hope was delivered by Chicky. He read a fantasy poem entitled "The Battle is Done". It ends with the post-war pizza parlors offering innovative pizzas topped with olives the color of love. I still left the place feeling rather down. At night, I wrote on my Facebook status that "Hope is expensive, but I'll splurge." Call it wishful thinking.

It was only this morning, though, brushing my teeth, that it came to me: that poem by Emily Dickenson, the one that is, in itself, what all of us saught last night. It came in its entirety. By some sheer magic I found that I know it all by heart, though I've last read it in Boston, years ago. The following is written from memory and from the bottom of my heart, as a New Year's gift to all of you.

Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

And Sweetest in the gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That shall abash that little bird
That kept so many warm.

I heard it in the coldest land
And on the furthest sea,
But never, in infinity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Note: I realize full well that this nation's national anthem is entitled "Hope" and that I should cling to it through national crises. Ironically, it's the least uplifting national anthem on earth. Moreover, since it explicitely refers only to Jewish hope (it's in fact named "The Hope") and fails to address 25% of the population that isn't Jewish, I refrain from singing it. In my opinion Israel's anthem should be changed to 80s rock semi-hit: "I am in Love with a Girl from Bat Yam".


lazy_n said...

If we are going to finally change Israel's anthem, I nominate "Tea makes one dizzy", by Gazoz.

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