Archive for March, 2012

On Tully Mountain

March 18th, 2012

Tully Mountain and Renvyle Lough

A few years ago, I vacationed for two weeks in Connemara.  I stayed at a resort on the coast called Renvyle House Hotel, a place with some literary associations, and one day I hiked up a nearby hill, which they call a mountain.  This poem is my tribute to that place.   You can’t give the flavor of Ireland, I think, without reciting place names – most of those in the poem are pretty self explanatory, and if you really want to you can google them.  “Rusheenduff Lake” is a little private trout pond reserved for guests at the resort.  “The Bens” are a nearby mountain range, and the aroma described at the end of the poem is the very scent of Connemara itself, given off by burning peat.  Peat, for those of you who don’t know, is the product of accumulation for millenia of vegetable matter, preserved in the anaerobic environment of a bog.

A   thousand feet above the bay
a wind that kept its hand in the pocket where the knife was
and this being Connemara those grey humpy beasts all over the sky
four sided concrete column about waist high with a surveyor’s brass plate on top
rising at the summit out of a mound of quartzite shards
to which I’d added my one
now I leaned against it facing the wind like a reader at a lectern
the bay opened out below me
Crump Island flashed from olive drab to emerald
I still couldn’t make out the abandoned church on it
but the sea around it came alive and soon the whole bay glittered bluely
soon also the oil-paint stolidity of Renvyle Point had exchanged for pastels
Rusheenduff Lake as vivid as a caste mark
and who remembered chiaroscuro when pointillism was all the rage
after a while the sun rested its foot on my back and massaged my shoulders with its toes
but the wind still kept its hand in its pocket
the grey humpies flowed back in and mottled and dimmed
everything the Bens across the valley behind me lost their playful bubbling upthrust
cloaked once again in massive mysterious dignity
although their heads still were bare and if they’d had hair the wind would have teased it
saying come on lover when it gets dark come to my room
so I headed back down the spongy heathered slopes to Derryinver
past the occasional black crescent gashes where the turf had slumped from itself
and the criss-crossing sheep’s paths, thin black and straight
down to that spicy thick perfume of
thousands of years being burned to warm the present
ah, the slow, slow deaths where the pain is stretched so thin you can’t feel it
those are among the best, and they give off a fine, peaty smell
now for a bowl of chowder and some tea

An open letter to President Obama about Iran

March 10th, 2012

Iranian Queen, about 500 B.C.E.

Dear President Obama,
I am distressed to read reports that the United States is considering Israel’s request to provide it with armaments to destroy Iran’s hardened nuclear facilities.  The request should have been rejected outright.  Despite suspicions, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that Iran is engaged in making a nuclear weapon.  Even if Iran were doing so, the existence of such a weapon would not pose an existential threat to Israel, which has sufficient capacity of its own to render any attack suicidal.  Nor would the existence of such a weapon pose any threat at all to the United States, for similar reasons.  Slanderous allegations to the contrary, Iran’s government is not insane, and is unlikely to make nuclear weapons technology available to terrorists, knowing as well as anybody that what goes around comes around.  The thousands and thousands of Irani innocents who would die and be injured as a proximate result of an Israeli or American attack, the others who would be injured and would die as the result of Iran’s legally justifiable actions in self defense, the environmental devastation to Iran and beyond, the catastrophic impact upon the world economy, all speak against encouraging Israeli bellicosity.  There is nothing to gain, except perhaps a temporary disruption of Irani developments in nuclear technology, and incalculably much to lose.  In this case, as in many others, the Israeli right-wing government’s conception of its interest is contrary to the national interest of America, not congruent with it.  Prime Minister Netanyahu should have been slapped down when he said “You are us.”  No we’re not.  (I’m Jewish, by the way, for what it’s worth.  An American Jew.)  “I have your back, no matter what” is nice language for the schoolyard, and it sounds good in buddy movies, and I can understand the political calculations that make it an attractive thing to say to AIPAC, but it is inconsistent with your primary responsibility to safeguard American lives, property, and national interest.  It is most certainly not consistent with these goals to launch unprovoked wars of aggression in unstable parts of the world, as George Bush found out to all of our chagrin.


Seth Steinzor

Catching breath

March 8th, 2012

If you are walking along a dirt road in the country,
facing where the traffic would come from if there were any,
and you carry your gaze unfocused over your right shoulder,
you will see the occasional oaks and maples across the lane
slip on by, and there in the middle of that wheeling field,
harsh white stripe against the fresh plowed earth, a birch
around which it all seems to pivot, until the birch too
falls away, and things in the distance almost keep up,
that farmhouse out there, for example, you could walk an hour
and it would still be just within that part of the world
washed by your tears, but passing out of it, and looking
to your left it’s the same, things near by sliding by so fast,
and further out upon further out things nearly keeping up
with you, as if to the right and the left the wings of the world
seek to close around you but instead you are ejected ahead,
and the only way you can stop it all is to stop.  So you hold
the crunch of the road beneath your feet.  Everything’s silent.
A car rushes by – you didn’t see it coming, then it’s gone.
A bumblebee zoops among the black-eyed susans by the ditch,
that dip with its landing and rebound at liftoff.  A bird too far
away to identify says something.  No, there are three,
drawing halos around the cloud that rides toward the farmhouse,
the trees flutter in a breeze not strong enough to carry away
the mosquito that has found your left ear, even that puddle
in the broad part of the ditch before the culvert is streaked
by waterbugs vipping and skating their inscrutable purposes,
tout le monde pell mell relating space to time, the same
whether or not you add your own little movement.  So,
not being dead, you have no choice.  You must.  You do.