Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Unkechaug Indians of Eastern Long Island

John Strong’s The Unkechaug Indians of Eastern Long Island is a detailed, fascinating account of this tribe, which currently resides on a state recognized reservation, known as Poospatuck, near Mastic.

Strong takes a very positive approach to chronicling the history of these people.  Of course, he goes into detail about their decimation due to European disease, the disruption of their old folk ways as they began to participate in the English economy and the illegal and quasi-legal land deals which robbed them of their land.

But rather than strictly catalog the loss and victimization, Strong illustrates how  Unkechaug people integrated into the English and American economy, using their connections with prominent local families to protect their interests, and seeking redress in the English and later American legal system when wronged.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Salon Romp-rag

Salon Romp-rag
By Roni Cayeme


White hair pudenda
Slick, filling, falling in
My trunk a filthy slop
From her fat, cracked vulva
i’mai nafka minnah?
“What is the practical difference?”

Now that I am in HaShem’s loving hands I should
not hate her but even G-d demands the blood of 
those who go a whoring after other gods and places
under herem their men woman children livestock goods
which means they must die


Stout SOB
Phallus folded into
Abdominal fat
Slicked, oiled
The witches’ extract
Compels him to say
Yes yes yes yes yes
I’mai nafka minnah?
“What is the practical difference?”

I should not hate him now that I am in HaShem’s 
loving hands but even G-d has to dig a hole in the
back woods for the body that He has in the trunk 
of his car from time to time and have the shovel
at the ready and dim the headlights so no one sees
what happens out back behind the screen of bare trees

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tolstoy's Resurrection

As the editor of Tolstoy’s Resurrection points out, Tolstoy published this novel late in life, and did so for the money.  He had long given up writing, lived as a simple peasant like existence, and gave away the royalties to his books.  Resurrection was written, or more correctly updated for publication from an older manuscript to support the emigration of a “heretic” Russian religious sect to Canada.

Hence Resurrection, definitely a Tolstoy production, is a late work. The mastery of the form of the novel that we find in War and Peace and Anna Karenina is not present in this book.  Yet despite this, Resurrection is a fascinating cluttered, confusing novel; it is full of long ruminations on human nature, God, and government.  So intense are these debates, that they are  appealing.  The dark vision of Russia this novel provides is unflinching. In its  depictions of all social ills, corruption, crime, avarice, vice, economic injustice, indifference and inhumanity, the reader can see the roots of the Russian Revolution.  The society of Resurrection could not continue as it was without a bloody upheaval.  It was simply too hopeless and dark a place .

So I imagine an older, shaggy Tolstoy, brimming with rage over the conditions in Russia, more than slightly misanthropic as a result, pouring out his social and religious theories and ideas while composing this novel.  If this is kept in mind, then reading this novel becomes less of a chore and more of a delight.  Here was an author with nothing more to prove; he used this novel for his social propaganda, with rich results.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Your Animal Body

Your animal body
Uncurled itself
On a mid day in May
All quivering synapse
A velvet touch
Of unforgotten vestiges

Beneath my thumbs
Writhing like a snake
Enmeshed, the tangled hands
Hushed breath and whispers
That you mimed to me

I have not forgotten
Your lusty animal crouch
The genus, phylum and species
The taxonomy that you paraded
Beneath my nose
In you unfurnished room
It was the frozen time

Of your old wedding ring
Discarded in a cardboard drawer
The root of your being
Buried in nightshade
Your son, the facsimile
Face of you
Leaning on my leg
Like a stalk
As I held open a book
He’s poised to grow into you
Lean, short, quick
The indrawn, sudden breath
Of a startled response
The darting nervous edge
Etched from your womb

He’ll become a stalk of
You, an undemonstrated
Remonstrance of your plastic

Past, growing

Monday, February 23, 2015


Insufferable snow
Slapping the hide off my back
Flaying the skin off the hand
That I use to zip the coat  

Friday, February 20, 2015

The True World of Bliss

Sometimes book ideas never get beyond a half finished TOC.  Which, in many cases, is good.

   The True World of Bliss:  The Biography of Three Mystics
     Abraham Abulafia (1240 -1292)
     Nizamuddin Auliya  (1238 - 3 April 1325)
     Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is a prolific writer of Jewish religious themes. His most recent book: The Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, takes a hard but wholly sympathetic look at the last Lubavitcher Rebbe.  

So, this is an entirely positive appraisal of the Rebbe and his work.  Rabbi Telushkin calls him the most influential rabbi of the twentieth century and the most well-known rabbi since Maimonides.  I suppose both labels are correct.  It is hard to argue with success.  The Rebbe took Judaism, which tends to be insular in its outlook, divided by squabbling denominations, and not really interested in engagement with the wider Jewish or Gentile world, and turned that on its head.   His had a vision for world Jewry, and was largely successfully in carrying it out.  When post-war Judaism was dying on the vine of indifference, the Rebbe gave it a shot of spiritual adrenal. Even those outside of Chabad and somewhat hostile to it find much to admire in his work. 

Rabbi Telushkin explains that the Rebbe was one of the early critics of two approaches to Judaism which, with hindsight, have harmed the advance the religion.  One was the overwhelming sense of the Holocaust hanging over post-war Jewish life.   Pressing Jews to stay Jews based on guilt, fear, or hatred, the Rebbe believed, has no future.  He also did hinge his Judaism on the emerging State of Israel.  He was not interested in Jews in the Diaspora taking on the Zionist cause.  He wanted to help Jews practice Judaism wherever they lived. {Note did not think the Holocaust or Israel were unimportant; he just believed all the eggs should not be in either basket).

In these two senses, he was prescient.  As liberal Jews shy away from hawkish Israel, the Zionist connection to Jewish identity has been tarnished for many American Jews.  As the fear and guilt of the Holocaust has worn off, nothing has filled the gap, and annihilation by love, through intermarriage, is ironically Judaism's greatest threat in Europe and America .  

That the Rebbe realized this in 1950 shows great insight.  Jews must learn to be Jews wherever they live.  They must concentrate on practicing Judaism in the moment, without guilt from the past or allegiance to another country.  

So, this is a fine work on the Rebbe.  It is not a critical biography in any sense.  It is a gentle form of hagiography.  If you want a hard hitting biography, you must go to other works recently written about the Rebbe.