Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Thanksgivings

By Harriet Maxwell Converse

Based on a traditional Iroquois prayer

 We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here
 to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered
 that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products
 to live on. We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs
 for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming
 from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows
 for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder
 and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun
 that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being
 of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs,
 the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard
 through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music,
 and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies
 on this occasion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change

By Naomi Shihab Nye
Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change   
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery   
by the side, but not the tracks.
I’ve watched one for three years, she says,
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.

Peter isn’t sure. He saw an abandoned track
near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train   
is a changed track. The metal wasn’t shiny anymore.   
The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.

Every Tuesday on Morales Street
butchers crack the necks of a hundred hens.   
The widow in the tilted house
spices her soup with cinnamon.
Ask her what doesn’t change.

Stars explode.
The rose curls up as if there is fire in the petals.   
The cat who knew me is buried under the bush.

The train whistle still wails its ancient sound   
but when it goes away, shrinking back
from the walls of the brain,
it takes something different with it every time.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


By Karuna Ezara Parikh

It is not Paris we should pray for.
It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut
reeling from bombings two days before Paris,
is not covered in the press.

A world in which a bomb goes off
at a funeral in Baghdad,
and not one person's status update says "Baghdad",
because not one white person died in that fire.

Pray for the world
that blames a refugee crisis for a terror attack.
That does not pause to differentiate between the attacker
and the person running from the very same thing you are.

Pray for a world...
where people walking across countries for months,
their only belongings upon their backs,
are told they have no place to go,
Say a prayer for Paris by all means,
but pray more,
for the world that does not have a prayer for those who no longer have a home to defend.

For a world that is falling apart in all corners,
and not simply in the towers and cafes we find so familiar.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Diameter of the Bomb

By Yehuda Amichai

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making
a circle with no end and no God.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


By Siegfried Sassoon
Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.   
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.   
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win   
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,   
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain   
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November 4, 1995

By Eve Lyons

Watching Pulp Fiction on Israeli TV,
the camp-like kibbutz fast asleep.
Lexi complaining of bugs in
the bed we shared.
She couldn't sleep, later I would think
it was as if she knew.
The movie was interrupted by a phone call.
I refused to answer it,
even though I was the only one awake.
After all, it wasn't my house.
Ring after ring after ring
finally someone picked it up.
Lexi trampled out,
itchy and groggy, banged on
their door. It was their daughter,
calling from the other end
of the kibbutz.
She had received a call from Tel Eviv.
"Somebody's been shot
at the peace rally," was the news.
Five minutes later, she called back.
"Rabin's been shot at the rally."
Lexi and I could barely react. The newsbreak
was more confused than I was.
Later, Lexi would swear and
I would let my shock consume me.
The next day we returned to Jerusalem
like nothing had happened,
trying not to think about the body
of the prime minister
on its way to the same place.
We were as solemn as the soldiers
in the strangely empty bus
from Kiryat Shmona.

Published in Fireweed, August 1999