Nistar

Twitter poetry 2021: Week 3

My blogger-poet-friend Ingrid inspired me to create a Twitter account and start writing #APoemADay, which I began on January 1, 2021.

I’ve been finding that I am particularly comfortable writing poems that reflect my more morbid thoughts in this micropoetry format, as I have expounded upon.

Below is my 3rd week of Twitter poems:

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem,
David

Vaccine nation

Did you know? Israel leads the world in percentage of population vaccinated against COVID-19

You know, to be honest, I’ve known this fact about Israel for some time, but I didn’t really appreciate the extent to which it is true until today – when I looked at the data online.

Like many of you, I’m sick and tired of hearing about and reading about COVID-19. To a large extent, I’ve tuned out from COVID-19 news. It’s simply too endless and too depressing. Of course, broadly speaking, I have been following the lock-down and quarantine rules imposed upon my family over the last year, but otherwise I have mostly been trying to live my life as normally as possible. Actual normalcy often seems like no more than a fantasy to me these days, but obsessing over the pandemic is no help – following the news doesn’t grant one any control over the uncontrollable.

This is the first time I have actually written a post about COVID-19. I have been through three lock-downs and two separate quarantines here in Israel, but I have never before been moved to write about any of those experiences. Quite the opposite – I’ve been grimly hoping to simply push through this horrid global insanity.

Anyway, I’m going to write something about it for several reasons.

  1. It turns out that I live in the country, which has, by far, vaccinated the highest percentage of its population against COVID-19, and that deserves my recognition and appreciation.
  2. There are people who oppose vaccination, and I feel that I must take a stand on this, albeit a toothless one.
  3. My fellow local Jerusalemite and friend Dave wrote about it on his blog, leading me to consider doing so myself. (BTW, I agree entirely with everything he wrote on the subject)
  4. I received the first of my two vaccine shots yesterday.

My lived experience

In terms of my lived experience of receiving the first vaccination shot, there’s not much to write, but it goes like this:

Israel has socialized healthcare, and every citizen is a member of one of several major HMO’s. The HMO’s are largely why Israel has been so efficient at distributing vaccines and vaccinating its public. They first began vaccinating the elderly, the sick, healthcare workers, etc., and gradually started reaching out to more and more Israelis.

As a healthy 41-year-old, I received an automated phone call and text message on Tuesday of this week to set up an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination. When I called the following day, they also allowed me to make an appointment for my wife who is five years my junior. Yesterday, we arrived on time, waited in line for half-an-hour or so (maybe more), got vaccinated, waited (as instructed) for 15 minutes, and went home.

Our arms feel slightly sore, but otherwise we are totally fine. Our second vaccination shot has been scheduled for February 11th.

None of this is very interesting, but it shouldn’t be. It should be exactly this mundane and normal to get vaccinated.


A Jewish perspective on getting vaccinated

Since I stand by everything my friend Dave already wrote about why everyone should get vaccinated, I do not feel inclined to rehash any of his thoughts; I think his post on the subject was very excellent. What I would like to do instead is offer a couple of traditional Jewish text sources that inform my thinking on vaccinations in general.

Usually, I include traditional Jewish texts in my ‘ethical will’ entries, but this particular post on vaccination doesn’t quite seem to fit that mold so I’m categorizing it as a regular blog post. Still, I would like to share some very simple thoughts from the perspective of my faith tradition.

Maintaining one’s health

Maimonides (1138-1204) was not only a rabbi, but also a physician; and he wrote the following in his seminal halakhic work, which could not be more clear (‘Mishneh Torah’, ‘Hilchot Deot’ 4:1):

הוֹאִיל וֶהֱיוֹת הַגּוּף בָּרִיא וְשָׁלֵם מִדַּרְכֵי הַשֵּׁם הוּא. שֶׁהֲרֵי אִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיָּבִין אוֹ יֵדַע דָּבָר מִידִיעַת הַבּוֹרֵא וְהוּא חוֹלֶה. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ לְהַרְחִיק אָדָם עַצְמוֹ מִדְּבָרִים הַמְאַבְּדִין אֶת הַגּוּף. וּלְהַנְהִיג עַצְמוֹ בִּדְבָרִים הַמַּבְרִין וְהַמַּחֲלִימִים. Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of God – for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator, if he is ill – therefore, he must avoid that which harms the body and accustom himself to that which is healthful and helps the body become stronger.

Responsibility to community

Vaccination is not only a matter of guarding one’s personal health. It is only effective if the general public is vaccinated.

This following Jewish text, which speaks to that consideration, is such a classic. It comes from Pirkei Avot, which is often called ‘Ethics of the Fathers’ in English, or, more accurately: ‘Chapters of the Fathers’ (2:4):

אַל תִּפְרוֹשׁ מִן הַצִּבּוּר… Do not separate yourself from the community…

Simply put

I know as well as anyone that one can cherry pick religious texts to make their point. That’s one of the reasons that I have come to be so skeptical about religion and religious leaders in particular. However, my point here is simple – traditional Jewish sources to support getting vaccinated exist. In fact, scholars and rabbis have written about this quite extensively and brought many more sources than I have.

Tolerance of competing ideas is an aspiration of mine, but I confess that I have very little patience for antivaxxers… I consider anti-vaccination to be fundamentally irresponsible – not only for one’s own health, but also for everyone else’s.

If you have the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID-19, DO IT.

Beast, or: “Memoir”

Every day he ponders writing; demons, seraphs jostling, fighting
O'er memories alighting, dreams and images of Papa.
  Late at night he sees him living, gentle-hearted and forgiving;
Daily, nightly, he is grieving- for Papa, forever gone.
  As the earth turns, he considers that he'll be forever gone
Naught is left of mind nor brawn.

As the earth's been spinning, turning, one dream has been oft recurring-
Deep in darkness there lies stirring a vile, shifty chimera.
  It's but wishful thinking really, very foolish, rather silly,
Still, through dreamscapes rugged, hilly, slinks that taunting chimera.
  She's unbidden, uninvited, is his taunting chimera-
Forward, forward she is gliding, fed on memories of Papa.

Asleep? Awake? He's kaddish speaking, praying, swaying, then- a creaking-
'Tis the floorboards creaking, squeaking; and behind him stands Papa.
  How, he stammers, have you come here, I've been mourning you all year, Dear
Papa, tell me, can you hear me- can you hear me, Dear Papa?
  Reading, thinking, writing, praying, I've been mourning, Dear Papa...
Aren't you... aren't you... actually... aren't you actually gone?

No, no... you must have forgotten (though you are my first-begotten),
That hospital was naught but rotten; the doctors said I didn't have long...
  But we dismissed their dire prognosis; HaShem reversed the diagnosis-
He gave me life that I'd find gnosis- bid me wear my black kippah.
  So here I am, and you're done praying. May I have back my black kippah?
Please give it here; I'm your Papa.

Dawn break; awake; dripping; sweating. And- then- he knows what's most upsetting- 
All this time he's been forgetting... to lift his phone and call Papa.
  Rising from his restless slumber, lifts his phone and dials the number-
Has he been somewhat unencumbered? ... but Papa's cellphone isn't on.
  The earth's still spinnin' n'a-turnin', but Papa's cellphone isn't on-
Naught's ever left of love forgone.

Today, for d’Verse’s “Open Link Night”, I’d like to share a poem that I wrote about ½-a-year ago, about one month after creating this blog.

Belief chooses you

You don’t choose what to believe. Belief chooses you.

Steven Galloway (1975-)

This particular quote is one that speaks to me at a deep level.

I often find myself both amazed by and impressed with those who hold earnest beliefs in supernatural and/or divine forces. When I reflect upon those with true faith, I find myself torn between jealousy and bafflement. It would be profoundly comforting and lovely to believe that humankind’s existence has some inherent purpose, but I don’t.

Having dedicated years of my life to studying Judaism, I had opportunity to explore various spiritual practices and related ancient texts; but ultimately, upon serious reflection, I remain more compelled by my secular Papa’s perspective than any other. It bears noting that Papa was by far one of the most honorable and ethical people that I have ever known, regardless of his faith or lack thereof.

Absent supernatural forces, the notion of a big bang makes little sense to me, but nothing has led me to believe that any supernatural force is involved in or even interested in our lives.

Ultimately, it is my understanding that some people are simply more “wired” for faith than others – we do not choose our beliefs. Inclination towards belief is merely one of sundry character traits that one could possess.

Seedling, or: Watering can

My first tanka

Sprouting eagerly;
Stretching, absorbing learning,
Seedling roots search deep
~
Humble grey watering can;
Though I get refilled daily

EIF Poetry Challenge #14: Tanka

The above poem is my entry for Ingrid’s most recent poetry challenge. She provides a very thorough explanation of tanka poems for those who are curious to know more. But ~

In short:

  • The first three lines (following the haiku format) are the ‘upper poem’ (kami-no-ku) and the final two lines are the ‘lower poem’ (shimo-no-ku);
  • To write tanka in English, we normally divide the poem into five lines with the following syllable pattern: 5/7/5/7/7.

Looping perpetually, or: Perpetually looping

A ‘Palindrome Poem’

Death begets darkness
Dimming skies above flutter
Essence of shades
Unseen
Swirls through existence
Observes life
Emerging budding gushing
Teeming multitudes of energies
Inspiration begets
~Being~
Begets Inspiration
Energies of multitudes teeming
Gushing budding emerging
Life observes
Existence through swirls
Unseen
Shades of essence
Flutter above skies dimming
Darkness begets death

The above poem is my take on d’Verse’s ‘connections’ prompt.

d’Verse prompted us to think about connecting or connections—in any sense. It could be connecting ideas, connecting historical moments, or your own connections with people, places, nature, or art. Also, to think about how we are connecting words, phrases, lines, and ideas in our poems.

This prompt brought to my mind and inspired me to write my first ‘Palindrome Poem’.

Unearthly

A d’Verse prosery prompt

“Yours is lighter than the breeze,” she rasped, “You couldn’t possibly understand, you blighter.”

“My what?” the lad asked fearfully, but the crone continued speaking, her eyes and mouth twitching, as the child fought against his rusty shackles.

“I’d just as well never have anything to do with you brats! Most of the time, the damned beast is content to just lumber about or nap, and she leaves me in peace; but sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy… that’s when these infernal spasms start. You think I asked for this, Boy?”

“Please…”

“Stop struggling. It’ll be over snippety snap! She feeds on weightlessness; and she’s quite ravenous. Usually, she swallows them without even chewing!”

As the hag’s voice grated, the terrified schoolboy suddenly noticed her unearthly, inky shadow looming impossibly high above her, rushing toward him of its own accord.


It’s prosery time at d’Verse. The rules are simple:

  1. Use an assigned line in the body of your prose. You may change the punctuation and capitalization, but you are not allowed to insert any words within the line itself. You can add words at the beginning and/or at the end of the line; but the line itself must remain intact.
  2. Your prose can be either flash fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction. YOU CAN NOT WRITE A POEM for this prompt. AND, your prose should be no longer than 144 words, sans title. It does not have to be exactly 144 words. But it can be no longer than 144 words.

The assigned line was:

Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy

-Mary Oliver, ‘Spring Azures’ (a poem)