FL370*

From height of level three seven zero,
Rivers seem like veins,
Highways traffic capillaries,
Trees are pinhead greens.

High above all flying creatures,
White of clouds on end,
Humanity to the horizon,
Jet rumble constant jeer.

Motion down is hardly noticed,
Less so aspirations, dreams,
Mankind from the heavens – minuscule,
Far too small to discern.

Tone of skin or language parlance,
Dogmatic camps or conflict lines,
Cries of war or calls for peace,
Unknown from heavens heights.

Blues of oceans, white tall mountains,
Lights of cities, green of trees,
Birds and mammals, fish in ocean,
Life in endless harmonies.

Days with moments overwhelming,
Times of hate and deep despair,
Fly your mind into the heavens,
Spirit sound and mind a clear.

 

*Flight Level – aviation term for flying altitude.

May 14, 2014

Into the Valley

High over lavender clouds,
A white albatross soars,
Stirring its way,
Toward a distant nest,
Beyond the seas.

Strong thermals rise under its wings,
Tailwinds thrust it onward,
Distant stars guides its way,
Gentle flaps of feathers,
Steady,
Tracking seventy-one degrees.

Sudden pain,
Burning in its belly,
The large bird breaks course,
Seeking port and recluse,
Before the agony overwhelms,
Its flight.

Head down,
Penetrating the thick darkness,
White albatross seeks safe harbor,
Among the white crests,
Powdering the dark horizon below.

Ancient voices sedates its fears,
Inject calm and direction into the mayhem,
A land patch appears, distant,
But within reach,
For safe landing,
And recovery.

Flocks of birds fly high overhead,
Migrating between far corners of the earth,
White albatross rest alone,
In a day it will soar again,
Resurrected back into the heavens,
Routing home.

 

January 19, 2018

The Ukrainian

Igor and Anna in 2005

I have known Igor for many years. But to be precise, I did not know him at all. I knew Igor the same way you know many people at your synagogue. You know their name and who they are. A face in a familiar crowd. Enough to say hello when you meet them on Shabbat, during holidays services, and other synagogue activities. Igor was quite a bit older than me, and was perhaps better known at our synagogue as Anna’s husband. And everyone knew Anna. She played piano at many of the synagogue services and activities. Still, Igor remained just another face in the crowd we call our congregation.

All that changed one day a few years ago. Igor and I happened to sit next to each other at a Shabbat lunch, and naturally, we struck a conversation. As is often the case when two Jews meet for the first time, we played a game known affectionately in certain circles as Jewish Geography. Who are you? Where are you from? Where is your family from? How did you end up here? Jewish people are numbered by a few millions around the world, and this game offers its players an opportunity to discover common connections and relations through their Jewish ancestry. I was born and raised in Israel. Igor and Anna were members of a Russian Jewish group of people who came to Omaha following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Except that they were not from Russia, they were from Ukraine.

Igor asked about my life growing up in Israel, and about my family history. When I mentioned to Igor that my father was born and raised in Chernovitz, Romania, his eyes lit up. Chernovitz, Romania? That turned out to be a defining moment in our relationship. The moment we became real friends. Igor, as it turned out, knew Chernovitz quite well.

My father was born in the winter of 1929 as a single child to a sheet metal fabrication plant supervisor father and a homemaker mother. The Second World War found his small family as an oppressed minority caught between the Axis forces and the Red Army. Following the reincorporation of Chernovitz into the Ukrainian SSR, the remaining Jews who lived in the area left. I know my father’s family spent four years as refugees in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, before finally setting sail to Israel. And that was all. I knew little else about my father’s life and childhood. The most I dared to ask him about that time period was for a Holocaust Remembrance day paper I worked on in fourth grade. My father brushed off my inquiry, and I learned to not ask again. This was not unusual. Many Holocaust survivors chose to leave their past behind, and concentrate on their new life in in the young State of Israel. My father was an educated man who spoke seven different languages. But with us, he only spoke Hebrew, a language he learned for the first time as a twenty-one-year-old when he made Aliya in 1950. Dad spoke perfect Hebrew, without any trace of a foreign accent, the same way he spoke the other European languages he was fluent in. Chernovitz, Romania, and the life he had before he immigrated to Israel were left buried in a heap of a forgotten past.

Igor was younger than my father by a few years, but their makeup was similar. Both men grew up in the same region, and as young men suffered through oppression for being Jewish. They each were fluent in a number of languages. They worked and succeeded as engineers to build the world and better secure it. They both had multiple areas of interest, and possessed a vast knowledge in a number of intellectual fields. Above all, they were both loving and devoted fathers.

By the time Igor and I sat for that conversation, my dad had already passed. But here next to me sat a man in my father’s likeness. In his heavy Russian accent, Igor told me of the birthplace of my father, and of the life of a Jewish community gone for a long time.

Igor knew Chernovitz well from his many business trips to the region, while he lived in Kiev. Igor’s stories were informative and funny, and our many conversations interesting and enlightening. Igor’s homeland tales opened for me a new window of knowledge and understanding about a place I knew little about. They added form and details to my own family history, and gave me a new way of appreciating my father’s early life. Our conversations continued to soar beyond that town from a different world and time. Igor and I talked about politics, Jewish life and customs, world history, and many other topics Igor knew a lot about and was happy to engage on. Our conversations were akin to those I enjoyed with my dad at earlier times. Meeting and talking with Igor was always enjoyable.

There was another thing. Following that first conversation, Igor had a nickname for me. “Ukrainian.” A term of endearment. Each time we met, he would greet me with a big “Hello Ukrainian!” and a big smile. It sounded great in his Russian accent. He often introduced me to others in that way. Not everyone got the joke, but we had a lot of fun bantering in this way.

All this ended unexpectedly in January 2017. Igor passed away suddenly following a short illness. His untimely death left a hole in the hearts of many, first and foremost his wife Anna and his loving children and grandchildren. After his funeral, I sat down and wrote a note of condolences to Anna. I included part of this story in the note, and handed it to her during his Shiv’a, the seven days of the mourning period in the Jewish tradition. I am now happy to share this story here with Anna’s blessings and encouragement, as a testimony and honor in Igor’s memory. May his or her memory be for a blessing.

 

January 18, 2018

Rusting Acres

This town had seen better days,Jenner’s Park, Loup City, Nebraska, 1900-1942
In years before farming life declined,
Before big cities drew its next generations,
Before people had careers and life to self-fulfill.

Long balconies wrap around old Victorian houses,
That had not been a home for anyone,
For quite a long time,
Large trees cast shadows over quiet streets,
Leading to a spacious town center,
Dark stone city hall looms large in the middle,
Like a giant spider resting in its web.

Time paces by here by the season,
Minutes, hours, days, melt together into the whisper of the wind in the trees,
City Park greens open at the edge of town,
Idle playground fades slowly into rust.

Empty cages carve the rocky hillside,
Remanence of a small zoo for kids delight,
Here a roaring lion once laid jaded,
Hallucinating the small grass before him for a lost savannah.

Stand still in the wild grass,
With eyes closed, listen,
For the metallic squeal of swings and merry-go-round,
The occasional roar of the tiger,
The call of a parent,
And the laughter of children,
Who left their childhood in this town,
That will forever rest among the yellowing cornfields,
On the rough and unforgiving earth.

 

September 27, 2017

המראה

Photo by F.T.

“?מָה לַךְ כִּי נָפְלוּ פָּנַיִךְ”
,רָכְנָה הֵשִׁיטָה אֶל הָאַיָּלָה
,רַכָּה בַּשָּׁנִים
,מִסְתּוֹפֶפֶת בְּצִלָּה
.וְעֵינֶיהָ לַחוֹת

,גָּדוֹל הוּא הַשָּׂדֶה”
,וְיָרֹק אַף הָאָחוּ
,אַךְ אֵין לִי פִּנָּה בָּם
“.לַזוֹר מַכְאוֹבַי

“רָבוּ לֵךְ דְּמָעוֹת”
.שָׂחָה הָאֶבֶן לְמָרְגֶלוֹתֶיה
?הַפְּגוּעָה אֶת? פְּצוּעָהּ”
“?הָרוֹדֵף אוֹתָךְ רַע

,אֵין טוֹרֵף אַחֲרֵי”
,לֹא הֻכֵּיתִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ
,אַךְ הוֹלֵם הוּא לִבִּי
“.וְדוֹאֵב עַד מְאֹד

“?מָה קָרָה יָקִּירָה”
.קוֹנְנוּ צִפּוֹרִים
אֵיךְ קַבְּלִי יוֹם בָּהִיר”
“?בְּפָנִים נְפוּלוֹת

,נָס עָנָן, הַס הָרוּחַ
,וּפָנְתָה לָהּ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ
,הִנְהֲנָה הָאַיָּלָה
.וְקָרְנֶיה רַכּוֹת

,רָב כֹּחִי בְּמֹתְּנַי”
,לֹא פָּגַע בִּי כָּל רַע
,אַךְ נַפְשִׁי מִשְׁתּוֹקֶקֶת
“.לִמְחוֹזוֹת רְחוֹקִים

,בְּתּוּלִית הִיא דַּרְכִּי”
,פְּסִיעוֹתַי בָּהּ סְפוּרוֹת
,לֹא אֵדַע אֵי אֶצְעַד
“.בַּמַּסָּע הָאָרֹךְ

,הָאֶפְנֶה אֶל הָהָר”
,אוֹ שֶׁמָּא אֶל הָעֵמֶק
“?וְאוּלַי אֶעֱקֹב צִפּוֹרִים בִּמְעוּפָן

,לֹא צְבִיָּה לֹא אַרְיֵה”
,יָפְרִיעוּנִי בָּהֶלֶך
,אֶת הָשָעָל יָאִירוּ
“.הַחַמָּה, כּוֹכָבִים

,לֹא בָּרוּר הַכִּוּוּן”
,אַךְ נַהִיר הוּא הַיַּעַד
,אֳצַיְירוֹ בַּמִּכְחוֹל
“.וְאֶדְרֹשׁ לוֹ בְּשִּׁיר

,שְׂאוּ בְּרָכָה צִפּוֹרִים”
,אַבְנֵי שֶׁעַל, עֲצֵי הוֹד
,תֶלַווּנִי הֵיְי הָלְאָה
“.בְּיָּמִים כָּבִּירִים

,כֹּה דָּרְשָׁה אַיָּלָה
,וְנָשְׂאָה אֶת עֵינֶיהָ
,טוֹףְ רַגְלֶיהָ בָּקַרְקַע
.וְנָפְשָׁה בַּמְּרוֹמִים

 

September 6, 2017
 

עלי עד

,הַסֵּפֶר פּוֹרֵש עָלָיו
,וּמִלִּים מְלֵאוֹת תֹּאַר וְרֹךְ
,פּוֹרְחוֹת מִבֵין הַדַּפִּים
,כְּמוֹ חַרְצִיּוֹת מְיֻבָּשׁוֹת
,שֶׁהֻדְּקוּ שָׁם
,לְמִשְמוֹרֶת עוֹלָם
.לִפְנֵי דּוֹר

,עָלֵי כּוֹתֶרֶת חִוְּרִים
,פּוֹנִים זֶה אֶל רֵעֵהוּ בְּמַבָּט וָתִיק
,זוֹכְרִים יָמִים שֶׁל שֶׁמֶשׁ וְאָבִיב
,לֵילוֹת מָטַר קָרִים
,וְתַאֲוַת נְעוּרִים בּוֹעֶרֶת
,שֶׁהָפְכָה אָבָק צָהֹב
.וּפָרְחָה לָהּ

 

Eternal Leaves

The book spreads its leaves,
And words full of adjective and tenderness,
Bloom from the pages,
Like dried chrysanthemums,
That were pressed there,
For eternal custody,
A generation ago.

Pale petals,
Turn to each other with a veteran gaze,
Remembering days of sun and spring,
Cold rainy nights,
And burning youthful passion,
That turned into yellow dust,
And disappeared.

 
June 14, 2017

Four Letter Words

For every deed I am known for,
I keep a secret one,
With every prideful feat,
I hide a shameful sin,
Per each triumphal goal,
I hide a glorious failed one,
For every happy laugh,
I muffle a crying wail.

For each close friend I have,
I keep a hateful foe,
For every time I loved,
A bloody fight is stored,
In every flower I pick,
A thorny thistle is hidden,
For all the days I lived,
An equal sum deducted.

Live, love, smile, laugh,
Frown, hate, cry, die,
Hug, push, kiss, slap,
Try, let, run, lie,
The more I try, the more I gain,
The more I do, the more I learn,
Love, hate, live, dead,
Are all four letter words.

 

March 8, 2017

Emergency Survival List

Gun, nine millimeters, clean and oiled,
With five loaded magazines,
Tucked in holster.

Baseball bat, regulation size,
Aluminum alloy,
In room corner, behind the door.

Large hunting knife, carbon steel,
Black-coated, fixed blade,
With mean serrated edges,
For best results.

Wooden stake, twelve inches long,
Lacquer coated, small chain,
In breast pocket, ready for action.

Running shoes, waterproofed,
Dark color, with no reflective strips,
Set to be laced.

Vampire sunscreen, SPF 9000,
Toothbrush with extra-long bristles,
Arm & Hammer toothpaste,
In a heavy-duty Ziploc bag.

Family portrait, names written on back,
With a love note, if possible,
Sealed in hard plastic,
And a note to self.

 

December 8, 2016

משלי חיים

,צַעַד צָעַד
,עָקַב בְּצַד אֲגֻודַּל
,פּוֹרְסוֹת הַמִּלִּים דֶּרֶךְ
.אֶל הָאוֹר

,נָתִיב חוֹרֵץ נָתִיב
,בָּאֲדָמָה הָרְווּיָה
,סִפּוּרִים וּמְשָׁלִים
.חוֹבְקֵי עוֹלָם

,טְווּיִים כְּרֶשֶׁת
,דּוֹרוֹת אֵין סְפוֹר פָּסְעוּ בָּם
,לֵידוֹת, שִׁמְּחָה וּמָוֶת
.מַפַּת חַיִּים

,מִי לוֹ וְיַבִּיט בָּהּ
,חָכְמַת חַיִּים טְמוּנָה
,מוֹרָה הִיא אֶת הַדֶּרֶךְ
.אֶל הַמָּחָר

 

The Literary Path

Step by step,
In slow pace,
The words lay a path,
Onto the light.

A path crisscrosses another,
In the saturated soil,
Stories and tales,
Around the world.

Woven as net,
Countless generations have walked down them,
Births, joy, and death,
A map of Life.

Who shall look at it,
Embedded wisdom lies,
Teaches the way,
Onto tomorrow.

 

December 1, 2016

הדרך

,הַמְּשׁוֹרְרִים, דִּינָם לִנְדֹּד
,רוֹצְעִים אֶת הַתֵּבֵל בְּמַסְעוֹתֵיהֶם
,תָּרִים אַחַר מִלִּים
.אוֹתִיּוֹת וְאוֹתוֹת

,אִישׁ לְכִוּוּנוֹ הוֹלְכִים
,יֵשׁ מְהֵם בְּצַעַד קַל
,אָצִים הֵם וּמְחַפְּשִׂים
.אַחַר הַמּוּזָה הַנִּשְׂגֶּבֶת

,קוֹל הֶהָמוֹן בְּגַבָּם
,פְּנֵיהֶם אֶל הָאֹבֶךְ הַסָמִיךְ
,וּמִתּוֹכוֹ מְגָרֶה אוֹתָם וּמַזְמִין
.סוֹד עוֹלָמָם

 

The Road

Poets, their sentence is to wander,
Streaking the universe in their travels,
Searching for words,
Letters and ciphers.

Each person walks to his direction,
Some use a light step,
Rushing and looking,
For the elusive muse.

The crowd’s noise in their back,
Their faces in the thick haze,
From within it draws them and invites,
Their world secret.

 

November 15, 2016