Thursday, July 28, 2011

Even Now I Feel The Need

Well I won't back down
No I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down

No I'll stand my ground, won't be turned around
And I'll keep this world from draggin me down
gonna stand my ground
... and I won't back down
(Lyrics and Music by Tom Petty)

There have been
Many times
When I have been
Asked to provide
When I did not feel
Especially brave
Or capable
But I went ahead
And jumped into the fight
I really should not
Engage in politics
Because I am not especially
Good at it
And I very seldom
If ever actually win
I do not have
A lot of backup
In either
Stamina or treasure
Yet like the old
Fire horse of legend
When I hear the alarm bell
I want to run to the fire
To do my part
But these days
The old grey mare
She ain’t what she
Used to be
And I find myself
Making too many commitments
That I cannot keep
Still there are moments
When I find that I have
Great clarity about
Some given situation
When staying silent
And standing on the
Side lines
Just won’t suffice
So I take the plunge
Once again
And I usually find
That I am in way over
My head
And that I will be lucky
To extricate myself
With my skin and pride
Still intact
Those who know me
Who claim to be
Closest to me
Are often the ones
That I confuse the most
They are also usually
The ones that I can
Least afford to alienate
My late sister Goldie
For instance
She could not understand
What ever it was
That drove me to
Visit Israel
After my divorce
From Meredith

Though Goldie was
Also raised Jewish
She felt no push and pull
Concerning the State of Israel
No need to go
And plant her flag
To repudiate
The holocaust at all costs
No need to get even
With Hitler
No need to vindicate
The six million
Jewish martyrs
Even while knowing
That they could just as easily
Have been us
Had circumstances been
Just slightly different

Not me
I felt compelled
To make Aliyah
To Israel
So I sold
All of my worldly possessions
And went off
To live
In the Promised Land
To go drain the swamps
And plow the land
To prove how brave I was
By joining the Israeli Army
And to die in battle
If need be
To defend the one and only
Jewish state
None of this was
The way things turned out

I did indeed
Abandon my home
And my family
And I arrived by taxi at
Kibbutz Shaare HaGolan
Located in the Golan Heights
Unannounced and
In the dead of night
Like a parachutist
On a commando raid
Truth be told
I was lucky
That some kibbutz guard
Did not shoot me on sight
Having mistaken me for
An Arab marauder
On some suicide
Bombing mission

However since
I did have a letter of
From a friend of a friend
Who knew some of the
Kibbutz big shots by name
I was allowed to stay
As a work volunteer
For a six month trial period

For six months
I lived my fantasy
Of harvesting bananas
And avocadoes
And working in the fields
I also worked
In the kibbutz
Plastic furniture factory
They even let me drive
The kibbutz truck to Tel Aviv
To deliver our finished products
For distribution

But I could not help
But feel like a fish
Out of water
I did not speak
The Hebrew language
I missed my girl friend in the states
And my daughter
And I missed being able to hold
A conversation in a language
That I actually understood
I missed being able to earn
Enough dollars
To buy a pair of shoes
Or a pair of jeans
Or even a tube of toothpaste
The five dollars a week
That I earned on the kibbutz
Was a fucking joke
To an American bred and born
So much for my love affair
With socialism
In short
I wanted badly to go back home

By hook or by crook
And with the generous financial
Help of my brother
I was able to return to
Though I was sick
And worn out
From my escape
From Stalag 17
As I had by then
Nicknamed the kibbutz

On my return to the USA
I landed at my sister Goldie’s
Apartment in Starret City Brooklyn
With its famous view
Of the Canarsie Land Fill Project

And my sister read me the riot act
She really tore into me
And for the first time
In our long standing relationship
She called me a failure
She understood nothing
About my actions
She could not relate to my need
To save Israel
To be a part of the great
Historic redemption
Of the Jewish people
She would have none of it
And I could not blame her
On so many levels
She was absolutely right

I had abandoned my family
And my daughter
And my financial independence
And I now had to rely
Like Blanche Dubois
On the charity of strangers
But on the other hand
She was dead wrong

Much as I loved my sister
Her simplistic world view
Was as much a result
Of her lack of education
And constricted upbringing
As was her fear of change
And of the very idea of
Ever trying something new
Something different
Her world was her kitchen
Her state job
And her family
And that was her entire universe
She could berate me
As much as she wanted
But I knew that
I was still going to
March to my own drummer
Regardless of the consequences

As I said in the beginning of
This piece
I really should not
Engage in politics
Mostly because
I am not a very good politician
And I often end up
On the balls of my ass

But when I look around me
And see all the cowards
Who are so hunkered down
In their petit bourgeois fox holes
Fearing their own shadows
Quaking in their own boots
Afraid to take a stand
On anything more controversial
Than which baseball team has
The best chance to win
This year’s World Series
I force myself
Back into motion

Even now
I can feel
The need

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

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