Friday, October 9, 2009

Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace

“The question we have to ask is who has done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world,” the Nobel committee chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, said in Oslo after the announcement. “And who has done more than Barack Obama?”


New York Times

Mitzvah On Saturday Morning

© All rights reserved.

You’re on 14th Street headed west
to buy a new seat for your bicycle.
In Casper, Wyoming, a hospice nurse
backs her car out of your parents’
driveway. Your father calls out

from his bed. What would you
have done if you’d caught the thief,
wrench in one hand, your bike seat in
the other? “Lorraine!” your father calls
again. You would’ve taught the guy

another use for that wrench. Your
mother carries a plate, a cup of water.
“Here I am,” she sings, entering
the bedroom. Last month someone
stole the bell from your handlebars.

Your mother cuts a muffin in half.
Maybe I should buy a bell, too, you think.
Last year, when your father could
still walk, they took the whole bike.
“Try to eat it all,” your mother says,

tucking a napkin under his chin.
You wait for the light to change
at First Avenue. What next? Exhaust
from a passing bus, roasted cashews.
“This muffin tastes like dirt,” your father

says. He takes another bite.
The bike-shop bag goes scrish-scrish
against your leg as you head home,
slipping into Sloan’s for extra-sharp
cheddar and a six-pack of Corona.

Your father’s hand trembles, reaching
for the water glass. All morning
he watched a show about polar bears,
then switched to the Weather Channel.
A woman at the supermarket insists

to the cashier, “These aren’t the Concord
grapes. These grapes are organic.” “Polar
bears eat penguins!” your father says.
Your mother is in the den. She holds
a book, but really she is napping. Now

the woman with the grapes is in a tizzy:
her necklace has burst; it’s raining silver
charms. “It’s raining in Denver,”
your father says. You scan the floor
for small, shiny objects. “It’s twenty-five

in New York,” says your father. Your
mother is in the kitchen, counting pills.
Here’s something strange: a stone trinket,
an evil eye. You fear the woman might
hug you as you hand it over. “Lorraine,”

your father says, “I’m too tired to play my
flute.” You wonder if it was bad luck to touch
that thing. “Do you know the Hebrew word
for ‘good deed’?” asks the woman. Your
father’s face is angelic in the tv light.

Meg Kearney

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu's oldmen in wheelchairs. Saatchi Gallery 2009 :flickr

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Everything I Possess, I Carry with Me"

Romanian-born German writer Herta Mueller.
Nobel Prize: Herta Mueller ''with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed."

In Romanian, “snowdrops” are “little tears”, in German they are “maiglockhen”, that is “little May bells”, which means we’re not only speaking about different words, but about different worlds. Romanians see a falling star and say that someone has died, with the Germans you make a wish when you see the falling star.

For her collage texts, Herta Muller created a special table for herself and arranged a whole library, ordered alphabetically. The collage very much resembles life, Herta Muller says, as the random plays a crucial role in this respect. You’re looking for a word and come across another, which all of a sudden seems more appropriate, more appealing. Then you paste them on cardboard and the poem is ready, you cannot change anything. That is what Herta Muller likes best about the collage: once made you cannot change any of it, and that’s what brings the collage as close to life as possible. You cannot bring back the past, you cannot wipe away the poem just as you can with an ordinary poem.

Herta Mueller