Tag Archives: culture

The New Egypt

I often think about the things I must be doing without really thinking about whether it is what I want or not. That includes all the things I work at acquiring while following the insistent voice that screams “I want! I want!”

Whether we conform or rebel as we build our lives, we are part biological, cultural, and environmental beings subject to happenstance.

This lovely poem doesn’t waste a word, as a daughter tells her story. It’s packed full of punch and meaning. Enjoy it.

The New Egypt                                             Robin Becker

 

I think of my father who believes
A Jew can out-wit fate by owning land.
Slave to property now, I mow
and mow, my destiny the new Egypt.
From his father, the tailor, he learned not
to rent but to own; to borrow to buy.
To conform, I disguise myself and drag
the mower into the drive, where I ponder
the silky oil, the plastic casing, the choke.
From my father, I learned the dignity
of exile and the fire of acquisition,
not to live in places lightly, but to plant
the self like an orange tree in the desert
and irrigate, irrigate, irrigate.

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J. Learns the Difference Between Poverty and Having No Money

This is a poem that called forth varied reactions in writing class.  Some found it depressing and it raised confusion;  both made me doubt my reasons for introducing it.  Finally, though someone called it beautiful, which completed the gamut of responses.  I found it to be a poem that unfolded with every reading.  I read it out loud in the beginning of four different groups and it surprised me every time.  My first reason for using it had to do with the idea of money, which is a necessity many creative endeavor-rees struggle with. This poem is also part of an interesting series by the poet. I enjoy the way he’s found to refer to himself!

J. Learns the Difference Between Poverty and Having No Money                    Jeffrey Schultz

After Ernesto Trejo

 

And the morning’s marine layer cloud cover’s just beginning to unhinge,

to let the buttery light of another daybreak slip through

And weigh down the dead lawns and sagging rooftops

of this neighborhood, where Cold War era television antennas

Still cast shadows like B-52s heading offshore, where poverty, this early

is the smell of Malt-O-Meal and the dregs of thin beer

Washed down the sink. Where the shift begins at 7AM,

but consciousness has a way of coming round as slowly

As this old computer monitor flickers its dull sixteen colors into being.

On it, the names and numbers of laundromat and liquor store owners,

Fast food managers and lawn care companies; it’s my job

to cold call them, read from a script on the benefits of membership

In the Executive Dining Club, not take No for an answer.

I’m no good and both the boss and I know it, and he’s hovering

When the scraped-out voice of the woman on my phone answers me with

My husband’s been killed, and then, instead of hanging up,

Throws the receiver down next to something— dishwasher or window AC,

I don’t know— but something close, it sounds, to tearing itself apart,

Something cycling through an awful, screeching noise.

And it’s because I’ve paused that the boss flings a pencil

Into the wall in front of me and edges closer, and because of the fear

of unemployment forms or the sky opening up if I were to walk out,

And because this sound— the un-oiled, flak-fouled crack of it—

has left me standing suddenly at the end of a runway, planes

Screaming low overhead and loaded for the beginning of the end of the world,

that I start back into the script, start back as if I believe each word,

Even though, in the rattle and dust of the jet-wash, no one hears a thing.