Monday, March 7, 2022

Ash Wednesday / Bombs Falling / Bodies Marching/ Christ Stopped at Eboli


Word on the street, Lower East Side.

Pics and caption by Erik R. McGregor
"Over A Thousand New Yorkers Show United Front for Increased CUNY/SUNY Funding"
@gsmithsimon and the Brooklyn librarians know knowledge is power. That's part of why we need a #newdeal4cuny. Congrats on your fantastic new book @gsmithsimon we all need to learn a little bit more about Liberty Road.
Ryan Persinger posted: 
"From a younger generation to the older generation. The message is clear in invest in CUNY invest in New York. I love yall my PSC / CUNY friends."

“I am alive, I’m dead, I'm the stranger…” the old words run through my head, the pop song about the existential novel, Camus and the Cure, soundtracks through time, bodies crossing borders, encountering others.  It's happening again, conflicts we didn’t think we’d see again, reading their heads.  

Lots to chat about at Barbes on Tuesday as the bands play.  

Biden talked about harm reduction, drug overpricing and uniting the world  against Putin.  


Tanks move in on Kiev and friends post about Ash Wednesday. 

“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,” writes Christine on facebook, reminding us. Lent is here. There’s room for repentance, for healing, for empathy, for resurrection, new life out of death. 


I make it through the day, planning, prepping for class, thinking about refugees fleeing, train stations, people turned away, and differences and contradictions clashing and containing. 

Meeting at Andrew’s salon, some are more concerned about Ukraine than others. 

It's all I'm thinking about. 

Others seem to blame the US, in a familiar seemingly misplaced anti imperial logic, with other concerns in far away places.

We talk about friends coming and disappearing at the Magician on Rivington Street. 

Images of bombed buildings. 

Russia is moving to Odessa. 

Particles everywhere, shaping our lives.

Lights and sounds. 

Bodies sleeping on subways.


Micah posts an Ash Wednesday Prayer for a remembered dead.


Kevin talked about Bright Colors Falsely Seen at the Brooklyn Inn on Thursday.

“In a conversation with his physician, a nineteenth-century resident of Paris who lived near the railroad described sensations of brilliant color generated by the sounds of trains passing in the night.”

Everywhere I ride, the word in the street: No nukes. No war. Peace now.

Throughout the cold war, I had a recurring nightmare about a nukes, feeling like the nightmare had actually happened, waking to see the trees and hear the birds and realize it was a  dream. What a relief. On the news, we see reports of fires at a nuke plant in Ukraine. The Russians are firing on a nuke plant. War. Violence, refugees, propaganda, memories of Chernobyl, it's all back. Peace now.


I am reading TS Elliot, feeling winter and spring mixing in the air, spring flowers making their way up from slumber, dancing, not sure what's coming next. 

“This is the time of tension between dying and birth…” writes Elliot.

Blue skies in between it all. 

I hope they can hold on, that the Ukranians can hold the Black Sea, that the blue skies remain. 

Friday I rode from Gowanus up to 38th and First  and back through Bed Stuy along Bedford over the Williamsburg Bridge down Clinton to see Gene and Joe, days  in motion. Gene’s family are leaving Ukraine now. 


All over New York, Ukrainian flags fly. 

We rally in Times Square, on the West Side highway, calling for peace, no fly zones.

Everywhere I go, we talk about the war, all week. 

I think about it at the Morgan library, looking at Woody Guthrie song lyrics, at the Holbein Show, portraits of courtiers, merchants, scholars and statesmen,  of Thomas Moore and Erasmus. 


Everyone is trying to hold on and find meaning in it. 

Mom still loves her Northern Europe Renaissance heroes. 

Bear shows us about, all of us taking in the dance death that Holbein knew so well before the plague consumed him. Mom’s chatting about it all, drinking a glass of wine, glad to be alive, giving her grandkid a hug. Love you mom.


Coming out of COVID, we find ourselves watching yet another conflict simmer, a new war, and an old war, a war on the poor, a permawar, a colonial war, a war for empire, for business, for profits, for nationalism, all war is far profits said Jack Reed. 


“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one ….”

We are all the children of Abraham, says Galatians 3, the ancient text for service at Judson. Looking around, it's not so simple. 

Women’s history is a history of adaptation, violence, and misogyny, conflicts ongoing, war on healthcare in Texas, war on trans people, on women.

War is over if you want, John and Yoko tell us every Christmas. 

What happens after flower power, wondered John. 


That old nightmare about the bombs, the horror, trees gone, sky black, no home, migrants marching, its back. I have it every night. 

I wake up. 

Hear the birds out, see the blue skies. 

For a second, we are ok. 

We are alive. 


War is over, if we want it. 

But it keeps coming back. 

 Not everyone is ok. 

Happy women’s history month. 

Purple is the color. 

All month different colors, all over the city. 

Blue and yellow all over New York, rallies for Ukraine from Brighton Beach to Times Square, Greet at the St Pats for All in Sunnyside, Queens.

The PSC CUNY, red and white, flags and banners at Borough Hall, over the Brooklyn Bridge, for a #NewDeal4CUNY.

Education is a right, fight, fight, fight. 

Marching with Greg, thinking about Liberty Road. 

Marching with Benjamin, thinking about the Long Crisis, tracing the story of regular people who helped transform this city after the fiscal crisis in the 1970’s. 

Manny and I talk about travel. 

Peter is chatting with us about Marx summer camp in Greece. 

The Lower East Side Collective has a reunion on the bridge, with Manny and Alex and myself. 

For a time there, Kelly and Ron would have also been on the bridge with us, before they made their way out West. 

The sun shines, as thousands of us move, all of us, over water, through time. 

Onward, education is a right. 

Knowledge of power. 

The main hope of a nation is the education of its children, says Erasmus. 


The table gets longer, says Valerie.

We’re all brothers and sisters, blessed. 

All a part of the kingdom, the table gets longer. 

There is room for all of us, refugees, immigrants, students, crossing, some at Judson, some on zoom, or the West Village, and onward, through time. 


Yet, sometimes it's hard to find our way to the table. 

Others seem forgotten, says Carlo Levi. 

Christ Stopped at Eboli - that was his story of political exile. 

And we were discussing it in book club.

Sometimes we are all exiled from the kingdom. 

We know the dead can't hear our prayers or our mothers would come back, says Karl, paraphrasing St Augustine. 

Instead friends fight friends, tribes war with each other. 

“They funneled their disappointment into generic rage, a ceaseless hate….” writes Levi, recalling his days of exile in 1935. “Their life was a continuous renewal of old resentments and a constant struggle to assert their power over all those who shared the parcel of land where they had to stay.”

Feels like we are seeing this now.

The contradictions are everywhere, the struggles between strangers and ourselves.

Some are better at containing them than others.

The stories help, writes Levi:

“To the peasants everything has a double meaning,” says Levi. “The cow-woman, the werewolf, the lion-baron, and the goat devil are only notorious striking examples. People, trees, animals, even objects and worlds have a double life. Only reason, religion, and history have clear-cut meanings.”

We can oppose fascism and find something in the trees, in the stories.

On we chat about holy greyhounds and dog worship, gravediggers and wolf tamers, stumbling on old graves and stories of the dead, of spirits, cow mothers, silke’s and other lost cousins. 

Steven de bourbon and holy greyhound, idolatry and heterodox Christianity. 

Hide the clothes to keep the werewolf, says Karl. 


“This is the time of tension between dying and birth,” says TS Elliot in Ash Wednesday. 

“The place of solitude where three dreams cross.”


Micah recalled.

“I once met a woman who shared that,

When her fear for her own life

Started to pull her back from actually living,

She stopped and said to herself,

‘I am already dead.’”

And my brain broke open.

I am already dead.

I am dust and I am stardust,

A fragile collection of glitter crumbs,

Ages-old, already honed by countless supernovas,

Who decided to come together and dance,

For a short, sacred time,

As one magical me-made shape.

My cells and my soul will move together

Until the time they tear apart and drift off

To become another star, another shape,

Another fear-filled, already-dead, living thing.

So live.

You are already dead.

And every tiny, shiny particle

That makes up your parts

Knows how to dance a revolution,

Because they’ve done it all,

Endured it all,

And danced it all before.

You are new and you are infinite

And you are finite.

And that is freedom.

So move with the courage of

The supernovas who continue to shape this world.

You were born to die

Like the brave beings who have come before,

Who looked fear in the eye and said,

“I am already dead, so I’m gonna go out living.”

You are dust and you are stardust

And to both will you return.

So turn it out while you’re here,

Feel the fear,

But also feel the fire

That is not only burning you alive,

But burning you to life.”


Posted a dispatch from Times Square.

Ken Schles is at Times Square New York, USA · 

“I’ve been slow to post on the tragedy being visited upon #ukraine…. This calamity coming on the heels of so many (COVID, climate collapse, delusional cultish authoritarian adherences, hatreds of all kinds, multiple ongoing refugee crises, etc.)…they all seem to negatively echo and amplify each other. This is yet another instance, but of a magnitude that’s quickly transformed alignments around the world.

When this particular crime began last week, I was finishing a book written by my Mohel (published months after my birth) about his travails in Ukraine during the Holocaust, as his normal life was upended, moving/escaping from ghetto to ghetto as they were liquidated, concentration camp to concentration camp, killing field to extermination forest, moving among, what turned out to be, millions who were slaughtered, to where he eventually came to hide out the war—in a hovel with a half dozen others—beneath a pig sty underneath a barn.

I am in shock, in the throes of contemplating my own generational traumas. My family (on both sides) came to this country during a great migration of Jews escaping persecution from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My grandfather escaped forced conscription by the Czarist White Russian Army as he fled Latvia. If I had family from the region, I know of no trace as millions were murdered in subsequent years after their exodus.

Putin combines the worst evils of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. His thirst for power, his greed and paranoia, his use of modern technologies, weapons and propaganda, his race hatreds, nationalism and homophobia will leave a lasting stain on history.

My heart bleeds for the people of Ukraine.

My hope is that a veil of deceit and delusion might be lifted—that we see just how destructive fascist, authoritarian allegiances are; and what a horrible, destructive mess our dependency on fossil fuels, and our extractive economy, has wrought on humanity as we stand on the precipice of ecological collapse.

Do not look away. Open your eyes to what is befalling, not only to those in Ukraine, but to all of us. 📷 3/5 NYC”


No comments:

Post a Comment