Friday, June 09, 2017

Filtered Lights: Colorwork on Akhashverosh

Here's a link to a video showing the progression of colorwork on the first image for our Megillat Esther:

http://www.steveberer.com/work-in-progress/

Thursday, June 08, 2017

On Filtered Lights: While saying the Sh'ma

Here is a poem that came to me last night that tries to convey the ineffable experience of transcendence. The poetry is followed by a prose translation in normal English:
Wile Sayen the Sh'ma, I Wuz Herd...

The full text can be found on Filtered Lights:
http://www.steveberer.com/work-in-progress/

but here's a taste:

Wile Sayen the Sh’ma, I Wuz Herd...

Yur evver waer iz this Ruwakh werl
But hu knoez the Ruwakh tu see it?

Yu wuz spaken a roer
That ar seemen a silens,
Tho Yur Proffets say iz a wisper
Evver wun heerz
But hu ar lissenz? Evver wun
Stanz so klose but stil too far....


While Saying the Sh’ma, I Heard...

You are everywhere in this Ruakh world but who knows the Ruakh to see it?

You who spoke in a roar that seemed like a silence, tho Your Prophets say it is a whisper everyone hears, but who is listening? Every one stands so close but still too far.


Friday, May 19, 2017

On Filtered Lights - the first rhyton

Filtered Lights: a new post -- Megillat Esther, the first rhyton.
Six images showing the progress of my illumination work on an image. Here's the link:

http://www.steveberer.com/work-in-progress/

and here's one of the images:

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

On Filtered Lights: Megillah color work

My latest post on Filtered Lights, my new blog...
"Megillat Esther: new images; colorwork."
You can find it here:
http://www.steveberer.com/work-in-progress/

Here's a preview:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Filtered Lights -- illumination work on Akhashverosh

My latest post on Filtered Lights can be found here...
http://steve-berer.squarespace.com/work-in-progress
Next step, colorwork.

Here's a preview:


Monday, March 27, 2017

At Filtered Lights, a new post... 
'Nature Studies'.
Some photos of local wetlands, and enhancements of them. You can find this and more at:
http://www.steveberer.com/work-in-progress/

A preview:


Thursday, March 23, 2017

New on Filtered Lights, my new blog...
Work on an illuminated Megillat Esther. You can read a brief description and see some images here:
http://www.steveberer.com/work-in-progress/

Here's a little preview...



Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Song ov Elmallah, VI, Tranzmigrents Lamment

Continuing to edit The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming, Part VI, I came across this poem.
Part VI takes place during the Holocaust. The main character, Rivkah is fleeing overland towards Palestine. When she began her flight, a Torah was forced upon her to save. Now, months later...

Tranzmigrents Lamment
...oh, oh, well I want to know
will you come with me?
   “Uncle John’s Band”, Grateful Dead

Thoze owwerz and thoze lievz
I thot I livd; thaer relleksOn a tabel, now overternd;
Like so mennee objekts, tinsel and goeld,
Skatterd, krusht, or kikt asside.
Wut did I see in them? Wut did thay hoeld?

Now tell me wut it meenz tu be a hewman,
And tell me wut it meenz tu liv a day.
And tell me wut it meenz tu be the chozen,
And tell me wut it meenz wen we ar pray.

I held wun life;
1000 plezherz filld me.
I held wun life;
1000 terrerz gript me.
I held wun life;
1000 luvz wer in my hand,
And now the wind haz bloen them
Like a seengel graen ov sand.

And like 1000 leevz, wisselleeng, russelleeng
I thot I koud heer sumtheeng in the wind.
Leevz tumbelleeng and sand hisseeng...
And then it got kleerer, and then it got neerer:
Plaenz grumbelleeng and bomz thundereeng.
But that was not it. Thay past awway.

And then it got purer, and then it got shorer:
Not a sownd at awl, nor a feeleeng, nor a thot,
But a rezzaddew ov eenk that had rubd off on my skin,
Now dizzolvd intu my blud, that aenshent proffessee
Askeeng or demandeeng az evver it had dun:
“Erthah, Rivkah, wut I wont tu kno,
“Iz, wen will yu rize and wok with me?”

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Song of Elmallah, Part VI, introduction

I keep putting off completing the last book of The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming. It just needs revisions to some of its poems, so I went to look at it tonight, and behold, I found another reason to put off working on it! I read the introduction and thought it was so good, I decided to post it here. (I suppose if I didn't like my own writing, I wouldn't write.)

Gottverdamnerung: In the End ov Time
You Will Soon Be Leaving Me, Too

How suddenly I feel thrust out of Heloise’s arms, with whom I’ve lain these many years, trying to complete my Knowen of her. How cruel and sudden death is. We know it’s coming; we expect it; there are moments of dread. And then death divides us! Our bodies are irrevocably separated; our hearts cloven with an unimaginable wound. Our tears fill but a cup. It overflows.
A semi-transparent filter has darkened the world. Everything is the same, but the tone is more somber. How many layers of these filters are lain upon our Souls until all light is filtered away? I love Heloise, and she is no more.
I have thrown rock and soil upon her, and walked, broken, away. I call out to my God, “Where is Your Moment of Bliss?” There is no answer. Again I must remember I am here, down here, in the world, in Ertha. Here I am, and like a child who cries out to a parent and receives no response, I cry louder. I sob. My Parent stands ready in the next room, but this I must do, without help. We both grieve at my sorrow.
They say a ladder was extended from heaven, and angels descended and ascended. This was a dream. In reality, angels may descend, but once we have touched Ertha, once we have kissed her or cursed her, a filter darkens our eyes, our hearts, our Souls. No more can we find the ladder. If it is there, we cannot see it. If we reach out to it, we cannot hold it. Its rungs will not support our heaviness of heart.
So, what is there to do? I must build a ladder! Some say the ladder is there, and I must merely climb it. They call it Torah. Others say climbing is merely a matter of faith. With faith, all will be accomplished, they say. They refer to new books extolling a man. What is the difference between faith and illusion? Those that talk so boldly are full of illusion. And it grieves me, for Ertha is full mostly of illusion and very little faith. Our Sacred Books are not a ladder. They are but incomplete instructions. Each of us must build. And each must improvise.
But wait! A wonderful realization has just now struck me. This is not only the work of angels. Everyone is building! Some are still searching for the first tool. Others have amassed materials but can fashion nothing. This work is hard. Having too much creates an impossible burden. With too little, nothing holds together.
Heloise, you have helped me fashion a rung in my ladder. For this you are inscribed in my Soul, and you are made holy. Who now will hold me in her arms? Will her kisses be so sensuous and eager? Will her body tremble with a pleasure that reaches to the Moment of Bliss? Shkheenah, will You love me so sweetly again?
And you, my dear reader, my leader who has followed me so far! You too, will be leaving me soon. But I will not leave you!
~Elmallah

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Atternen Ju: altered states

The time is about 1170CE. The place is north of Damascus. Our hero and his wife are making their way to Khazaria or Poland, or who-knows-where, and lo, before them, the Euphrates...

Here's a prose, standard English version of their trip.


Here on these shores we eat the last of Sheik Sinon’s hashish cakes. As we climb aboard a rottin’ boat, our ferryman, Urshinnab, assures,
“Yea, I’ll take you’s all the way up this Euphrates to its source, even to that other world, that Aden where these shores end.”
Anyways, that’s the claim he makes. Batkol frowns and looks around. Marsh and silence. We slip from shore.

Languid ripples bend away. Reeds and muddy shoals and cranes. A breeze. The willows tremble and sigh, wavin’ their arms, ‘Come here. Forget.’ Beneath them, the women washin’ clothes see us and wave and begin to dance, swayin’ hips and sway of arms. And now the plane trees murmur dreams. The rustle of leaves like brushes on drums, and the birds in a chorus, warble refrains as the women bow to the ferry boat,
“Hail, ye holy spirits. Ascend.”
The birds take flight to accompany us; angels and egrets alight on our boat as the River Redemption flows to its source.

We lie on the prow. The azure sky descends. I touch it. It ripples and bends like water, zigzag arcs shoot out in a spray of color wherever I touch, as I dissolve in the liquid air. Our little ferry stretches out, and with it, like rubber, we elong into giants sailin’ an island upstream.

We pass beneath a willow tree into a masjid*, tiny and cool, with an intricate dome of inlaid tiles, polished sapphire, jade, and gold. What artist drew such a perfect design? The dome echoes a choir in song; must be a thousand angels of praise. Sudden the dome in a thunder explodes. Birds, leaves, branches, sky. A flock of warblers scatter away and a rain of leaves flutter down....
* a little mosque

I wake from a dream. Astonished, I blink. I wake again and the world is new. I am in a boat. What river is this? I wake again. I am in a boat. From far away a woman stares. I know her face. I wake again. Heavy breathin’. I am in a boat. Far away... I wake again. A woman sittin’ far away. She speaks. Her words a waterfall, a low rumble. I wake from a dream. I am in a boat. Music echoes from far away.
“You are Butkoel,"
I think I say. Am I dreamin’? I wake again. She murmurs, but all her words are garbled. I try to explain... She bursts into laughter. I wake from a dream. I am laughing. I close my eyes and see rivers that ripple into words down a page, mosques built in an arbor of trees.

I wake from a dream of rivers and boats. The world is a boat. It rocks on waves, and sooner or later what is standing, falls. It make me dizzy. So that is wy.... 

I wake from a dream. But am I awake? Do I hear singin’ or Batkols voice? She stops laughin’. I listen close.

Splish... Splish... Gurgle ... Splish. The world empties of sight and sound. Just a vast mosaic of blue sky. The splish and gurgle and the ferryman’s wheeze. And then in the silence I hear it again what I’ve heard many times, I don’t know when -- a sigh, a whisper, a word, a phrase that comes like shadow dance on the waves; a voice on the river or a Voice of the Lor singin’ itself, faint as a breeze, singin’ itself through the ages of me. Verses that slowly remember themselves. Mysterious lyrics. What do they mean?
‘In symmetry of love and decay...
‘Hear me; touch me.
‘I care not what is true.
‘And I betray what is coy.
‘I’ll lead you where you want to go,
‘And leave you, cold, alone...’

Who is this woman? Potiphar’s* wife? Or Lilith callin’ from the farther shore? How do I know her temptin’ song? Again and again, but now it transforms,
‘In some, the degrees of love...
‘Come, hurry, touch me carnally.
‘Refuse echoes.
‘Cling to what is ekht...
‘Redeeming you who are called, alone.’
* Beraysheet/Genesis 39:1-20

“Batkol, do you hear her luring me?”
“I hear a khazzen* blessin’ us
“That we might flourish in our new land...
“‘*Et semmukh Duvveed uvdekhah...*’”
* cantor; prayer leader
*-* 15th blessing of the Sh'monah Esray

Comes twilight and towerin’ palisades rise with mysterious patterns in the rock.
“Glyphs writ before Noah’s time.”
“Genealogies and weird tales?”
“No one can read it,”
Urshinnub says. For a moment they all read themselves, like the earth revealing her secret life,
“Bow to me you little men and I will uncloak myself for you...”
Strange, her language rumbles and booms across the water;
“Be dismayed by your abashment lickin’ my dust*.”
Then silence. There on the highest ridge where the sun is sinkin’ into the haze, a fortress.
“That is Rumkale**, abandoned since the time of Job. We’ll stay the night as its royal guests.”
Our ferryman beaches the tiny skiff. Exhausted, we climb to her who calls.
* others say: crack
** pronounced ‘roomkallay’, the ‘oo’ like’book’

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Anti-Semitism: Harbinger of Political and Social Decline

 I recently completed a research paper entitled Anti-Semitism: Harbinger of Political and Social Decline. I uploaded the complete paper to www.academia.edu with this abstract:

This article is an analysis of Jew hatred (anti-Semitism) and its debilitating impact on society and governance. It first looks at religious Jew hatred, showing how Muslim Jew hatred is the underlying cause of the Arab-Israel conflict, and how it is also a measure of the dysfunctionality of Arab governments. The paper then turns to ideological-leftist Jew hatred, and the psychological processes that allow bigotry to get embedded into politics. The paper concludes with a brief review of political parties in Europe that are promoting Jew hatred and the fragility of those countries where Jew hatred is most prevalent.

Here are the opening paragraphs:
I. Introduction

For those who are paying even modest attention, it is clear that anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories about Jews, and anti-Zionist hatred of Israel, the "Jew of nations," has been on the rise for two decades.

However, such a general statement provides an unfocused starting place for analysis. In this essay I will look at the problem more closely, teasing apart its three primary strands:
1. religious anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism
2. political/ideological anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism
3. nationalistic anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism
I will begin this analysis with religion, the most historically prevalent form of Jew hatred, and for the sake of brevity and honesty, from here on out I will dispense with euphemisms, and refer to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism as Jew hatred.


II. Religious Jew Hatred

Religious Jew hatred must be differentiated into its Muslim and Christian forms. Muslim Jew hatred appears to be no worse today than it has been for many decades, certainly since 1948, and probably since 1900 in conjunction with the rise of Zionism. However, saying it is no worse today than it has been for a century is really saying that Islamic Jew hatred is 1. state-promoted; 2. inculcated in the home, school systems, and news and social media; 3. virtually unrestrained; and 4. greatly influenced by Nazi ideology. The ADL’s 2014 study of world anti-Semitism (1), and current events documented on MEMRI’s website(2) verifies the extent and viciousness of this hatred, its profound disconnect from historical evidence, and the comprehensive lack of honesty that dominates opinions across the Muslim world.

(1.) Executive Summary: http://global100.adl.org/public/ADL-Global-100-Executive-Summary.pdf;
    Full report: http://global100.adl.org/
(2.) MEMRI’S home page: http://www.memri.org/middle-east-media-research-institute.html;
MEMRITV: http://www.memritv.org/; MEMRI media archives: http://www.memri.org/media-archives.html

The consequences are far reaching and highly disturbing. This is surely the underlying cause behind the Arab (and Muslim) refusal to make peace with Israel. Ironically, many people get this backwards. Many people think Arab and Muslim Jew hatred is an effect of conflict with Israel. In fact, it pre-existed and generated those conflicts. The Arabs 1. refused to accept Jewish immigration to Palestine before 1948; 2. refused to accept Israel’s right to exist in 1948; and 3. refused to negotiate with Israel after the ‘48, ‘56, ‘67, and ‘73 wars, and with the exception of Egypt and Jordan (who have made a frigid peace with Israel) at no other time have Arabs come forward and simply accepted Israel’s right to exist. The Palestinian conflict with Israel is a direct result of this refusal to tolerate the existence of a Jewish nation in the Middle East.

Yet Israel’s existence emerged at the same time and as a result of the same historic events that created every other Middle Eastern nation. Every Middle Eastern country was created in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, an empire that had colonized this region for over 500 years. And not a single nation created by European powers in the aftermath of the Ottoman collapse had ever existed at any time in history, with the exception of Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, and Yemen. Therefore if Arabs question Israel’s right to exist, they need first question their own nation’s right to exist! Of course, that kind of logic is never applied because Jew hatred is emotional, not logical in its foundations.

The depth and breadth of the problem mitigates against the possibility of any meaningful and enduring Israeli-Arab peace any time in the foreseeable future. So long as the vast majority of Arabs hate Jews and Israel, any government that makes peace with Israel will be implementing a policy that will undermine its stability. Sisi’s government in Egypt is particularly vulnerable at this time, as it warms to Israel while struggling economically.

But this widespread, overt, and unashamed Jew hatred in the Muslim world does not only affect Arab-Israeli peace efforts. Indeed, that is only the tip of the iceberg. The existence of widespread Jew hatred in society reflects a society that is socially, politically, economically, and morally fractured and dysfunctional. Where Jew hatred is overt and widespread, general hatred, discrimination, and social fracturing are equally overt and widespread. And a society torn by these fractures will surely be dysfunctional.

Look at any Arab nation and you will see the result of long-term, unaddressed, and unmitigated Jew hatred. Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Mali, Sudan, Eritrea, Lebanon, the Palestinians, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and Yemen are all in social and political free-fall. Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, though mostly non-Arab, are all 90%+ majority Muslim, and are all either torn to pieces in social and political conflict, or dominated by aggressive dictatorships that hold the pieces together with a ruthless police state (as did Syria, Iraq, and Libya for many decades).

Monday, September 19, 2016

Atternen Ju, on the road from Tiberias

This short scene (3 stanzas), I present, first, direct from the heavens, and then in "normal" English. It takes place as the Eternal Jew and his wife Butkoel decide to look for a better place to live, after experiencing decades of economic and social decline in Tiberias. Ironically (I guess), it takes place just outside of Damascus, about 1170 CE. But it could be last week or last year. If that's ironic.


Meenwielz the lan it seemz gro dark.
Shimmerree shaddoez; waverree hilz.
Wut aelz us that yu skip like ramz?
Sun so brite; blienden us.
Fyureyes heet; choken gasp.
Dus haengen in the thikken aer.
We haz tu fors arselz tu breeth.
A gus a win, sullen, meen.
Travvellerz tern asside, allone,
Rest in the uvvennish shade uv a tree.

The ro emteez. A villij up ahhed.
Thers. Silens. A moeshenles werl.
A wel ahhed. A moen. A kof.
A gus. A kreek. A gate. It sweeng.
Iz that a kry? Beyon the gate.
A chile. An erchin liez a dus.
Kryz aggen, naree a breth.
Butkoel goez in. “Waerz yur mah?”
Blaenk stare. Dus-wite fase.
Mask a terrer. Mask a deth.

Silens. Butkoel noks the dor.
Skweeks open. “Hay. Hello?”
Silens. Dark inside. Ar iyz
Ajjust. The flor. Boddeez sprawl
In blak haloez; skarlet ej.
Skreemz. Butkoel. I almoes swoon.
Rush. Owtside. Butkoel grabz
The chile. Silens. Bak in the street.
Mor howzen. Mor ded.
A graybeer sits in a pool a blud.
    “Giv me the chile,” iz weeree kummand.
    “Sheez wun a mine. Thaer awl mine.
    “Now. Be gon. Nevver kno
    “Wen thayl retern.” “Hu ar ‘thay’?”
Butkoel asks. Aggen, “Be gon.
    “Revenjez bernen hot an long.
    “Beware the sown a hors. Be gon.”
He take the chile. Layz her down
In iz lap. Hiz sitz in blud.
    “Be gon.” The sun. A skorch the lan.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Meanwhile the land seems to grow dark. Shimmery shadows; wavery hills. What ails us that you skip like rams? Sun so bright; blindin' us. Furious heat; choke and gasp. Dust hangs in the thickened air. We have to force ourselves to breathe. A gust of wind, sullen, mean. Travelers turn aside, alone. Rest in the ovenish shade of a tree.

The road empties. A village up ahead. Thirst. Silence. A motionless world. A well ahead. A moan. A cough. A gust. A creak. A gate. It swings. Is that a cry? Beyond the gate. A child. An urchin lies in dust. Cries again, nary a breath. Butkoel goes in. “Where's your ma?” Blank stare. Dust-white face. Mask of terror. Mask of death.

Silence. Butkoel knocks on the door. Squeaks open. “Hey. Hello?” Silence. Dark inside. Our eyes adjust. The floor. Bodies sprawl in black halos; scarlet edged. Screams. Butkoel. I almost swoon. Rush. Outside. Butkoel grabs the child. Silence. Back in the street. More houses. More dead. A greybeard sits in a pool of blood.
    “Give me the child,” his weary command. “She's one of mine. They're all mine. Now. Be gone. Never know when they'll return.”
    “Who are ‘they’?” Butkoel asks.
Again, “Be gone. Revenge burns hot and long. Beware the sound of horse. Be gone.”
He take the child. Lays her down in his lap. He sits in blood.
    “Be gone.”
The sun is scorch the land.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

In the Land of the Hashashin

Here is the latest scene in The Atternen Juez Talen. It takes place in what is modern Syria. At the time (around 1165 CE) the region was loosely controlled by the Seljuks, and it bordered Crusader (Frankish) territories. The scene begins in Homs and ends in the mountains. I have translated the poetry out of MetaEnglish, and into prose.


The rav replied with a weary sigh,
“Ever the search for a better place and a better time and a better spirit, but the world runs backwards away from the Lor, and the soul, like a man, grows weary and old. So our great feats and heroic deeds are all behind us, and unless God will send a savior, all is lost. Best to stay near the Holy Land, so when satan sets us ablaze, our passage through the furies is brief and the salvin’ land can restore us right quick.
“But I will send a sh’liakh* with you to find you a guide thru Assassia’s lands. Without a guide abandon hope ye who enter, to reach Hama.”
* agent, representative

Chiseled stone and fired brick wall us in through our narrow maze; and awnings and balconies over our heads. Neither light nor air, as the heat bakes the sewage in the street befoulin’ our feet.

A courtyard. Our sh’liakh taps on a door and we wait in the thick shadows and stench. Shuffle. Eyes peer through a crack.
“Is Master Bilal acceptin’ guests?”
The door creaks and we slip from the gloom into utter darkness as the door creaks shut. “Wait.” Footsteps shuffle away.

Slowly our eyes adjust in the dark. A tiny room and a moldering hall. Damp the air, like to breed disease. Shuffle. A tiny and wrinkled man in a white robe and a white beard. “Come.” His slow unsteady steps, like a dirge of death he leads us down the hall and down a coiling stair, like a narrow cave into the maw of the moldery earth.

There like a king of the underworld, crosslegged, sittin’ on a prayer rug, an idol of stone, its arms as thick as any man’s legs; neck like a tree trunk and a massive head made larger still by a shock of hair and  ringlets of beard that tumble and boil into his lap.

The idol talks and my heart near stops.
“Who’re you servin’ up to me, Yacoob? Offerings meant to burn in the Old Man a the Mountain’s grove?”
Our envoy smiles and climbs the stair, leaving us alone in this devil’s den.

A cascade of shock and fear and rage tumbles down the edge of me --
betrayal by that Yacoob scum or by his rav an evil sect in Homs like Sodom’s predators I remember that white robe priest serpent coiled in Palmyra’s ruins that demon boy down his cave I’m bound and gagged by Berber thieves hit him stab him gouge his eyes an idol that devours men this the idol that I serve my scarlet sins these harlot jinns is this justice my reward *v’uttah tzuddeek ulkoel habbah allanu,kee emmet ussetah, v’unnukhnu heershunnu*...--
*-* the vidui, the confession at death;
     this the last line: You are righteous
     in all that is come on us; You create 
     truth; we, wickedness.

“You two ain’t in Damascus now, and its little men and little cares. You jus’ moseyed into the lion’s den; the asp, it slithers; jackals swarm. And you, all blind, would trip along. Your sugary times is behin’ you now. Now is the tastin’ a fear and blood.”
Like a rumble from the guts of the earth, or the sound of thunder down from the hills, or maybe like a wolf’s growl when it sees you sittin’ in its lair, my thoughts continue their cascade while he growls and while I talk.

“We heard the road is straight from here -- Hama, Aleppo, Gaziantep -- and Seljuk soldiers secure the way.”

“Seljuk guards? What a pile! Offal pours from the mouth a the king and the people grovel and eat it up. Hashashin rule this countryside. There’s no imam or sheik or prince safe in sleep or on the street, safe indoors or safe with troops, but the Ismailis have their way. Aleppo is seven days from here, in the daylight and on the road. Thrice that time if you wanna live.”

“So we must find our way by night on goat paths and through wadi beds?”
He frowns like I’m some addled goose.
“I’m the way and I’m the light, and I’m the one that you’ll serve. Or else fuck off and take your chance and end up Ismaili slaves. Unless they choose to cut your froat. I leave tonight jus’ after dark. When you hear the muezzin’s call you bes’ be here. I won’t wait.”
The ancient white-robe leads us out.

And then that monologue returns,
...betrayal never trust that bull what is lie and what half-true...

Call to prayer to the faithful, with all their doubt and all their crud and all their fears and all their sins, sunk in illusions, sunk in muck. Most get sorrows, some get luck. The door creaks and we go from the gloom into utter dark as the door creaks shut.

“Carry this!” and he shoves a skin full of water into my hand. “And this!” A sack of white cheese and figs, raisins, olives, nuts and seeds, as he eyes Batkol like a horse to ride.

I have been in this place before. Bilal is here, Batkol, of course. No moon. No clouds. A star-flicker sky. A candle flickers in a hut nearby, and fades away with the deja vu.

I have a dagger strapped to my calf and my walkin’ stick will serve as a club. Butkoel has a blade in her walkin’ stick and a well-stropped razor in her belt.

We never sleep at the same time. Eye on Bilal; hand on my knife.

Fearflash. A sack over my head. A rope tightens around my neck. I try to shout but only gag, and gags beside me. My hands are bound. Then a shootin’ pain flames through my head.

My head throbs in blindin’ sears. I can’t see. I can’t move.

Kicked in the back. A bucket of swill splashes on my chest.
“Wake up you dog.”
“I can’t see. I can’t breathe.”
“Shut up. Who’s that woman with you?”
“My wife, Batkol. Where is she? Is she okay? Where is she?”

“You wanna see her? You wanna see us cut her froat? You wanna see her bound and raped, red hot iron jammed in her eyes?  You wanna see her safe and whole? You better talk.”
Searin’ pain across my back. I twist and howl. Sizzlin’ smell, my back charred. I howl and cringe.
“Who’s that woman?”
“My wife, my wife.”
“Her name?”
“Batkol. Really, Batkol.
Again the searin’ white-hot pain.
“Her name?”
“Batkol. Batkol. Batkol.”
“What kinda name is that -- Batkol? That ain’t no name. Who is she?”
“Batsheva Koltov. A Hebrew name. Batsheva -- the favorite wife of Da-ood, the prophet king. You know of him. Koltov, like ‘good in every way’. Made short to Batkol, which our Talmud says means ‘a voice from the Lor,’ ‘an inspired call.’ It’s not a Christian or Zoroastrian name. Not Seljuk or Persian. It’s a Hebrew name.”

Noise. Maybe the irons being cooked.
“Batkol. Believe me. Just Batkol. It’s a Jewish name. We’re not from here...”
I babble on for awhile. No use. Silence.
“Where have they gone?” I moan.
In fear and pain; mindless moans; horrors thinkin’ of Batkol’s fate.

Rattle of chains dragged on the floor. Grunts and panting, ‘ooof’ and ‘ecch’.
“Who’s this man and who’s he serve? You lie to me, we’ll cut his froat.”
“He’s my husband, Saadya Mishon. He don’t serve no one ‘cept maybe the Lor. We’re not from here, nor been here before. Runnin’ from the Franks and their harsh oppressors, to the far north, to Poland’s lands where we hear they welcome even us Jews.”

“She says you’re a Jew. Prove it to me.”
And I get a kick in the burn of my back. In the depths of the pain all I can say,
“*Sh’ma Yisroyel. Uddoniy Ellohanu, Uddoniy ekhud. Borukh shaem...*”
Silence. Whispers. Another kick.
“Whatsat mean in Arabic?”
*-* the most basic statement 
      of Jewish identity/faith

“Listen Israel. The Lor our God, the Lor is one. Bless the name, honored... er, also like ‘revealed’, like ‘present in our world’ or at least our soul...”
“Shut up! Sheikh, what to do?”
“ Remove the sack from his head; untie his hands. Unbind her from lash and chain. Let him read from these books in his bag. Her, we’ll test her in other ways.”

As they drag her away I blurt out,
“ Sheikh, she reads as good as me, and she bound those books, the ones I wrote. Test her right here. Show ‘em, Batkol.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Visions and Revisions of Florence

Nancy was invited to present some research at the Kunsthistorische Institute in Florence earlier this summer. It's a pretty enough town but I'm not a big fan of tourist havens. Summertime in Florence? Outa control. Still...

2 views of the Duomo:



Tile in the Baptistry:


Candy, eye candy:



2 views of a garden:



A bike:


My obsession with masonry persists:



The San Niccolo hills:


Thru a portal:


2 views inside a shop:



She's the one!



And this from a short trip to Sienna...


Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Madeleine Amulet: Producing the Amulet

This brief video shows the process of designing, drawing, calligraphing, painting, and illuminating an amulet for my sweet little kabuchki Madeleine.