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A recap of the Jewish Poets—Jewish Voices program

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Eileen Wingard

By Eileen Wingard

LA JOLLA, California–The season’s heaviest rainstorm descended Wednesday evening, January 20, as fifteen people braved the inclement weather to gather at the JCC Astor Judaica Library for the first of three programs by local poets: Jewish Poets—Jewish Voices.

Yael Gmach, who was scheduled to sing an original song in French, was stranded in the downpour and needed to be rescued. She never made it to the program. Sara Appel-Lennon, the other programmed poet, read an impressive sampling of her work. Two examples follow.

During the program, a plaque was dedicated to the memory of my late  husband, Hal Wingard, who had participated in the inaugural series of poetry readings last year.  I read several of his lyrics and some were sung by our daughter Myla.
    
For open microphone, Michael Horvitz read his work. His performance was so outstanding that he was invited to be one of the featured poets on the third evening. Interestingly, he wrote a poem about Hal, although Michael knew Hal only posthumously, through his poetry. Two samples of Michael’s work are below.
    
The second evening, February 24, featured six student poets from the San Diego Jewish Academy and their teacher, Melissa McKinstry, as described in an article posted previously on San Diego Jewish World.
    
Simon Patlis, a native of Tashkent, opened the third evening of Jewish Poets—Jewish Voices, on March 9, with several selections in Russian. Although just a few people in the audience understood his words, the inflection of his voice and the spirit of his delivery were riveting. He explained what each poem meant and rendered one of the poems in an English translation. Since that evening, he has translated a second poem into English.

Here are six examples from our adult Jewish Poets-Jewish Voices. Another series is being planned for 2011. One of the unique features of these evenings is that on each program, one of the poets writes in a non-English language, spoken by Jews.

Two Poems by Sara Appel-Lennon

Temple of Dreams (inspired by the newly-built Temple Emanu-El)

Embraced by Jerusalem stone walls
Jewish prayer and songs shared by all

Room filled with shofar blasts
Reflections from the stained glass

Rainbows dance across the bima
Divine sense of Shechinah

Donors carry torahs up the aisle
Six hundred thirteen commandments
adorned in style

Respect, pride, and hope fill our souls
Feeling connected, we feel more whole

Judaism enhances our life and our views
Standing tall, we’re proud to be called Jews.

**

Mourning

When there is a death                    
Breathe deep, you have breath

Fitting to feel grief
Robbed, taken by thief

Life has its sorrow
Time can’t be borrowed

Weeping bitter tears
Breathe deep, you’re still here

Burning, red hot mad
Missing what you had

Lonely, scared, sad, blue
Faith will see you through

When there is a death
Breathe deep, you have breath.

*

Two Poems by Michael Horvitz

  Hal Wingard Came By

I never knew you, Hal.
But maybe
  I know you

I saw your name
  like so many
  among
    e-mailed announcements

I searched the Internet
  through and around
  endless trappings,

and you were there,
but you were not there.
The “Information Highway”
  goes on and on

but where? and for what?
Then,
visiting some
  real place

I found your verses
  dressed smartly
like a young beau
  still courting
dancing
  within your wife’s voice

You were familiar
the way a man who loves
  his wife
  and the world
feels warmly familiar
as something we’ve always
  longed for

You knew
as a poet must know,
that death
  stops
  only
    the uninitiated,

that love
  in its form
touches
  into
    the unknown.

So, Hal,
while some may wish you
  rest in peace
I’m not so sure
  you seek that rest.

What poet rests?
He does not own
  that right

He is obliged
  to seek out
to carry
  human emotion
beyond his own
  mortal life

into a restless
  eternity
  in which
    he feels privileged
      to partake.

And there
  among
  the deathless voices
does he find
  his peace.

*
Body of Verse

For Carole:

Body of verse
Body of woman
There are words that come to me
    solid and weighty
        as the Live Oak

Everything rises from the earth
    everything dreamed of carries
        sounds and mysteries

Cradling
     In my ears
        a new knowledge

Words–the substance
  of verse–my nourishment

You–the substance
  of woman–nourish me

Let all the verses
    sing
          to me until I die,

As I equally
    explore the accents
        of your flesh

All the sounds and scents
    tastes and touch
        all that is beautiful

All that I desire…
    In life…In you…
        all that keeps me alive…

Body of verse
    Body
        of my
             woman…

Two Poems by Simon Patlis

A Speck of Dust

I smashed up a galaxy in the heat of pursuit –
A little speck of debris parked itself on my boot.
I at once shook it off – and it vanished from sight,
And a new little star in the sky went alight.

Vainly, though, I sped – still was late in the end;
Of the dreams that I had – never learnt what they meant;
Left behind in the hustle what was mine – all gone by,
Just that speck of a star ever shines from the sky.
  
*
Dawn

awe! what a moment:
you, as yet are still asleep;
but the night’s matured and has been like an altar sheep
               already sacrificed to the effulgent god,
     and scarlet droplets of its glowing sacred blood
are being sprinkled on the clouds by a radiant hand,
igniting fires of the dawn that fade the stars and shadows,
and  the world’s prepared for the oncoming mighty surge
of nascent day that’s just about to emerge
from the lethargic still and silent nightly deep…
and you, – remember – as of yet you’re still asleep

*
Eileen Wingard is a freelance writer based in San Diego

Remembering the songs of Hal Wingard, z”l

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO–A language teacher, wit and troubador, the late Hal Wingard composed some 325 songs, most of them on flights between San Diego and other parts of California, where he consulted on language programs for school.  To hear Hal singing his songs, please follow this link, then pick the song by number.  We think today’s selection fits in well with upcoming April Fool’s Day jokes and pranks.

#309 Security Guard

I work as guard, a private guard,

To keep the public peace,

Without romance of Scotland Yard

Or regular police.

When I’m on hand folks feel secure,

Relieved that I am there.

They say my presence helps assure

That criminals take care.

And yet, I have a deep-felt fear–

Which good guards never should–

That my endowments don’t come near

What makes a good guard good.

I know when all is said and done

I have to show I’m tough,

But since I never wear a gun,

Will “tough” be good enough?

I’m insecure.

I’m so unsure

I’m an insecure security guard.

My uniform is just for show.

My badge is tin, not steel.

A common crook will surely know

How insecure I feel.

I’m plagued by doubt; I’m insecure.

It must be plain to see.

The only trait I know for sure

Is insecurity.

I’m insecure.

I’m so unsure

I’m an insecure security guard.

I work as guard, a private guard,

To keep the public peace,

Without romance of Scotland Yard

Or regular police.

When I’m on hand folks feel secure,

Relieved that I am there.

They say my presence helps assure

That criminals take care.

But I’m insecure.

I’m so unsure

I’m an insecure security guard.

 (c) Estate of Hal Wingard; dedicated to Eli Meltzer, who at Art for Ohr Shalom, joked about the insecure security guard, January 13, 2003 (309)

Words completed March 15, 2000, on flights from San Diego to Sacramento via Los Angeles

#317 Freeway

I was camping on the free. . .way,                                                                        

Roasting chestnuts on my free. . .day,

When an ostrich came a flying,

Landed near me loudly crying,

With no clue where he might be.

So I took out my Thesaur. . .us                                                                            

To acquire directions for. . .us.

But the content had no humor,

And the ostrich spread the rumor       

That his feet were feeling sore.

He declined my invita. . .tion                                                                                    

For a freeway fun vaca. . .tion.

Though the offer was exciting,

And the chestnuts quite inviting       

He would soon be on his way.

Freeway nests are no way sui. . .ted

For an ostrich so uproo. . .ted.

And each human freeway lover

Surely will in time discover

That the freeway’s not a zoo

(Well, not all the time)

 (c) Estate of Hal Wingard, January 17, 2006. Words written January 16, 2006, at home, to fit a melody running through my head. In crafting the words, this melody got lost.  So the text is set to a different melody.

#296 They’re Lovers

      They’re lovers!

      Don’t ask me how I know.

      They’re lovers!

      It’s little signs that show.

Perhaps it’s how they share their food,

      While dining side by side,

The way she savors offerings,

      When he says, “Open wide!”

Perhaps it’s how she reaches out

      As if to touch his curls,

Or how he has a dreamy look

      When staring at her pearls.

      They’re lovers!

Don’t ask me how I know.

      They’re lovers!

      It’s little signs that show.

Perhaps it’s how he strokes her wrist

      With gentle finger tips,

Or how she beams when he tells jokes,

      A smile upon her lips.

Perhaps it’s just their giddiness,

      While drinking champagne fizz.

Perhaps it’s how his foot finds hers,

      Or her knee brushes his.

      They’re lovers!

      Don’t ask me how I know.

      They’re lovers!

      It’s little signs that show.

Perhaps it’s how she looks at him

      With wide admiring eye,

Or how he often takes her hand

      And holds it on his thigh.

I’ll never know just how I know,

      But nonetheless I trust

That little signs can show it’s love. . .

      Unless, of course, it’s lust.

      They’re lovers!

(c) Estate of Hal Wingard, December 12, 1991. Words begun December 11, 1991, on a flight from San Diego to San Francisco and completed on the return flight the next day.

 

#296 Hear the Iconoclast

Beliefs that we hold to be true

Are often perverse bugaboo.

     We’re locked in detention

     Of social convention

That regulates all that we do,

                  . . . . all that we do.

So, hear the iconoclast,

Ideas that he has amassed!

     With simple suggestion

     He’ll help us to question

Beliefs we have held in the past,

                     . . . . held in the past.

.

Applying both reason and fact,

With logic that others have lacked,

     We’ll soon be debasing

     And quickly replacing

Beliefs that are rightly attacked,

                    . . . . rightly attacked.

So, heed the iconoclast who

Can help us debunk bugaboo.

     Beliefs we’re attacking

     We’ll throw out as lacking

And dream up beliefs that are new,

                       . . . . beliefs that are new.

No doubt that iconoclast doubt

Can change what believing’s about.

     By always updating

     We’ll end up creating

Beliefs we need never throw out,

                                 . . . . never throw out,

Never, never, never. . . .throw out.

(c) Estate of Hal Wingard, February 10, 2002.   Words begun February 4, 2002, on flight from San Diego to LAX on way to San Jose and expanded in Salinas while working at Gavilan View Middle School for 3 days.  Final verse added April 13, 2002, at home.

Thursdays with the Songs of Hal Wingard, z’l

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO–How we shape life and how life shapes us is the theme of the lyrics this week from the collection of Hal Wingard.  To see and hear songs previously published from his collection,  please click here.  (These songs will be added to the collection, once our main server is restored).
#101 — The Shots of Life
#310 — Beneath the Baubab Tree
#320 — Time to Blame 

#310, The Shots of Life

When I was young and orchid bright,
Not yet knowing wrong from right,
I held the youthful point of view:
Nothing I couldn’t do! 

Thus, when my bank account was low,
I’d double work to make it grow;
And when I felt my love-life thwarted,
I’d play the Don Juan as I courted.

            I’d play the Don Juan as. . .I. . .courted.

 Now youth is gone; and at my age
Orchids look like desert sage;
And I’ve revised my point of view:
Many things I cannot do.

I cannot change my changing health
As aging stalks in silent stealth;
And no way now nor in my prime
That I could stop the flow of time.

            That I could stop the flow. . .of. . .time. 

When I was young and starry-eyed,
I felt that if I really tried,
If I really gave my all,
The shots of life were mine to call.

 My starry eyes have lost their glow,
And I have learned what all should know:
The shots of life fall where they fall,
And I don’t call the shots at all.

            I don’t call the shots. . .at. . .all. 

(c) Estate of Hal Wingard, July 10, 1980

#310, Beneath the Baubab Tree
 
A Story from Senegal

(Sung)
Beneath an ancient baubab tree
There sat an elder sage,
Sharing, should a person ask,
The wisdom learned with age.

(Spoken)
One day a youthful passerby
On route from Dokomo
Paused to ask for sage advice,
With facts the sage would know.
 
(Spoken)

 “I’m on my way to Kadama,
You know, the nearby town.
Do all the people living there
Smile, or do they frown?” 

(Spoken)

The sage then asked the passerby
To think for just a while.
“Do folks you left in Dokomo
Frown, or do they smile?” 

(Sung)

“They frown,” the passerby replied.
“They frown the whole day through.”
“In Kadama,” the sage explained,
“You’ll find them frowning, too!”
 
(Spoken)
Another day, another youth
On route from Dokomo
Paused to ask for sage advice,
With facts the sage would know.

(Spoken)

 “I’m on my way to Kadama,
You know, the nearby town.
Do all the people living there
Smile, or do they frown?”
 
(Spoken)

The sage then asked the passerby
To think for just a while.
“Do folks you left in Dokomo
 Frown, or do they smile?”
 
(Sung)

“They smile,” the passerby replied.
“They smile the whole day through.”
“In Kadama,” the sage explained,
“You’ll find them smiling, too!” 

(Sung)
Beneath an ancient baubab tree
There sat an elder sage,
Sharing, should a person ask,
The wisdom learned with age.

(c) 2009 Estate of Hal Wingard; To Lorraine D’Ambruoso, who served as leader of a strand entitled Connaître L’Afrique Francophone! at the 1997 Annual Summer Seminar for Language Teachers, where I heard Daouda Camera, who was born in Senegal, tell the story in French. February 11, 2003 The words, written August 8, 1997, during a wait-over at Los Angeles airport on the way home the day the Seminar ended, are a loose rendition of the original story.

#320, Time to Blame
 
We all know folks who voice complaint
            That time makes life a race,
That time’s so fast they can’t keep up
            To do the tasks they face.

The culprit, though, cannot be time.
            It’s neither fast nor slow,

But rather moves, as rivers do,
            In steady, self-paced flow.

 “Too little time to do so much.”
            That’s what some others claim.

And yet the ration ev’ry day
            For ev’ryone’s the same.

Yes, time exists for us to use
            In work and pleasure, too.

But time, for sure, has never caused
            What we have failed to do.

The question’s not amount of time
            Nor passage fast or slow,

But do we sometimes squander time—
            And who can answer “no”?

(c) Estate of Hal Wingard, January 26, 2006.   Words completed January 17, 1997, in Rancho Cordova