Written on Kibbutz Ziqim in 1977 about 4 years after the 1973 Arab Israeli conflict. It is snappy, impressionistic with a DIY philosophy, and a sad ending. My motives for travelling to Israel were many – to find answers, adventure, see the world, widen my horizons, and that old saying, “to see where Jesus walked” also contributed to my decision. It was all done with the help of the working holiday organisations advertised in the daily paper in those days.
From the plane, I could see Greece and was amazed. When I got to Tel Aviv, disorientated by the city I set out immediately for Kibbutz Ziqim. I had no idea where it was, thankfully some kind stranger pointed me to the right bus or I would have got lost. It was a small commune on the seashore between Ashkelon and Gaza. I remember the interview with a Kibbutznik who told me I would be better suited to one of the larger Kibbutz’s where there were more people and my type would fit in easier. I needed to get my bearings and the thought of having to travel on was too much so I pleaded with them to let me stay –
And here it is! – The first road where no man was a traveller
I hurried through the boulevards of Tel Aviv, a stranger in Israel
With no words to ask my fare, to help me get where?
And money was exchanged for feeling ill at ease; in the night the bus seemed full of urchins and thieves; so I got out and walked through the strange city of Israel where everything new is turned upside down and revived.
Sat, March 5th
I had arrived at the time of the colourful Purim celebrations that commemorated the time when Jewish captives in ancient Persia were saved from extermination by the courageous Esther.
Samurai, Teddy Boy, Wizard and Werewolf
Welcome to the Purim
Masked Man. Schoolgirl, Tramp and Traveller
Welcome to the Purim.
Indian Statesmen, Red Indian Girls
I sit and watch the dance
Cooks, Old Folks, Soldiers on leave
I sit and watch the dance.
Dancers, Clowns just finished with the theatre
Power more than wealth
Sometimes they know what they’re going to do
Sometimes they speak for themselves.
Down the dirt road into the kibbutz
Lorries arrive filled with food from the fields.
Hebrew for travellers: “If your face doesn’t fit….”
A log fire crackles, ‘It’s a small community and people talk!’
Sun, March 6th
Israel is a small part to a mosaic in my head
Bedouins by the sea, with goats, sheepdogs tents
The ruin of an old Arab house, a gaping mysterious well
Fortresses, fighter planes, sand bugs; what led me here?
Carol singers slide back a panel in my head of an early memory
I sat amongst the trees on a cold windy night. “Tonight a film will be shown”
March 8th, 1977
I repeat – many circles in my life remain unbroken and secret
I repeat in reality – the dreams wound bleeds like an overturned wine jug in a cupboard
As I sit here in Israel this dream is a paralysis and to comprehend the truth
Means I have to seek the very substance that caused it.
IN THE HOBBITS ROOM ON TUESDAY NIGHT, MARCH 22ND
I was put into a wooden cabin with Chris from Sale, Manchester who had been on the Kibbutz before me. I felt some inexplicable resentment from him and we never got on.
Chris has got it taped! He fills the emptiness with selfish silence. Chris, what do you keep to yourself, sitting there like a budding Jean-Paul Sartre? The circle of smoky coincidence and a candlelit heaven in a wine bottle,
maps on the wall obsess the intellect, every freedom you give means there’s one you hide in. I sit and listen, I recall. I am impracticable, but you cope with me perfectly. Leaving me alone, I look inwards, I become I. I seek to remember when I have nothing to remember of nothing that grew out of importance. I’m talking of love. I’m thinking of my private life. I’m learning that private life is and is not an exclusive thing. Sometimes I pin mine on the wall like a scientist who studies the behaviour of white mice. My experiments are made while I am in a deep sleep. The intellect cannot free me from the curiosity of the unconsciousness, cannot by-pass the lines that grow as I age. Dreams stir the intellect. Always an individual finds he does and he does not have what he needs.
Forgive this letter, as you sat there I found I wanted someone to talk to, only to find myself with this observation – which you will frown at and ignore. That talk is different from conversation, this writing is mere talk. You’re wrong about conversation, music, and argument, none of it is intellect. Intellect belongs to our silences and to us. Conversation, music and arguments are the confusions we need. Peace is the solitude of intellect and is easy to live with, but very vulnerable. I talk of this because -you seem as vulnerable as the next man and he is armed to the teeth with conversation, music, and argument.
Along the desert highway leading to the Sinai
I watch the sunset sinking somewhere over the Red Sea.
Sitting in the dining hall one man turned to clay
His lonesomeness was not a stone I heard some people say
His work, his deeds, his thoughts were left
In the coffee grains and washed away.
Surrounded by a barbed-wire fence – jet fighters in the sky
He was a young Israeli youth who was not afraid to die;
The sonic boom shook the buildings, disused gun towers stood
… Bedouins pitched their tents.
Young men wait their turn in the armed forces of Israel;
Young men see sand bugs creep slowly on the beach.
The silent young generation of Israel who see war,
Want peace, an end to confusion.
In a land with too many religions, politics, how do you cope?
In their beautiful land labyrinths of power consume them.
Miriam the milkmaid heard the Kibbutz gardener’s trees sneeze
The telephone was off the hook.
A disillusioned Teddy boy strummed on his guitar
He was getting better all the time.
The wet dining hall floor on a cloudy day
“Volleyball everyone, volleyball!”
‘How can their graves survive all these sonic booms
Even the cemetery is a summer structure”.
The Essenes thanksgiving party
Even the biscuits have war slogans written on them
“The war, the war!”
Cried the Essene poets from the Dead Sea caves.
Birds fly out my window, the buzz of summer grips the sun.
Solitary telegraph poles try to sprout leaves
“I wonder what will happen,” the Volunteers murmur in their cabins.
When I came you gave me wine you gave me conversation
You said goodbye and walked the line to the empty railway station.
Desert wine and Sabbath candles burn the heart throughout the night
If I could understand your mind I could make my loving right.
The Dead Sea Scriptures flake away … uncovered by a heartbeat
The broken alarm’s twisted arms fall limp upon the railway seat.
Barefoot in the warm sand, I watch the trains go by
And think of boulevards of Tel Aviv and of the coffeehouses at night.
THE DEAD SEA SCRIPTURE POET
There were a few meaningful books floating about the volunteers’ cabins, I read one about the Dead Sea scriptures and another about Gandhi.
Hated heathens, awaited the cycle of destruction
Wore sandals, a white robe rubbed himself with oil
Practised the covenant, hid from Romans
Lived in communes in the wilderness
Walked the narrow roads, heard people brag of killings
But his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth
One foot in the grave, one hand around a wine jug
Then he found the Lord’s path, began writing thanksgiving poetry
Learning nothing was done the Lord had not foreseen
He was a trueborn priest with an insight into God’s workings
Truths like fingernails and hair grew long after his death
Sunlight held a secret
Looking into the sunlight he saw a movie
A boat sailing with all the works of the Lord
While alive he waited and waited for the vengeance of God
But no vengeance came only Romans and Jesus Christ
The Dead Sea Scripture Poet
Because he kept the covenant of God
Is said to be alive today.
Maybe I gave myself no choice?
Just to satisfy some mad vanity?
Trees and running water
Time? –The time is 3.45
On my own homemade calendar, it says –
I am in Israel; today is the 27th of March
I am drinking Hamishar coffee, it is sunny
I’ve fed saplings with running water
Scanned the horizon of sand dunes and sea
Watched girls sunbathe on the hill
My first thoughts in this poem were why?
Why do I give myself no vanity?
Whose vanity do I satisfy?
I have a book to read called, “Gandhi, His Experiments with Truth”
There are flowers on the table; it is Mothers Day 27th March
Paula, in her desert boots and Caftan
The Bedouin on his prayer mat
The Kibbutz’s have changed the desert
It’s Sunday, what is there to do on Sunday?
Hands up all those who want to abolish Sunday.
Paula, why did you paint Castles on the Rhine for their Purim celebrations?
I was asked to work in a factory that they had established there making foam rubber. Factory! I had spent a great part of my life up until then incarcerated in factories back in England and I hadn’t gone all that way to work in another one . . . . so they put me to work in the cemetery.
Watering the saplings along the roadside to the new cemetery the old Bedouin workman came to me. I could not understand Arabic, was he asking for drinking water? His young companion took me to the Israeli gardeners shed by the old Arab House. Not wanting to be idle I fill an empty wine bottle with water and took it to them.
They laughed and thanked me, I am still not sure if it is drinking water they wanted. At mid-day the young Bedouin signalled it was time to eat. From the wash house he looked at me through a veil of water that covered his head. He delighted in water; his distorted features reminded me of some spiritual being of water. In the afternoon I too want to drink from the silver thread of water. We finish work and they bid me a cheerful farewell in Arabic, as the old Bedouin is leaving he puts on his Arab headdress.
Beatrice feeds the dogs
The scraps come from the kitchen
Beatrice lives on Main Street
She is a Viking; the dogs are volunteer dogs.
Beatrice, her past
She feeds the dogs
She alone, she is fat, she wears a thick woolly jumper
The dogs are volunteer dogs.
Beatrice doesn’t say much
She reads, people confide in her
The dogs are enthusiastic eaters
She is their happy keeper.
All along the Jordan, from Galilee to the Dead Sea
Water runs from under bushes
England’s Glory matches lie unlit
Scattered on the floor.
All along the Jordan chasing schizophrenics
The river is an arm; the river is a rifle butt
If the river could speak it would babble this and that
Be sent to the psychiatrist.
In the town of Ashkelon, Arabs go a-begging
Dudes sell hash, whores are chasing soldiers
Supermarkets filled, coffeehouses empty
Young wives with prams have brown eyes, sad eyes.
The young college kids are unknown behind closed lids
Key on a bootlace. I never polish my shoes
Ashkelon the guard dog strayed onto the kibbutz
Fell in love with the volunteers
Flat on the floor, eyes closed, quite asleep.
Candles burning, lots of stories being told
“All the volunteers are dying of cancer”
Humsing wind from the Sinai.
Down in the air-raid shelter with a TV room
The Kibbutzniks watch the Mabat newsreel
Dreadful silence as they absorb news about the war
Icy isolated emotional block.
I knew nothing about Passover or what it meant to people. Somehow I managed to get drunk during the gathering for it. But I was impressed enough to secretly keep a little book given to everyone called Pesach Haggada to help them follow along with the event and which I still have.
Stricken by grief and loneliness he went on a journey
But he knew not his destination
He went to a place but knew not what took him there
Lizards of Baal slide from a tree standing on a desolate hill
I don’t like the way I’m being treated
But being treated wrong has become relative to my life.
I am walking on a hillside
On one side of my path there is a hedge-growth of flowering life
On the other side there are shadows
I breathe the air, the perfume, the sunlight, and the peace
Whilst on the other side in the shadows on the desolate hilltop
People are closing their hearts and minds to nature and what is more
They are in the shadows of my life.
Arrogance, Time and the Unanswerable led me into woods and labyrinths
Away from peace and openness.
Don’t question a word without first
Walking out of your role, living in a new way.
The sound of a spring bubbling in a wood
Will draw you onto an island in time
One answer becomes a thousand – one question becomes
The flight of a dove into a fire.
This is not a simple matter
A cycle of poetry is like an unexpected visitor
The memory of the oldest people you’d ever known
The beginning and the end.
The presence of the visitor was a very welcome thing
The dove that left an olive branch outside a traveller’s tent
A stranger composing with silver thread upon a running stream
A stranger grappling with the shadows in a wood
As he wanders in disguise until the final purpose is found
It’s strange how things come about
It’s strange how they begin to make sense
How the presence of things arrives into the incomplete pictures of life.
Communication with me is sacred and can only take place tonight
In sanctity rendered naked by purpose and sincerity of the people
Only when there are flowers on the dining-room table can you touch me?
That is all that need be done to invite me to this place
Only two of us must be there
You must not talk openly over the table
Be patient and allow nature and fate their mysterious ways
For this is how I accept beautiful people
April 4th 7 o’clock
Why blame the book of truth for my self-conceit
Somewhere within it is written:
It is the conduct of people, but not the people
That is to be despised.
There is a full moon
I was sitting with the guard dogs outside your door
Crazed Alpine people excited me
I drank a cup of wine to warm me
There is a full moon
I was sitting with the guard dogs outside your door.
April 4th 8 o’clock
Who’ll love a young man without any sense?
Who paints a skull and crossbones on everyone’s fence
Who’ll love a young man with wool in his mind?
And give to him freely and help him unwind.
THE DINING ROOM
The dining room was a place to meet others on the Kibbutz, people coming and going. It was often a sad place and the sadness made me feel insecure.
I’ve seen the miraculous glow-worm
As I walked from the dining hall
I wasn’t looking for anything in particular
Just walking along, forgetting.
My conversation had gone beyond the dining-hall talk
I had too many questions crowds couldn’t answer
Shirley was drunk, she was a drunken girl looking into Pandora’s Box
She was studying ventriloquism and wanted to ask me for a voice.
Forgetting and letting my mind clear
I saw my first glow-worm beneath the dark hill
It made me reflect on the dining-hall conversation
Staged for the benefit of the untied threads of someone’s life.
I don’t know what I wanted to know – only that I felt hopeful.
The crowd left bitten apples, bitten cakes, banana skins
On the white dining table cloth.
The crowd left an orchid, a hat, some make-up
I just seem to be gullible.
I leave the supper table; I’ll be alone
I can hear the clock, the dogs, and the crickets
I have my inheritory traits to think about.
I have this empty cabin on a hill – I have this window
Darkness above your room, the sea
But of all the darkness above your room
The deepest darkness is me.
I don’t understand why Miriam became so pale
Her eyes so heavy and dark today on Remembrance Day.
Why a wailing siren broke the silence?
The flags blowing in the rain in Ashkelon
The ragged bow-backed Jews with sour faces
The documentaries of Auschwitz
The survivors trying to forget the sad eyes of their children
I don’t understand – Or do I?
I’VE SEEN THE EUROPEANS
Languages were a problem. If everyone in Europe spoke a single language then we’d all be able to understand what an amazing place Europe really is.
I’ve seen the Europeans I’ve heard of all their travel
It seems to go on for aeons for the civilized Europeans
I’ve heard of all their travel I’ve seen them on the rivers
I’ve talked with them in restaurants until the early hours
I’ve seen the Europeans the restless children of Europe
Their voices lifted by songs their eyes softened with long hellos
Parallel Channels of Information –
Somehow a greater picture of life was beginning to develop in my poor old provincial English brain.
The camp is full of different communities, different peoples
Each one the same, but each one different
The water from the outside tap drains gently down the sand dune
Spreading a wet imprint and vanishing
A rain cloud is all around me
I don’t see it but it sees me like God might see but not be seen
All these individuals run from a source separate, going downhill
Each one filled with different information, each one the same.
ANOTHER EVENING MEAL
Another evening meal well language how do you feel
With your tongue stuck in a wheel
With only one star in the sky
Another evening meal with candles in the dark
Reduce me to a heap of bones
But let the wheel turn
Another evening meal with the language of a skull
It says nothing at all
But let the wheel turn
Another evening meal without the need for language
Without the need for struggling
All I want is you
Another evening meal another turn of the wheel
Reduce me to a heap of bones
But all I want is you
GO DOWN TO THE QUARRY
Quite out of the blue another of Israel’s remembrances came along. Without any idea of what was going on, we were led out of the commune in the night, thru the sand to a quarry?!
Go down to the quarry Go down tonight
Along the roads of Israel, follow their silhouettes against the starlight.
Follow them to the quarry towards the fireworks display
It’s dim light glowing from a crater of rocks and clay.
Walk to the edge in the darkness look down into the hole in the ground
As the commune begins singing by torchlight remembrance songs for the dead.
Clos du Toron
A Trappist monks wine from Latroun Abbey
Demi Sec Rouge.
I’m not thirsty, and I’m not hungry
Music’s all right
No more good-byes please Mr Wandering Star.
This morning I awoke into the dining hall situation
Nervous eaters frighten me
The talk is about travel but I don’t relate.
Brown Sparrows with Galliard wings jump on the tables like little brown-suited waiters
They bring people their conversation out of the blue,
TO ALI AND LIEN
Ali and Lien were two Dutch Girls. They were very relaxed and I felt at ease with them.
Jug of orange juice
Paintbrushes – immediate things
Who needs manners?
Who needs these ceremonies?
Wants doors and manners
People making their grand entrances
Just feel free Lien
Your behaviour is just fine
Rembrandt and Van Gogh
Millet and Cezanne
Took a manner
Put a frame around it
Suzanne, The bathers, Sunflowers
The field workers
Auvers, Riemy, St Etienne
And Cezanne’s mountain
Clogs of cheese, potato dust
Wellies, scarves and shawls
Vermeer over by the window
Who wants a crazy love?
I want to be calm like a painting
I want to be quiet
For the way you affect me
Is calm and quiet
Crazy love and a jug of orange juice
The painting on the wall
Rembrandts’ daughter, waterfall
Towel over the wardrobe door
Neighbours resting around a map of the world
Continents of furniture
Lots of peace slowly leaving the minds
It’s the morning you see
Peace leaves the mind around dinnertime
The map of the world soon ceases to be a picture
With neighbours resting around it
It becomes a midday game
Peace of mind now crazy love after
I have trust in neighbours
I have love for them
I feel secure alone with neighbours
Calm or cool not a word seems wrong this morning
Leisure and a map of the world
Rainwater in my baseball shoes
Wind and Sunlight in the trees
And a towel over the wardrobe door
The painting on the wall
DEAN, DEAN THE DOGS HAVE DONE YOU WRONG
Dean was a red-haired East Londoner, positive, cheerful with a grin that never seemed to leave his face. The dogs were strays adopted and cared for by the Volunteers.
Dean, Dean, the dogs have done you wrong
Ashkelon is biting horses, the pups are being mischievous
The conflict covers the beach, the cold sea
Where women do and do not ignore them
As people who talk of wrong attitudes concern their thoughts.
Dean, there is a hill and a ditch
But people are not filling in the ditch but building up the hill
Dean, people sit on this hill with philosophies
They sit one after another, throughout history
The hill is a heap of bones; the ditch is an abyss
It’s easy to whistle to their tunes
It’s easy to sit where they’re sitting.
I’m free, that is my stance in this Kibbutz poem
Free but for an invisible belonging thing that drags along the ground
An endless vein, bleeding endlessly
That belongs to the same cycle of life I belong to
It’s bleeding with me and without me
Mine for a moment, and then it belongs everywhere, to unborn things
It’s not invisible, but real, real flesh and blood, with laws
Once it’s gone these laws are pegs in a political game
Some think this game frees us
Some think this game has freed you
But they want everyone to think that.
I have something else to write for you
But I’ve forgotten the words and how to use them.
I had arrived in Israel with no travel plans, no idea of what I wanted to do there, and with only half an idea of staying there and growing old.
Mistaken again by the wrong conversation
For a very quiet drunken person
I’ll think of a very small plan to talk about
So that when they ask to hear my plans
I won’t seem so hopeless, and love is the plan I’m seeking
No more letters, back to playing drums on table tops
The gatherings of Christendom without wine or women
Serious matters about lifestyles
Sitting with Karen on Main Street with my problems of love
But I forget, I’m the one who is the problem
The Christians will attack me and Karen will find me drunk on Main Street
Strange how this poem escalated into a disaster
A tub of candlelight, a cup of coffee
Let a guitar figure it out for you
Evening falls, all around me music
Lien has locked herself away
A Gureem jumps from her window into the trees wearing a top hat
A picture of Lien in my mind
Her keepsake, a stick of notched wood, seems to float above her table in her darkened cabin
Her chimney sweep red hair in a fragment of mirror she borrowed from our cabin wall
Where I sat in darkness suddenly depressed by feeling old
But it’s all right now; I can see where the light is coming from.
TO ARIZONA JILL
I decided to share my prose and poetry with the others there, first to sample my scrawling’s was Arizona Jill. She replied with her own poem which firmly put me in my place.
Jill, you didn’t admit to me you had something on your mind
My activity was a thorn in your side
You force back your laughter
When its laughter the situation brings up
It’s time to bring the situation into the open
Laughter is a timepiece for talking about situations
Jill, I’ve been the Jack-in-a-box for so long
It worries me; I wear so many dead disguises
The weight is crushing me to the bone
My energies are compressed in a dark box of nerves
I start to live in them
There are so many labyrinths, so many borders around me
Some of life’s standards break down
If there’s no freedom in a treasure house or gaol
There’ll be corruption, war
What a silly story progress is
Jill, I wish I knew how honesty began
In your life, how does honesty begin?
When do your thoughts become open?
This frame of mind is like a key it can open any door but your own
It made me afraid to see feelings “disappear into the vacuum of someone’s eyes”
I’m chasing the principals of the lost generation
All those forgotten ideas that money could not buy
I disappeared with them into the air
“The day the music died!”
I’m taking part in some natural cycle now
Hoping to find something out of nothing
I am a person “lost in space”
I’m tired of people holding back from me
Holding back their laughter
THE SPIRIT IMAGE
The problems of this country had been in my sub-consciousness and my inner idea-ness came out with this plea for sanity.
Palestine – with palm trees in the desert
There are pink clouds in the dawn
All of your graceful women and children
Are like illusions in the glass of an oil lamp
Religion – Your soldiers fight around a candle flame
When you attack what is it you want to extinguish
You jump through the yellow flame that attracts you
In its double vision you see its spirit as a flaming water insect
Skidding back and forth from bank to bank
The whole country is an ancient book
Whose leaves have turned across the horizon
To be read by the peoples of the world
The value of a river is its depth
No human being ever had a crown to equal its majesty
It is not government but love that matters
Legends that are worshipped move on
Leaving the shadowy voids in the glassy resurrection of heat
Time keeps no immortals to retrace their footsteps like travelling drama groups
Re-enacting revered incidents of religion along ancient biblical streets
Where is your faith?
It’s not what you want to belong to
But where you belong
Out of the blue number 2. A Kibbutznik had decided to invite the volunteers to his home to watch the Eurovision song contest. About 20 or more people were squashed in there like in a crowded bus. Even worse the kindly Kibbutznik was passing around alcohol of all kinds. With a phobia about crowded living rooms I though that half a bottle of brandy might help me. There was uproar and in a blink of the eye I was thrown outside. Completely sizzled I foolishly tried to get back in and broke something. Two Australians came and dragged me off into the darkness and beat me up.
The silent crowd, a bottle of brandy and meet the TV
Someone tried to kill me last night!
Did someone beat me up for a joke or is it just a state of mind?
When you cannot think anymore and feel you’re alone
When love is a game that keeps you revolving
I awoke to my own blood and spew
With my bloodstained jeans and my black eyes
I broke a window, (I had been locked out) to find the handle
Such a state of degradation – “Now everyone’s got a broken window”
The broken glass of home, “Just leave everything as you found it”
It’s not really me they’re talking about – I don’t really exist!
Squeeze out of the door, I feel as if I am … Rocky Raccoon in an old time movie
If I gave you any words for love what would love be worth?
Where is your knowledge of people, why don’t you understand?
“They’re all anti Semitic here’ said Miriam!
I’ll get the Volunteers a bad name I’m repeatedly told
My drinking has got better but my behaviour’s got worse
Time passes slowly, mirrors I look into
I fell amongst the trees bloodstained
She asked you for beautiful words – you laughed at her
Is that why this cold world makes me so silent
In a world that indulges in ugly words, only a few seem to understand
Does no one need beautiful words – to need beautiful words?
Some people want to speak beautifully but the world drives them crazy
I couldn’t hide my truth, found it hard to hide my need
Everywhere I go the sky is always so uncomplicated to a mortal like me
What’s going to happen to my friends?
Chris, the world is cut short on life again
The guards on Ziqim Kibbutz try to help
Understanding more about people than the Kibbutzniks do
Find someone who understands people
Someone who understands more about beautiful words
And hang around for a while.