Moses

For all those holding Passover.

I remember Moses. He stood there before Old Man Pharaoh, stuttering and telling him, “Let my People go.” That day he was as tall as the day is long as it stretches from dawn to sunset. The Egyptians laughed. How dare Moses insult them with his arrogance. When the Old Man refused to let us go, Moses stretched out the staff of the Lord and gave him ten plagues, each one worse than the last.

Then Moses stood before a crowd of us. We were angry because Pharaoh had added more to our work than we could bear. More straw, more brick, that wicked man demanded from us. Moses stuttered till his brother Aaron spoke his words.

“Pharaoh will let the People go,” Aaron said, but he did not believe. None of us did. When you’re a slave and the Master has used you all up, what hope do you have?

Then the tenth plague bore down on all the households of that accursed land. The Angel of Death roved around that Passing-over night from midnight until dawn, going from house to house, killing Egyptian children. But our babies were spared. The Lord had told us to mark the doors of our houses with the blood of a lamb. This we had done.

That night the Nile ran red with despair. The Papas and the Mamas of Egypt grieved a grief as sad a lamentation as any heard by that River in its long years since the beginning of the world. It was their first-borns that Death snatched from their arms and sent to the grave. There were some fine Egyptians, but the Angel spared none of them.

Next we heard Pharaoh commanded Moses to take his scum and go.

“Go. Leave. I will not see you any more,” Pharaoh’s anger spoke and it spoke hard. “Get thee hence.”

His gods had failed him. Where was Horus when the Lord of the Two Lands, Ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt, needed him? His son, his only child, his heir by the woman whom he loved more than all his kingdom, his only son was dead. While the priests prepared the son of Pharaoh for burial in the Valley of the Kings, we rejoiced and danced in the streets. Our deliverance had finally come.

“We’re free,” my uncle Eleazar shouted. “Our jailers are jailers no more.”

The sun rose early that new day as we gathered in the Land of Goshen. Everywhere there were people, our people. There were so many of us that the streets buckled under the load of our weight. We had not known that our father Jacob had so many children.

Calmly standing above us, and before us, was Moses. He raised his staff of oak and turned toward the sea and led us out from that land of our slavery toward a new home in a Promised Land.

Banned in a small town

September 22 – 28 is the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week. In honor of the week, I am spotlighting the Movie, “Storm Center” (1956):

In cities and towns everywhere, there are those people who are checking the shelves of libraries and bookstores to find out if there is one of those books. Those books that have radical ideas. Ideas they don’t want others to discover. Because the ideas might pollute the minds of their fellow citizens or maybe their fellow citizens will discover the foolishness of these ideas.

Or maybe there’s some words in a book that might be bad. Books like the “n-word” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. After all, George Orwell in his 1984 warned us that language can be manipulated.

Or maybe there’s a scene where the characters are doing something that’s “bad”, scenes like the ones in Ulysses or Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

In the movie, “Storm Center,” the Town Council of Small Town USA wants the local library director to get rid of one book, The Communist Dream. They are receiving letters from people that don’t like that one book. It’s the 1950s, and the communists are out to destroy us and our way of life. Just one book.

Alicia Hull, the library director, agrees that she’ll take the book off the shelves. in her office, she asks herself, and her employee, “How do you get rid of a book?”

She could burn it. But then she remembers that they burned books in Germany that the Nazis didn’t like. Then she remembers her principles. Even though it may cost her the children’s wing of the library, she won’t be bought off.

Back at the City Council, she stands by her principles. She will not remove the book. Then one of the Council brings up organizations she belonged to. He insinuates that she must be guilty by association. After all, this is the 1950s. Tailgunner Joe is running wild in Washington, pointing fingers at this one and that one, bringing down the high and the mighty with accusations of communism.

If her association with these organizations gets out, there’s no telling what will happen to her. They might even have to fire her. They can’t have their children associating with a librarian who is a communist.

Just remove that book. And any others the town council doesn’t approve of and everything will be a-okay.

First it was just one book. Now it’s two or three or ten or a hundred.

Alicia Hull refuses to remove the book. And so she suffers the consequences. What the town council doesn’t realize is that their decision will have ramifications for the whole community.

As Alicia Hull, Betty Davis delivers one of her best performances. The film may be dated. After all, people wear bibs as they eat their lunch in the movie. Still it has a powerful impact on the viewer when the viewer asks, “What if?”

Since the 1980s, the American Library Association has celebrated the freedom to read by honoring those books which are challenged or banned. So be a rebel and visit your local bookstore or library and check out a copy of one of those books. You’ll find a list on this page.

Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: Light One Candle

It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection: “Light One Candle” by Peter, Paul, and Mary. This one is for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

 

 

A Guest Post: How To Kill a Poem

My friend, Marla Wolfe, is participating in this year’s Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) in her own unique way. She is composing a poem for each of the thirty days. She is sharing her poems with me at the end of each day. I was particularly blown away with this poem from Day 3. She has graciously consented to let me post it here. Thank you, Marla.

How to kill a poem
by Marla Wolfe

Yesterday I killed a poem.
It wasn’t pretty.
Everything started innocently enough, though.
I followed my usual routine:
Pondering, listing, researching,
Referencing, organizing, adjusting,
Working out all the details.
After several drafts
Something beautiful came into focus –
It was unique, naturally patterned, real –
But then I went too far:
I added meter and rhyme.
I poked at the poem, prodded it,
Stuffed that full-grown being
Into a neat little cocoon
Of eight syllables per line,
Dropping emotion to make it fit,
Erasing color, adding artificiality.
And before I knew it,
The poem was dead –
No movement, no flutter of life.
Flat on the table.
For a moment I stared at it in disbelief,
Sick with awareness of what I’d done.
Then in a panic I snatched away its burden.
It raised its wings, revived.  A miracle.
I opened the window and set it free.
©Marla Wolfe, 2015

Cabbage

Why did she have to raise cabbage? Anything but cabbage. Charles hated cabbage, and she knew he hated it.

Since they were married for the past twenty years, Helene had been obsessed with cabbage. Just try it this way, she said time and again. This way or that way was never going to work for him. He hated cabbage.

“Charles,” she said to him a number of times, “the rabbits are eating my cabbage.”

“Good,” Charles responded. “Now you don’t get to force it into me.”

“You know you would love my cabbage strudel if you would give it the old college try.” Just the thought of cabbage strudel about drove Charles insane.

He gave murder some thought over the years. No judge would convict Charles. “Your Honor,” he would say, “you will understand when you hear the circumstances of my crime. You will have no reason to convict me of the murder of my wife.”

After the judge heard his plea, he would immediately release Charles. “Justifiable homicide. No man could live with the persecution Charles has lived with for twenty years.”

This was Charles’ reasoning for some years, but no more. The country had gone cabbage crazy. It was becoming harder and harder to find a restaurant, a tavern or a friend who did not serve a cabbage dish with every meal.

Finally a solution came to Charles. A one way ticket to America. He had heard that America was a savage country where men and women ate only meat. America, everybody claimed, was a barbarous place.

The westward voyage was such a comfort. Not one meal on the menu offered cabbage. The ship passed the Statue of Liberty with its promised freedom from the tyranny of cabbage. As the ship moved into its berth at the port of New York, Charles smiled his broadest smile. He had turned his back on the religious persecution of his home country’s love of cabbage. Before him stood a cabbage-free life.

The ship docked. Charles gathered up his bags and headed into the city. His plan was to follow Horace Greeley’s advice of “Go West, Young Man.” Soon he would be on a train to California. First he must try a meal at one of New York’s finest restaurants.

Charles opened the menu and read. He just about vomitted. It seemed America’s finest restaurants too had embraced the contagion. Before him were offerings of cabbage and potatoes, cabbage rolls, boil-that-cabbage-down, cabbage stew and cabbage burgers. Cabbage mania had struck America when Charles wasn’t looking.

On and on the cabbage dishes ran until he came to the final offering. “Cabbage strudel topped with a dab of vanilla ice cream.” It was named, of all things, Cabbage a la Helene.