Idle.

I am rather lazy. Really.

When I share this information with people who love me, though, they poo-poo it. They see how busy I am, how involved I am with family and friends, and they protest. No! They say. It isn’t so!

But, in the spirit of either a word means a thing or it doesn’t, I must counter-protest: It actually is very much so.

If the definition of lazy is “resistant to work or exertion; disposed to idleness” (and it is), then we have hit the nail squarely on the head re: me. Given half a chance, my default mode is idleness (well: book reading. Or hanging out. I’m great at hanging out!), and virtually every one of my exertions is a result of my superego being just a squosh bigger than my id. Because my id would really rather not, thankyouverymuch.

And so we come to poetry. (Really!)

One might easily expect an egghead such as myself — one who loves language and words and the very letters that form the two so much that she collects the letter A — to be into poetry. Like, really into poetry! And I’m not. Why? Because I’m lazy.

Poetry requires involvement and engagement and real application of the heart and mind, and dude — I just want to be idle. So I am, at best, a very poor word geek indeed. I like Auden, I like Dickinson (no relation!), I like bits and bobs of this and that. But more often than not, I just don’t bother.

See? Lazy.

But I’m making an exception here (excuse me for a moment, I have to exert myself), because some things are worth it.

Like this particular poem, translated from Hebrew and brought to my attention by my rabbi and friend, Brant Rosen, from the new book With an Iron Pen: Twenty-five Years of Hebrew Protest Poetry:

Then We Didn’t Yet Know

Then we didn’t yet know
That the Occupation would be forever.
Even when it would be forcibly extracted like a tooth
and tossed behind electric fences
and magnetic crossings
while cement and petrol magnates
traveled from Ramallah to Gaza –
even then it would be remembered longingly –
how young it was, the Occupation,
composed only of Arab women bent over tomatoes
in Jewish fields, men with nylon bags
waiting for work at Ashkelon junction,
jumping into grey service Peugots,
and the Secret Service men who lived three to a villa in Afridar
actually changing their license plates to army license plates before
going off to work, so they wouldn’t be identified.
It was young. In the restaurants they peeled vegetables into large tins, then
fried them, built on scaffolds. There were many organizations.
And they were young:
volunteers with Chinese weapons, poets,
but the Occupation didn’t recognize them,
because it was busy arguing in the classroom whether to return territories or not
and Ofer P., whose father was wounded in the battle of Jenin,
and had shrapnel stuck in his back
said, “In any case, there’ll be another war.”
That’s what his father taught him.
That’s how young the Occupation was,
and look at it now.

Dahlia Falah (translated by Rachel Tzvia Back)

And if that’s not enough, there’s this piece*, performed by poet, educator, and NPR commentator Kevin Coval, an artist whose words have slayed me and flayed me on more than one occasion. Listen, please, because it’s the truth:

I may be lazy — but some words will quicken the dead.

**********************

* I should have noted: This poem is “Hero Israel,” from Kevin’s book Slingshots (A Hip-Hop Poetica).


2 Comments

  1. By chance, were you also inspired by the apparent Friday-poetry thread at TNC? That’s what shamed, er, led me back to the words.

  2. slag

     /  November 25, 2009

    I still don’t believe in lazy. I think it’s a cover for some other attribute. Like being underwhelmed or focused elsewhere. I’m with you on poetry, but most often, it’s because I think poetry really does need to be read aloud. Shakespeare on the page is good but not as good as a really great story-teller like…say…Mark Twain. Shakespeare in the theatre or on the screen is utterly unparalleled. Maybe I think this way because I’m lazy too. But there’s little value to me in forcing myself to engage in an activity that both doesn’t thrill me and promises very little in terms of productive outcome. In which case, at least lazy is benign.

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