Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 30, 2007

Eleven Thoughts On the Jewish/National Question

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 7:54 pm

(Guest post by Jeffrey Marlin)

1. Jim

Ex-president Carter has written non-fiction
Alleging Israeli abominations
Requiting the Bible’s
Acute observation
that: “Sorrow
shall take …


His writing has set ganzer machers in motion:
Ads in the newspapers;
Tirades on cable,
In the

They’re hotly emphatic
Denouncing the heresy:
Jimmy is bigoted, Anti-
Semitic yea shamefully
Shameless, outrageous,
Bad news for the Jews.

Nobody’s perfect and neither is President Jim.
Nevertheless, I’m hunting for thumb-
Tacks to hang from my lintel
Whatever pejoratives over-
Wrought Pharisees
Trouble to
Hang on

2. Buzz

How long exactly?

Fifty eight years
Since I ask my parents
The meaning of “refugee”
In the midst of
Intense discussion.

They tell me such people
Abandon their houses; while
Many are innocent, others
Are not;

The ones we’re discussing
Want only to strangle our
Newly-won state with the bloat
Of their numbers and bury our dreams
In gratuitous fury the moment we
Let them return with their keys
In their hands.

The wriggling fly in this
Jordan of ointment
Has buzzed through my
Childhood and adolescence,

The getting and losing
Of knowledge and strength,
And it sings to me still
In the fury of disappointment.

3. Dennis

Pasty, bespectacled,
(Vaguely effeminate?)
Acne assaulting his
Sophomore year, Dennis is raging,
Campaigning for Taft and for
Caning the Reds
Out of Europe.

Because he is crazy, unlovely, ungainly,
The students avoid him. Sometimes I listen; he
Strikes me as well prepared.

I’m standing outside of the gym door in sweats;
He’s onto the Forty-Eight War for a change.
I fidget; amused seventh graders make faces;
They know I’ll be signing in late yet again.

The Jews, he assures me, have broken
Agreements, leveled the villages,
Ratcheted terror to rape and
Infanticide; now he’s exploding
With dates and specifics
Of truce demarcations; his fingers
Are moving, his necktie off-kilter, and who
Can defend the assassination
Of good Count Bernadotte?

Much of it sticks and I carry it
Home for discussion. I learn that the
Strange allegations are phony and
Count Bernadotte got
Just what he asked for and
We are Stevenson people.

Some years later Dennis descends to
Distributing scurrilous pamphlets,
Skirmishing with his neighbors,
And is, I believe, committed.

Eventually, I go to the sources
And find that the nut case has
Nailed his assertions. Here is
The lesson I take from this
Tragic design:
You’d better
Be watching
Behind you;

The truth is
Where you

4. Word

I goaded the analyst
Sitting behind me through
Many exuberant hours.

Perhaps he considered
It useful to treatment. I
Felt it enlivened the mix.

Back in the seventies
Better psychiatrists
Prided themselves on
Remaining in role;

Poolside in August they
Pelted each other with
Tales of restraint in the face
Of temptation. I

Went at his ethics, his
Medical background,
Failings as father,
Addiction to Kents.

Nothing outflanked his
Command of himself
But the Z-word

Delivered with
Resonant hiss
And derision.

I’m clear on the moment
I drilled to the core.
I hear him hunch forward
And mumble surrender;

To do with a good one
Across the jaw.


I know you well enough;
You look down your nose
At the notion of God

You’re utterly strange to the
Language and customs
And find their

Absent linguistic, religious
Or otherwise commonly
Rooted involvement
Or interest,

Why do you stand by this over-
Seas banner cum triangles
Tangled to emulate

Phil, do you treasure
Your own invitation to
Stop by tomorrow
And dine on

Or think that they’re
Pulling the terrible
Trigger for

Or is it no more than the
Magical sound of the

6. Neighbor

Conflict born of early mistreatment
Is existential and unrelenting,
Imposing an urge to domination,
Conditional to survival.

Imagine the state as a child of abuse
Behaving as one might expect it to do;
Despoiling the bothersome
Undersized brother
Improbably cast as
— complaining in mortified indignation
Of any rebuke or retaliation;

Reclaiming itself from
The thrall of its pain
Through obsessive

The application of models like this
May serve to enlighten, or not,
Bring clarification or muddy the waters,
Burnish or tarnish the history,

But they give me no help in defining what’s driving
My neighbor’s repeatedly emphasized taste
For the blood of the young and the
Weakest among them,
Secure as he is at the
Center of safety, and
With sorrow.

7. War

During the Lebanese war I got feisty
With e-mails. Something I said
Threw a hurt into George.
He called three months later, reported his
Wounding and asked: Am I ready to
Join him in putting things right?

Assured that the damage was caused by
My language I told him sincerely
That I had been negligent, gladly apologized,
Hopefully nipping it. We will be
Lunching next Thursday in Long Beach,
Enjoying the boardwalk,
Finessing the subject, though
Possibly tackling this one:

Where is the point at which
Friendship refuses to
Tolerate moral divergence?
When, like the impact
Of physical stress
On weight-bearing members,
Do grave intuitions
Demolish the struts
Of affection?

How does he gather the
Fiber to bind up my
Personal view that his
Hope for redemption
Embodies a frank paranoia
Productive of nothing
But cycles of war
And self-pity?

How to defeat the
Hormonal instruction to
Unleash our anger, which
Offers no semblance
Of impact on anything real?


I am:

Harbor; singular
Portal, long-promised
Refuge from peril and
Bondage to

Beleaguered, attractive to
Predators, harried by
Clamor and fang in
The dark of the

Vexingly bi-
Sected thought;

Oddly constructed
Chimera. A dream.

Paradox given the
Run of the joint.

As if needed,
That Freud had
It right:

Is the tool
Of the kishkas.

9. Self

I sold myself to rescue myself;
Arranged with the Nazi and lapped
At his mercy; snarled at my-
Self as I left myself. Ashamed

Of the Yiddish, I plowed it under;
Repudiated emaciation;
Infatuated myself with iron;
Emerged in the South

A Prussian child beloved of the vigorous
Worms of the promising soil,
A country stew of the brawny virtues,
Yearning eastward for room to live;
Reversing the meaning of master;

Defeated my leaning to self-abasement,
Done as my nature should have intended
Never accounting for what I must, or the
Hate I inspire in being myself. Lose no sleep

To the blood I’ve spilled
On the pallid self I killed.

10. Right

Life is sacred
Within the tribe;
I have a right
To defend myself
And mine.

I want the city
You live in.
Raise a hand,
Leave an arm behind.
Never imagine that I will neglect my
Right to defend myself.

Whoever dug that hole
In the ground,
The water comes to me.
Test the boundary I have set
And ready yourself to understand
My right to defend myself

And all that comes to me.

Do not afflict me
With threatening language.
Do not oppress me
With murderous thoughts;
I will arise and exercise
The timeless right to defend myself
Against the noise of insects.

I walked the road
To Gehenna and back and
Here’s what I learned
In the darkness:
How to run blitzkrieg,
Study genetics;
Trumpet my right to defend myself.

Against the judgment of mankind,
Seethed in its detestation,
Always, above limitation,
I will defend my right
To defend my right.

11. Skin

Will you wear the uncomfortable skin
Of the blue-eyed adolescent

Behind the checkpoint gate and gun
And the dangerous indifference;

Your habit of cruelty answering only
A teenager’s itch for distraction?

Or that of a sweltering older woman
Packed into line, your ankles aflame:

Deeply afraid of mercurial
Change in the youngster’s

Thoughts, or trembling smirk,
Or foreign disposition?

It seems to me that
Come to the finish,
You will be
One or the

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