Listening to “Rites Of Spring”: Poem by Judy Katz-Levine

Listening to “Rites Of Spring” – a visitation
I was sleeping but listening to the radio:
“Rites Of Spring”.  Just as the music was ending
I had this dream:
My mother came in a white house trailer.  Someone else
was driving.  She hopped out, came to our door.
I knew it was her, only she appeared luminous.
Then she sat down in the living room, my mother gone two years
was alive in this dream.  My father also
was there, miraculously alive again.  I was careful
with the introductions, and remembered my grandfather’s
name – Joseph – I didn’t want to make a mistake.
Then my mother walked around the room, felt
a wooden table with her fingers, which my father
had refinished – and felt a wooden floor by the fireplace
(it is actually made of blue stone) – she felt with sensitive
fingers the grain of wood, felt with her hands, very slowly.
Then went to the Mezuzahs* on the door posts, and put her fingers
to them, held them there, slowly touching.   Feeling the engraved
design of the Mezuzahs.
She then asked me
if I still liked to collect shells – my son
was also in the room, but not
my husband.
Then my mother said – “Well, maybe
we can work something out – a visit or vacation
at the cape or a beach.”
        Judy Katz-Levine
*Mezuzah – a sacred Jewish object attached to the door post of a home or room, with biblical and sacred phrases within.

Take A Small Action For The Good

“It doesn’t do any good, we can’t anything about it.” Why do people reiterate this when deciding to not take a small action about our current political scene?
I have to deconstruct this, as to my mind it is patently false. First off, much—most—of what we do all day doesn’t do much about anything. We keep a roof over our heads and the wolf from the door—good. We watch TV and hang around and are on Facebook—relaxing, but it doesn’t “do” anything. What percentage of our lives are focused on our loftiest goals, our highest expression? Good for you if its a lot—getting an education, caring for a sick person. But we can’t “do” anything about the drought, yet conserve water anyway—partially habit, partially because of cost—and keep our gardens going. So why not send that postcard to your representative with the same ordinary attitude?
Such and such is not political. I hear this from arts organizations and more. This is just because, as naive Americans, we consider politics to be…about our current two party system. In Latin America and Europe and no doubt other places politics is considered intellectual conversation. And when you are attacked, and your funding cut, ordinary cultural activities become political.
Aristotle famously said: Man is an animal who lives in a city. It can be translated as—Man is a political animal. By this very condition, our existence is politics.
Nothing means anything. Watch out for nihilism. It makes you sound like a teen-aged Jean-Paul Sartre. And don’t apply it at will—nihilism about activism, enthusiasm for chocolate cake, because that makes you…
A materialist. Who prefers fake flowers to real (because they last and are more practical). And, let’s face it, if every one of your actions has to result in a glorious outcome you are on the way to self aggrandizing. I won’t use the much bandied word starting with N that refers to falling in love with your own reflection here, but you know what I mean.
And bottom line—don’t tell other people their actions are meaningless. Would you feel free to tell them that about a worrisome child, credit card debt, or bad health? I doubt it. In the Hebrew Book of Job, the suffering man’s bad friends tell him his faith is meaningless. Who put them up to this? Satan. You get my point.
Since I know you aren’t any of these annoying types, I encourage you to be yourself and take a break from working for the man, being a starving artist, a harassed parent, or whatever else you are doing and become what you already really are—an ethical citizen.
And take that small action for the good.

My Father, Death with Dignity, and How We Choose

The Right To Die

Many beliefs have a back story. I’ve always supported death with dignity, physician assisted suicide, whatever you want to call it, in all of its various forms. When lobbying for such a bill you shouldn’t use the word “choice” because that may bring the abortion debate to mind, but it is about choice. And that’s because no two people are the same, and belief should not be imposed on others. At least not belief about how to die.
So what’s the story? There are several. When I was 21 and almost died after swine flu and lung surgery I came away with more and less fear. Less fear of death itself. More fear about being trapped between life and death—medically trapped, soul in a non-functioning body. When my 36 year old first husband Robert went into a coma and was brain dead but hooked to a respirator, a rabbi told me: don’t let this go on for too long. It’s dangerous for both the dying person and the people around him to be trapped in between worlds.
Someone else might have reacted differently to these situations. But they made me understand death is part of life, and coming to us all.
However, the real back story is about my dad. In his late 80s, having partially recovered from a major stroke, he had a series of small ones. He had trouble communicating, but was able to convey that he would no longer eat, drink, or take medication. He died about nine days later in hospice. This was a personal decision—not easy to put into practice, but not impossible either. He was a very strong willed man. I’ll never know if he’d planned this, or was just responding to the messages from his body, like a dying cat or dog who stops eating.
Was this good or bad? Good for him, terrifically hard on my mother who was in the early stages of dementia and living with him. Ambiguous for everyone. Would my dad have been happier with a doctor prescribed barbiturate? Would that have been quicker, less lonely, more supported? We’ll never know, as such things are still illegal in the state he lived in.
In any case, he didn’t have that choice. Maybe he would still have gone his own way—there was a certain resolve in that, and a kind of ease in letting nature take its course. But not everyone can do it.
What does it mean to want to die? I can’t understand that for others. Just for myself. I’d like to have some options.

In New Mexico, please support HB 171, End-of-Life Options Act. The bill would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults the ability to request his/her medical provider to provide a prescription for medication that will end life in a peaceful manner.It is in committee, and will hopefully soon be on the legislative floor.

Poetry Posts: Looking for Poets, Artists, Curators

There are 10 poetry posts on Santa Fe Community College’s campus.


Since I’ve retired, no one is maintaining them, so I think I’ll just continue to as a community project for the time being. But I need help!

I’m looking for:

a poet with ten poems
an editor who wants to create a suite of ten poems
an artist, collagist, collaborative group to create 10 pages of images plus poetry

Each post houses a simple standard piece of paper


I’m going to put out a call in my on-line class and to the staff of Santa Fe Literary Review.
A selection from an e-zine would work. Each poem shoud be no more than one page.

Write me at to participate

You can mail me hard copy or a pdf would work too. It’s fun, and there’s audience. I’ll install the work. Interested?