Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ave Imperatrix

Set in this stormy Northern sea,
Queen of these restless fields of tide,
England! what shall men say of thee,
Before whose feet the worlds divide?

The earth, a brittle globe of glass,
Lies in the hollow of thy hand,
And through its heart of crystal pass,
Like shadows through a twilight land,

The spears of crimson-suited war,
The long white-crested waves of fight,
And all the deadly fires which are
The torches of the lords of Night.

The yellow leopards, strained and lean,
The treacherous Russian knows so well,
With gaping blackened jaws are seen
Leap through the hail of screaming shell.

The strong sea-lion of England’s wars
Hath left his sapphire cave of sea,
To battle with the storm that mars
The stars of England’s chivalry.

The brazen-throated clarion blows
Across the Pathan’s reedy fen,
And the high steeps of Indian snows
Shake to the tread of armèd men.

And many an Afghan chief, who lies
Beneath his cool pomegranate-trees,
Clutches his sword in fierce surmise
When on the mountain-side he sees

The fleet-foot Marri scout, who comes
To tell how he hath heard afar
The measured roll of English drums
Beat at the gates of Kandahar.

For southern wind and east wind meet
Where, girt and crowned by sword and fire,
England with bare and bloody feet
Climbs the steep road of wide empire.

O lonely Himalayan height,
Grey pillar of the Indian sky,
Where saw’st thou last in clanging flight
Our wingèd dogs of Victory?

The almond-groves of Samarcand,
Bokhara, where red lilies blow,
And Oxus, by whose yellow sand
The grave white-turbaned merchants go:

And on from thence to Ispahan,
The gilded garden of the sun,
Whence the long dusty caravan
Brings cedar wood and vermilion;

And that dread city of Cabool
Set at the mountain’s scarpèd feet,
Whose marble tanks are ever full
With water for the noonday heat:

Where through the narrow straight Bazaar
A little maid Circassian
Is led, a present from the Czar
Unto some old and bearded khan,—

Here have our wild war-eagles flown,
And flapped wide wings in fiery fight;
But the sad dove, that sits alone
In England—she hath no delight.

In vain the laughing girl will lean
To greet her love with love-lit eyes:
Down in some treacherous black ravine,
Clutching his flag, the dead boy lies.

And many a moon and sun will see
The lingering wistful children wait
To climb upon their father’s knee;
And in each house made desolate

Pale women who have lost their lord
Will kiss the relics of the slain—
Some tarnished epaulette—some sword—
Poor toys to soothe such anguished pain.

For not in quiet English fields
Are these, our brothers, lain to rest,
Where we might deck their broken shields
With all the flowers the dead love best.

For some are by the Delhi walls,
And many in the Afghan land,
And many where the Ganges falls
Through seven mouths of shifting sand.

And some in Russian waters lie,
And others in the seas which are
The portals to the East, or by
The wind-swept heights of Trafalgar.

O wandering graves!  O restless sleep!
O silence of the sunless day!
O still ravine!  O stormy deep!
Give up your prey!  Give up your prey!

And thou whose wounds are never healed,
Whose weary race is never won,
O Cromwell’s England! must thou yield
For every inch of ground a son?

Go! crown with thorns thy gold-crowned head,
Change thy glad song to song of pain;
Wind and wild wave have got thy dead,
And will not yield them back again.

Wave and wild wind and foreign shore
Possess the flower of English land—
Lips that thy lips shall kiss no more,
Hands that shall never clasp thy hand.

What profit now that we have bound
The whole round world with nets of gold,
If hidden in our heart is found
The care that groweth never old?

What profit that our galleys ride,
Pine-forest-like, on every main?
Ruin and wreck are at our side,
Grim warders of the House of Pain.

Where are the brave, the strong, the fleet?
Where is our English chivalry?
Wild grasses are their burial-sheet,
And sobbing waves their threnody.

O loved ones lying far away,
What word of love can dead lips send!
O wasted dust!  O senseless clay!
Is this the end! is this the end!

Peace, peace! we wrong the noble dead
To vex their solemn slumber so;
Though childless, and with thorn-crowned head,
Up the steep road must England go,

Yet when this fiery web is spun,
Her watchmen shall descry from far
The young Republic like a sun
Rise from these crimson seas of war.
-Oscar Wilde, "Ave Imperatrix"

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Journey

The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.

I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my
voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.

It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself,
and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.

The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.

My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said `Here art thou!'

The question and the cry `Oh, where?' melt into tears of a thousand
streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance `I am!'

by Rabindranath Tagore

ht/ La Princesse.


Image may contain: ocean, sky, twilight, outdoor, water and nature
Olive eyes in an orange sky
Of almond clouds that are pierced by
The pomegranate rays of
A sinking crimson sun

Image may contain: sky, cloud, mountain, nature and outdoor

His light plucks the horizon
like guitarists' fingers strum
Hills like beds where so it's said
The moon descends to dance the dead

Image may contain: sky, ocean, twilight, outdoor, nature and water

Streams flow so red around my head
you can't tell the blood from roses
In this house, songs are shared like bread
they open as the day closes
The sky's a pool with fires
Burning all around her sides

Image may contain: 1 person, ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

My heart's a flame inspired
By the breath's of a wind's cry
Where it blows inside, I live
Where it pours outside, I die
-Ibn Zamrak, "Sunset"
h/t La Princesse

Friday, April 28, 2017

The King's Word

"This is a testimony to the richness and diversity of the Kingdom of Morocco's spiritual heritage. Blending harmoniously with the other components of our identity, the Jewish legacy, with its rituals and specific features, has been an intrinsic part of our country’s heritage for more than three thousand years.

As is enshrined in the kingdom’s new Constitution, the Hebrew heritage is indeed one of the time-honored components of our national identity. For this reason, I wish to call for the restoration of all the synagogues in the other Moroccan cities so that they may serve not only as places of worship but also as forums for cultural dialogue and the promotion of our cultural values.

The Moroccan people's cultural traditions, which are steeped in history, are rooted in our citizens' abiding commitments to the principles of coexistence, tolerance and concord among the various components of the nation, under the wise leadership of the kings of the glorious Alaouite dynasty and in keeping with the sacred mission which the Almighty has entrusted me.

As Commander of the Faithful, I am committed to defending the community of believers, and to fulfilling my mission with respect to upholding freedom of religion for all believers in the revealed religions, including Judaism, whose followers are loyal citizens for whom I have deep affection."
-His Majesty King Mohammed VI,
King of Morocco

Royal message read February 2013 at the unveiling of a restored synagogue in Fes.

These are the words of a real leader.

Below are some pictures from a synagogue in Casablanca, which the King of Morocco restored.

With sincere gratitude, I thank KCT&CO for being Muse to this post--by taking me to visit both the resplendent restored synagogue and Jewish Museum of Casablanca, where I found the King's Words. Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, April 27, 2017


In the span of two minutes, I managed to inadvertently make two obscene local Moroccan gestures at my poor, innocent Moroccan Arabic teacher. She was mortified, as was I.

 Hshuma-ali. Astaghfirallah. #culturaldiplomacy

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I saw the blind leading the blind. In Morocco, everything is possible.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

On Questions and Answers

"In the eternal battle between those who answer questions and those who question answers, it is generally best to side with the questioners."
H/t Abba

Thursday, April 20, 2017


A smart person doesn't need a smartphone ;)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Polyglottal Living

This morning, as I was walking to class I got chatting with a fellow selling kleenex who spoke to me in Spanish.  Where in Spain are you from?  By way of La Mancha, but actually de Estados Unidos. In Castilian, we chatted about Madrid and the Plaza del Sol, and before I bade him hasta luego and headed on to my French class.

In French class, I made compromises on the class schedule in 3 languages to our plans moving forward

I went to get some peanuts at a nearby kiosk.  It's a place I often stop at, the fellow who runs it is kind.  He is a dark-skinned Moroccan fellow, I think from Rachidia in the southeast.  We got to talking in Arabic and French about languages.  When I told him I spoke some Czech, he surprised me by speaking Russian.  We compared linguistic similarities of the numbers, and he told me he had studied in Russia and Ukraine.  We spoke of food--of borscht and Central Asia, of Samarkand.  We chatted about linguistic similarities, and I spoke of the closeness of Hebrew.  Through the course of the dialogue, we probably hit 6 or so languages of discussion.

This is why I love Morocco, and it works so well for me.  I have chatted in various forms of probably 7 or so languages today, and the day is still young and long. 

Call me Abu Hurayrah....

My babies! The kittens live in the medina alley next to mine. There are 8 of the precious ones, and I stop by to see them everyday. They are too cute. I have to work hard to refrain from going full on Elvira.

Friday, April 14, 2017

I met a stranger

When I was a camper at Camp Powhatan, every Friday night at services we would read the benediction poem, "I met a stranger in the night" Just as they did when my father was camper before me.

Today, the camp is now Seeds of Peace, and the poem is a graffiti mural where we once held the Friday services.

I made this in honor of my father, Dr. Stephen Rockower. It was created with the help of my brilliant friend Decap.

This is my Friday offering: I met a stranger.

Friday Laundry

Friday is a sublime day to do laundry. On the clothesline on the roof, I hang my clothes as I am accompanied by the songs and chants of the Sufi shrine next door. Through latticework, their songs--sung in unison to the glory and beauty of the oneness of G-d, rise to the heavens.


Raise me more love… raise me
my prettiest fits of madness
O’ dagger’s journey… in my flesh
and knife’s plunge…
sink me further my lady…
the sea calls me
add to me more death …
perhaps as death slays me… I’m revived
your body is my map…
the world's map no longer concerns me…
I am the oldest capital of sadness…
and my wound a Pharaonic engraving
my pain…. extends like an oil patch
from Beirut… to China…
my pain… a caravan…dispatched
by the Caliphs of 'A’Chaam'… to China…
in the seventh century of the 'Birth'…
and lost in a dragon’s mouth…
bird of my heart… 'naysani'
O’ sand of the sea, and forests of olives
O’ taste of snow, and taste of fire…
my heathen flavor, and insight
I feel scared of the unknown… shelter me
I feel scared of the darkness… embrace me
I feel cold… cover me up
tell me children stories…
rest beside me…
Chant to me…
since from the start of creation
I’ve been searching for a homeland to my forehead…
for a woman’s hair…
that writes me on the walls… then erases me…
for a woman’s love… to take me
to the borders of the sun… and throws me…
from a woman’s lip… as she makes me
like dust of powdered gold…
shine of my life. my fan
my lantern. declaration of my orchards
stretch me a bridge with the scent of oranges…
and place me like an ivory comb…
in the darkness of your hair… then forget me
I am a drop of water… ambivalent
remaining in the notebook of October
your love crushes me…
like a mad horse from the Caucasus throwing me under its hoofs…
and gargles with the water of my eyes…
add to me more fury… add to me
O’ prettiest fits of my madness
for your sake I set free my women
and effaced my birth certificate
and cut all my arteries…

-Nizar Qabbani

Merci a la princesse.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Matza m'aidez averted

Matza m'aidez averted, and now I can dine on the bread of affliction.  This is my Moroccan Passover lunch, with chèvre, olives, tuna, golden raisins, juicy dates and confiture de figues. One of the things I love most about being a wandering Jew is how to adapt the holidays to local realities.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Matoke M'aidez

Day 1 of Passover, and the bakery on the corner is cruel. I am in need of a matza air-lift (M'aidez).

I am wishing I had Ugandan matoke to make up for the lack of starch.  Matoke are smashed, steam-cooked bananas that serve as a starch in Uganda.

Maybe the Uganda Scheme should have been accepted.

Flacking for the Fourth Child

Levantine PD is working with the 4th child to rehabilitate his maligned name.  His question, "what does this all mean to you" has been cruelly misinterpreted by the Rabbinic order.  

LPD thinks this is an excellent question, and places blame back on an authoritarian Rabbinic power structure. 

Why can't his question of the meaning of these things be answered?

Why does the Rabbinic order feel threatened by his question that wants further explanation of the meaning and values of these Passover traditions and customs?

Why should he merely accept that this is all good, and not seek a broader understanding? It is not wicked for him to want further answers into why this is meaningful.  He is not a toady like the so-called "wise child."  

LPD is pushing to have him rebranded as the "existentialist child"

I am apparently not alone in this Passover re-Seder: In Slate, they call him the best of the children.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Morning Moroccan Fare

The simplest things in life are often the best, he thinks as he sips spiced coffee and waits for his warm bucket bath to be ready.

Round hearty bread literally straight from the underground bakery oven. The baker bade me come in to get the still warm loaves.

Still warm, topped with real butter, fresh nfis (cow chevre) cheese and confiture des figues. .  

Où est la mosquée pour les juifs?

I made my way through the medina and on towards the mellah (old Jewish quarter).  I was looking for Avenue Moulay Ismail, where the synagogue was located.  I was savvy enough to shake off the directions of the woman who pointed me in the opposite direction when I asked if the street I was standing on was correct.

Eventually I found Avenue Moulay Ismail but wasn't sure about the synagogue.  So I stopped a fellow on the street and asked him in Moroccan Derija Arabic.  After exchanging the requisite Moroccan pleasantries and greetings, I got down to business: where is the mosque for the Jews? 

It was a question I asked 15 years ago when I was on a similar search.  He smiled, and pointed to the nondescript building across the street. Bonne fête, he said with a smile. 

Happy Pessach

May G-d deliver the 10 plagues onto the little-fingered Pharaoh. Boils, frogs, and maybe some new variants like gonorrhea. Happy Pessah to the rest of humanity.

Sunday, April 09, 2017


I termed the occupation of life-coaching an "existential ponzi scheme."

The Sound of Silence

An interesting take on an old fave, Disturbed with "The Sound of Silence"

Eating America

A wonderful essay in the NY Times by Lisa Ko on "What 'white food' meant to a first generation kid:"
James Baldwin wrote that American media is “designed not to trouble, but to reassure.” American movies and TV shows help sustain a fantasy of innocence that masks our country’s violence. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie referred to America’s “addiction to comfort”; Junot Díaz to our commitment to “narratives of consolation.” The soothing myth of American exceptionalism depends on maintaining its comfort and innocence, however false. Perhaps my childhood did, too. After all, my family had the privilege to remain superficially apolitical, to attempt to distance ourselves, mentally and geographically, from the devastation of the Reagan years.
By cranking up the TV, stuffing ourselves with Velveeta and Steak-umms, we were trying to drown out our own fears, our guilt for the relatives left behind in the Philippines, our economic anxieties and uncertainties. What could be more American than this sort of desperate denial? We didn’t need to prove that we were American; we already were.
All my favorite ingredients of identity, migration, Americana and food.  Merci Monsieur Marron. 

The sound of infinite present

Recently in Marrakesh, deep the Assembly of the Dead I had my ipod stolen.  There are many ripples that led to changed directions which caused it (late trains, late arrivals) but none are truly worth recounting.  It is gone; it happens; I have insurance for such occurrences.

But what it has done is make me hyper-present and hyper-aware.  Before, I could duck into my own world and wander through the market with my shades on, conducting Amelie's comptine valse or bouncing to Solillaquists of Sound.  Now, I have nothing to distract me from the sounds and so I pay even closer attention--there is no hiding from the present.

So I listen deeper to the lilt and gutturals of the derija. Or the sounds of the cars passing like waves. Or the waves themselves crashing onto the shores.  The birds chirp-chirping above.

I may get a CD player to replace the ipod, and collect scores of Moroccan sounds.  Or I may continue on without sound shelter, rained on by the sounds around me.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Walking words

"He who reads much and walks much, goes far and knows much."
-Don Quixote
H/t la princesse

Friday, April 07, 2017

Couscous Fridays

The smell of stewing prunes and lamb wafting on the wind down the narrow corridor is intoxicating. 

But I am already full, after devouring a plate of couscous.  There are few traditions I respect more than Morocco's Friday couscous. So I dived into a giant ball of couscous covered with stewed carrots (hizou), potato (batata), pumpkin (garah hamra), chickpeas (humus) and zucchini (garah hydra).  It was a handful, with the heat attacking my diving fingers.  I made little balls of couscous wrapped around the veggies and popped the balls into my mouth with my thumb.

Food is always a key to memory because it is so intrinsically linked to both the senses and the past.  I thought of the couscous lunches with my host family when I first arrived in Rabat.  How my couscous balls would crumble back into the clay tajine plate.  My host father would make perfect spheres of couscous and role them over to me with a gentle push of his thumb, to make sure this adopted foreign son wouldn't go hungry.  He is gone now, but perhaps one can live forever in the deep recess of another's memory-- like how a dream is real until the dream ends.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Existential turtle discussions

I left my building and saw a friend at the bakery at the corner.  We chatted in Arabic and French.

I haven't seen you for a while, where have you been?

I was in Marrakesh with friends.  

Marrakesh was good?

Yes, it was good but I prefer Rabat.  Marrakesh is hot, congested and full of tourists and hustle.

Every city is different, with a different language.  Every city's people are different, with a different attitude.

You are correct.  I need to go, I need to feed mateesha (tomatoes, a new Derija word I learned) to the turtle who lives on the roof.

What is the turtle's name?

Fakran (Arabic for turtle).  Fakran's name is fakran. Fakran al-fakran.

He laughed. I pointed to the bread.  Khubz (bread) is happily named khubz; Le mur est le mur.

He laughed deep at this.

And I walked away down the medina alley thinking of Borges y yo, of what Spinoza knew:

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone, and the tiger a tiger.