Poem of the Week

Recycled Violence: The World Has Gone Mad Again

'And again voices incite': Michael Dickel deplores the same old same old.

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Again

Michael Dickel

The world has gone mad. Again.
And again voices incite – then hoarse leaders
pretend to have been polite. They did not shout
fear and hatred to explosive tension, to a thin-
wire stretched, first sounding a note then cracking,
snapping in two, each piece twisted. The world goes
mad. Again. The leaders call for calm, like arsonists
who work in the fire department. The fires burn
in the streets at night. The checkpoints flow
with blood and tears. And most of us just want
to go to work, have coffee with friends, teach
our children something other than this craziness
in a world gone mad. Again. And most of us want
to turn away and not see the burning, the smoke,
the arsonists lining up toy soldiers at borders
ready to pounce, to attack, to burn. Again.

From “War Surrounds Us,” Is a Rose Press, 2015

It’s tempting to lead with “déjà vu all over again” but let's talk about time instead.

We perceive time in two ways. Cyclical timerefers to repeated events in an unchanging sequence, such as a child's birthdays. Linear time moves ahead.can’t skip Wednesday to get from Tuesday to Thursday, though it can be observed backwards as history. In the cyclical dimension, we know when the child's birthday will be but in a linear dimension, there may be unexpected events: we can’t know when she will stub her toe. We live in both dimensions but with varying emphases.

Cyclical time dominates early autumn in Israel. Observance follows observance in a pre-ordained sequence – school begins on September 1, the Jewish New Year begins on Rosh Hashana, the Torah reading cycle ends and begins on Simchat Torah. Then we enter the period of aharei hahaggim – "after the holidays": Linear time is supposed to prevail, and things deferred for the High Holidays are expected to forge straight ahead.

This year, however, we came out of the holidays not into progress but rather smack dab into yet another cycle, as depicted in this poem; a cycle propelled by greed (Housing minister: “It’s all mine;” Hamas: “No, it’s all mine”) and vanity, or what Chaim Levinson has described as “self-adulation”.

“Again” was written during the Israel-Gaza war in the summer of 2014, and now it's all starting again: incitement beneath a veneer of civility, bilateral blood, tears and the sense that we’d rather not look at all this and just want normal lives.

The title word, "again," is deployed subtly – not at fixed points like the beginnings of sentences or at the ends of lines but rather, unpredictably at different points in this discourse about cycles. “Again” is reinforced by the long syllable “ain” echoed (though disguised by how English is spelled) in key words – pretend, tension, friends – two of them wistfully containing “end.” “Incite,” “polite” and “night” also form a significant internal rhyme.

Born in Illinois, Michael Dickel has lived in Jerusalem since 2007, lectures at HaKibbutzim College of Education, Technology and Arts and chairs the Israel Association of Writers in English.

*Bonus: Again and again – Michael Finnegan

Michael Dickel
Aviva Dekel