Point of Departure

Point of Departure
by Richard Martin Oxman

He dreamed of
an open window.
A vagina, said
his psychiatrist.
Your divorce, said
his mistress.
Suicide, said
an ominous voice within him.
It means you should close the window
or you’ll catch cold, said
his mother.
His wife said
nothing.
He dared not tell her
such a
dangerous dream.

The above poem, in slightly altered form, is something that Felix Pollak, a rare books librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shared with me in 1960 or 1961. Can’t remember exactly when, but it was in the midst of a Badger winter. I do recall being very cold, and the poem making me feel colder. [Pause.] Until he played his violin for me.

Yesterday, I rewrote Felix’s work. I replaced the word “dangerous” with beautiful.

Few people who fight the powers that be have the facility to work with poetry (it seems), but… I believe it’s worth trying in this instance. For there is a delusion floating around respecting solidarity which does not exist. There is a sense of being in sync among activists which is based on… virtually nothing.

That fact must be our point of departure for action together.

Contact Richard at tosca.2010[at]yahoo.com, for writing to representatives, writing another book, giving another speech, collecting petitions, attending another conference, fund raising, marching in circles, occupying buildings, and all of the old paradigms — embraced exclusively — no longer suffice. Solidarity is possible, but one must put aside the heartbeats necessary for new talk to take place. To create a new model for action.

P.S. Felix, well-respected in the realm of poetry, also wrote:

Speaking: The Hero

I did not want to go.
They inducted me.

I did not want to die.
They called me yellow.

I tried to run away.
They courtmartialed me.

I did not shoot.
They said I had no guts.

I cried in pain.
They carried me to safety.

In safety I died.
They blew taps over me.

They crossed out my name
And buried me under a cross.

They made a speech in my home town.
I was unable to call them liars.

They said I gave my life.
I had struggled to keep it.

They said I set an example
I had tried to run.

They said they were proud of me.
I had been ashamed of them.

They said my mother should be proud.
My mother cried.

I wanted to live.
They called me a coward.

I died a coward.
They called me a hero.