Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Line Up For Dead Sea Scrolls. Floricanto for Fukushima 3/11

Michael Sedano

As the day developed, waiting in line observing children riding the aerial bike was the best part of the snaking line that is the essence of Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition, in Los Angeles’ Science Center near the USC campus that opens March 10, 2015. Promotional literature doesn’t give a closing date, but I can’t imagine this one will have an extended run.

The museum’s space shuttle and giant IMAX screen set high expectations for a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition equal to the site. Not today. The show offers an endurance test and compromises its scientific pursuit with a political agenda and a shotgun approach to its titular subject.

Out in the courtyard, friendly staff count off 40 heads, herding the group into a second queue. In a few minutes we jostle shoulder-to-shoulder into a darkened antechamber where we stand. The octagonal space features giant screens on six walls projecting travelogue movies of arid landscapes and intent archaeologists. The floor space is empty save for three ancient vessels spotted about. The crowd mills near them but only those in front can inspect the artifact.

Out of the darkness a voice begins a fast-paced narrative written and delivered with theme park enthusiasm. At first I think Dolby soundtrack then I notice a uniformed guide has appeared beside me standing on a banquette. She’s speaking into a headset microphone so I hear her in stereo over the loudspeakers, too. She works effectively from puro memory, delivering a slick script loaded with information. Ticket-buyers shift their weight in the dark, wondering if we’ve fallen into a carny sideshow and these three vessels and this lecture comprise the entire show.

I lose track of the narration in the disorienting churn of bodies. Eventually the woman invites us to “The Timeline” where we will begin our visit to the exhibition, and pulls open a curtain. Ahead, spotlighted artifacts and back illuminated text glow from the wall. Words, maps, shards and vessels, shiny stuff awaits in climate-controlled Lucite cases.

Perhaps the designers imagined entering a Nag Hammadi cave but today we are more like marbles dropped into a narrow-necked amphora.

Forty bodies traipse forward and quickly stop with no place to go. I had recently enjoyed Deep Down Dark and this space mirrors the trapped miners’ ambiente. There’s no going back. Here, to the left where time begins, people pile up four deep. Blocked-out guests at the crowd’s periphery manage to sidle away between a structural column and the people bunching up in the tight bottleneck before stepping toward space that opens onto three massive Greek pithoi.

The wall’s hundreds of tiny artifacts like coins and arrowheads merit lots of text that folks take their time reading. The darkness induces patience waiting for slow readers and tolerance for opportunists who jump in and out of line with a quick glance at an unbroken 2000 year old ceramic mold people used in mass production.

Exhibit staff issued us electronic devices with dim glowing screens that play a narration at numbered places along the lineup. I never figured out its use so I’m not sure what data the smooth male voice intoned.

In this darkened place, the murmuring of reading aloud and sotto voce conversation joins the ubiquitous tinny whisper of those devices making speech noise but not quite audible. I’m put in mind of a Bruce Nauman sculpture where you walk through tightly confined spaces listening to a mind-blowing soundtrack.

The Curators elected quantity over quality, broad context over focus. I was hoping for only jars and scrolls, and Gnosticism's lesser-known ideas and texts.

Making sense of thousands of artifacts stumped the designers. They laid out a zig zag one-way course in the dark, purposely creating bunched-up lines. Along with taking away a visitor's directional control, the design ensures visitors will all experience the exhibition the same way.

The one-way line with thousands of small things to see and read has people moving slowly, often not at all for extended periods. They deserve to take their time to gain as much as they want from the detailed interpretive material so there’s little choice but to go with the flow. Plan on two and a half hours.

The heart of the exhibit, Dead Sea Scrolls, gets the treatment the ancient bible pages deserve. A gleaming oval ring featuring white and transparent plastic domes displays photographic blow-ups of parchment fragments. Next to the images, the parchments themselves rest in recessed coves to stare into.

Interpretive translations glow next to the images. The fragments lie arrayed jigsaw puzzle-style. The interpretive photograph illustrates a single piece in extreme magnification and image enhancement for rich sharp writing. The viewer identifies the outline of the photograph, matches it to the found pieces, then stands marveling at the history represented in what one sees, and the human continuity established by the long-ago scribe and today's tourist.

What you don’t read is anything about Claremont’s Nag Hammadi Library of Dead Sea Scrolls, nor an account of Gnostic scrolls—which have been the focus of earlier exhibitions--nor a hint of today’s Israel and the government-led oppression of Palestinians whose ancestors produced many of these artifacts. A focus on B.C.E. time can justify that.

Instead, the curation attempts to sanitize connections between ancient people and today's by calling everyone from ancient times “Israelites,” individual geographical and ethnic identities go into the curatorial text, a detail for the attentive reader.

The political agenda leads to lost avenues of exploration. For instance, there’s a rare piece of curatorical contrast in a pair of contemporaneous shards. A finely decorated piece of Philistine pottery hangs above a roughewn shard from Judeans with the curator’s candid remark Philistines were more elegant than Judeans.

That rare comparison aside, science takes a backseat to politics and this sanitizing strategy. Curation otherwise does little to connect the visitor to historical continuity, treats pieces in isolation like a thousand Ozymandiases, “Nothing beside remains.”

Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition isn’t going to be a family experience and not for the faint of heart. You know you’re captive the moment the guide draws open that curtain. Reading along, an uneasy feeling grows panel after panel, both in what is written and gaps in what isn’t addressed, in questions that jump out at you. You’re in the middle of an act of propaganda, being massaged by the medium. Trucha.

If you’ve seen one of the earlier Dead Sea Scroll exhibitions that have travelled the nation over the years, skipping the glitz and long lines of this LA experience won’t deprive you. If you've never connected with this important element of Western history, never seen a fragment of these foundation texts, the visit provides immense value.

Floricanto For Fukushima
Francisco X. Alarcón, Betty Sánchez, Sharon Doubiago, Iluminado Maldonado, Malke Singer, Paul Aponte, Iris De Anda, J. A. Mitchell, Jolaoso Pretty Thunder, Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Today’s La Bloga On-line Floricanto compiles work responding to a Call for Submissions from organizer Odilia Galván Rodríguez to Facebook communities Love and Prayers for Fukushima and Poets Responding to SB 1070 Poetry of Resistance. Odilia writes:

Now, four years later, the nuclear crisis continues to threaten and while we are told that the cleanup at Fukushima Daiichi is ongoing, and that we have nothing to fear with regard to the radioactive water that daily spews into the Pacific ocean, everyday we hear of more people becoming ill and dying of cancer. Other odd environmental phenomena are reported such as marine life perishing en masse and mutations. We know something is amiss even though we are told otherwise.

Ten poets share their conviction that the gente of Fukshima are not alone, not in soul, spirit, expression.

"Fukushima – Tanka" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"Secuelas" por Betty Sánchez
"Islands Hidden in the Blood" by Sharon Doubiago
"The leaf" By Iluminado Maldonado
“For Fukushima” by Malke Singer
"Wind Chimes - Tanka / Carrillones de viento" by Paul Aponte
“Survive Soil Repeat” By Iris De Anda
"Dystopian Pollution" By J. A. Mitchell
"Fervent Aperture" By Jolaoso Pretty Thunder
"Seven Morning Senryū" By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

By Francisco X. Alarcón

cherry blossoming
at the edge of this nuclear
blasting volcano —
may each falling petal
soothe, heal Mother Earth!

cerezo en flor
al filo de este volcán
nuclear en erupción —
¡que cada pétalo al caer
cure a la Madre Tierra!

Francisco X. Alarcón, award-winning Chicano poet and educator, was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now lives in Davis, where he teaches at the University of California. He is the author of thirteen volumes of poetry, including Canto hondo / Deep Song (University of Arizona Press 2015), Borderless Butterflies / Mariposas sin fronteras (Poetic Matrix Press 2014), Ce • Uno • One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press, 2010), From the Other Side of Night / Del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2002), Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company, 2001), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books, 1992). He is the author of six acclaimed books of bilingual poems for children on the seasons of the year originally published by Children’s Book Press, now an imprint of Lee & Low Books. He is the creator of the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB 1070.”

Por Betty Sánchez

El gruñido de la tierra
Y el estallido furioso del océano
Arrastraron en su furia
Casas, cultivos y vidas

El error humano
Provocó un desastre
De proporciones
Mas catastróficas
Que el maremoto

A causa del cataclismo nuclear
De Fukushima
Los niños juegan entre muros
Y desarrollan cáncer de tiroides

La palabra radiación
Es su realidad
Se traduce en treinta minutos
De esparcimiento exterior

Tras la mascarilla que cubre
Su pequeño rostro
Se adivina el miedo
Al enemigo etéreo

Tal monstruo intangible
Se ha infiltrado en sus poros
Traspasa las paredes de su hogar
Y los aniquila lentamente

Los elementos naturales
Esparcen dosis letales
De yodo estroncio y celsio
A frutos y animales
Y por extensión
A los que los consumen

Las partículas radioactivas
Que aún circulan
En agua, aire y suelo
Cual garras invisibles
Atrapan sin piedad
Lo que cruza en su paso

Los cerezos están de duelo
Sus ramas grisáceas
Albergan mariposas
mutantes de alas rotas

El mar resguarda
En sus entrañas
Peces moribundos

Madre, abuela, maestra, poeta…en ese orden. Residente del condado de Sutter; trabajo como Directora de Centro del programa Migrante de Head Start.
Soy miembro activo del grupo literario, Escritores del Nuevo Sol desde  Marzo del 2003.  He colaborado en eventos poéticos tales como el Festival Flor y Canto, Colectivo Verso Activo, Noche de Voces Xicanas, Honrando a Facundo Cabral, y Poesía Revuelta; así  como en lecturas organizadas por los Escritores del Nuevo Sol. Ha sido un privilegio contribuir en la página Poetas Respondiendo al SB 1070, Zine 10  y 13 de Mujeres de Maíz y en La Bloga.

Islands Hidden in the Blood
By Sharon Doubiago

“What transpired off the coast of Honshu Island, Japan on March 11, 2011, has forever altered the planet and irremediably affected the global environment. …A magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami killed at least 15,000 people and caused three nuclear reactor melt downs.” (October 18, 2012, San Francisco Chronicle)

“There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts
High heaps covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?

Barbarous kings
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn.
A turmoil of wars - men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning.”
Lament of the Frontier Guard, Li Po,(b 701) tr Ezra Pound

“Forever and forever and forever.” The River-Merchant’s Wife, A Letter, Li Po, tr Ezra Pound

                     1. The World
In January when you departed I hung my first map, The World
over my bed and followed you, day by night, writing the dates
on the Pacific Ocean, latitudes and longitudes. I lay beneath
the USS Hornet, the planes on her deck, you, Aviation Electrician Mate
enabling them to fly. From phytoplankton
to whales, from seabirds and islands, the Tropic of Cancer I found myself
with unseen creatures in the deep dark
learning the direction of Earth’s Rotation. Tide
means time. You crossed the International Dateline
and Sunday became Monday. I hid your yellow truck
in the boulders on our hill for your return. Vehicle
to your soul, eternity in the yellow metal, I counted off
each day.

Valentine’s Day, my father’s 41st birthday, orchids arrived from Hawaii
corsage so pungent they were a miracle
that far into San Diego’s dry mountains, the sweet perfume filling the whole house
till it drove my father crazy and me with the belief you loved me.
You wrote me every numbered day from your bunk in the cramped steel hole
on your seven month tour, carrying me
into the dance your fingers made
the shape of each turquoise-inked letter, the long loops
of your ys, the fat rounds of your Is like flowers painted on the airmail sheets. Dear
Song of Songs, Dear Rose of Sharon, My Lily of the Valley.
I copied your signature, hours, the slanted backwards joy
on the envelope, unconscious prayer for my future name. I swam
into the rhythm of your whole body
making the characters for Japan
“The Land of the Rising Sun.” I fell in love
with Earth, the land of Nippon, the largest body
of water, coastlines more than all the others put together.
The Pacific, like you so large. I so large
in love

In July when the Hornet came in I met you
wearing the red dress I designed and made for you.
We climbed back up the mountain and you told me
of your prostitutes in Yokohoma. I didn’t understand
the Manhattan Project, the Atom Bomb and those girls
just that you were from Manhattan, island
of many hills, you said. Mannahatta
before white man leveled them, but the pain
was unlike any I’d known. I stood in the front window
watched you down below dig with my father
the hole for the swimming pool. “Forced
like a slave!” you hissed, “your Dad’s
like my officers,” until I vowed my love to you
as I’d vowed it to him, the stupid authoritarian anger
dismissible, just lowly misunderstanding. When at last we married
my mother threw out your letters
filed by date in the corsage box which never lost its perfume
in the cupboard at the foot of my bed. My mother
censurer of my story, afraid even then of writing.
And you, my bridegroom, my husband, my
Lord, were relieved.

                    2. March 11, 2011
In San Francisco my current love and I hurried down to the beach
to watch the tsunami come in. The police
blocked our ways. The newspaper map
showed the radioactive waves
coming over. As Fukushima goes
so goes Japan, the tide
going out and you going out
in Manhattan Beach.

A friend drove by 610 Rosecrans. Your yellow truck
ticketed, not moved for Friday’s street cleaning. The months you struggled
with MB’s City Hall to get your handicap parking permit.
He rushed in, called the paramedics. When I was fifteen on this day
your ship docked in Japan.

                    3.”A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn”
In the journey to your bedside I sleep in the rest stop
in Gaviota Pass, fall asleep
reading the Creation Myth
about land that erupts, twists and turns so abruptly
it turns into Southern California. Bigger than life my first love Ramon
comes over the high granite cliff
and down on me, Love
even before you, singing Kumeyaay, the songs
of his ancient tongue. Rolling ys and us and ss. Sensuous
love of this place. Oh, sensuous boy
I first loved before we could speak, the sweet perfume

lingers as the tide comes in
goes out, all these years, eons, the short time
of our journey, creation and love
that is life, time and seawater, the creatures
writing in the dark

In the morning when I arrive you lie white, tied down.
As with Ramon long dead of our Agent Orange, they are carving you up
for your insurance. At fifteen I pledged myself to you
for life. Now our children, islands
in our blood, your DNA and mine, the two of us
forever as one in them.

                    4. Karma
And when I fly back in October the last time
to stand by you the news breaks
in LAX, Khadafy’s body
like yours still alive passed from a culvert, a baby’s face
in shock, disbelief, above our heads. Muammar Khadafy moves through all of us
waiting in the afternoon airport bar, resignation
and TV beyond shock, his three year old daughter, Hanna
we bombed in his tent, and two thousand other Libyans. In May we assassinated
Osama bin Laden. Before that we hung Saddam Hussein.
Now radioactive water crashes on our shores, the Pacific Ocean
dying. But as always I know my lovers

to forgive, my enemies to love, my crucified Savior,
my father, my country, my husband. Who

brought this to pass? I see you as I first saw you
that January you were nineteen. Now I see them rape you, barbarous kings
by medical rod, by multiple rifle butts,
then carry you out of the drain hole
to the imperial cameras, over and over
their insurance to the World. You look
so innocent, our three year old Hanna
pulled apart, my love for better or worse
no matter what, I vowed forever

though sorrow. Sorrow like rain
sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning

At fifteen I desired my dust
to be mingled with yours forever.
You dragged your feet when you went out

to the land of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Yokohama,
The Pacific Ring of Fire. As Japan goes
so goes the planet. Now there is no wall left to the village
only high heaps of white bones.

But if you are coming down through the narrows of Gaviota
in your yellow truck
even if leveled
I will come out to meet you

1 “Off shore, by islands hidden in the blood
jewels and miracles, I….
tell you…” Charles Olson

2 Sacred Sites, The Secret History of Southern California, Susan Suntree, University of Nebraska, 2010.

3 I sit here in Valentine, the storm goes on

grey relentless
the white capped rollers


Two people, silhouettes out there
at the long tidal line and a gull
Now there’s only one
and a flock
(Feb 14, 2011, Ocean Beach, SF—inscribed in Sacred Sites)

The leaf
By Iluminado Maldonado

The night of thundering heart and sleeplessness
Takes me back to where the leaf began
Crunching on pavement
Anticipating a gathering ahead of me
With the drums roaring amid a patch of sanity
Encircled by brick stone and tar
The leaf intrudes
Making its presence known
Dominating in the face of ignorance
The will to live in such an inhospitable place
Speaks of her strength
She knows she will inherit what's left

Iluminado was born in Arecibo Puerto Rico in 1948, was raised in Brooklyn New York. A Vietnam Era vet, he studied Journalism at Long Island University. He's a multi talented artist with a passion for music, primarily folkloric and jazz. He hosted an Afro Cuban Rumba/Jam Session in Berkeley for 15 years which continues today. Iluminado is a priest in the Ifa/Orisa tradition. Before suffering a stroke that took his vision in 2011 he was an avid photographer and cyclist, he still trains today and presently lives on the Russian River in Northern California with his family and two dogs Rosie And Mina.

For Fukushima
By Malke Singer

this spring blossoms early
when pink flowers drop away
to reveal tiny fruits
Fukishima you will be on my mind
My prayers for your people
and our tiny shared planet
are only small spring blossoms
sheltering the tiny fruit
promises of a new year

Wind Chimes - Tanka / Carrillones De Viento
By Paul Aponte

Fukushima love
Shattered by nature, by man
Wet, Wailing Walls cry
Erasure of human temples
The wind-chime friends that once loved

Amor de Fukushima
Desgarrado por la naturaleza, por el hombre
Mojados, Muros de Lamentación lloran
Erradicación de templos humanos
Amigos que amaron, ahora carrillones de viento

Paul Aponte is a Chicano poet from Sacramento, California.   Paul, is a prolific writer and member of "Escritores del Nuevo Sol", and can be seen reading at various venues throughout the SF Bay and Sacramento areas. He is the author of the book of poetry "Expression Obsession" , and has been published in "La Bloga" and in other publications. Many of his poems can be found on his Facebook "Notes" under the pseudonym Wolf Fox.

Survive Soil Repeat
By Iris De Anda

the days are long gone
for cutting daises
putting one in your hair
as you strut down the street
with nowhere to be but the coffee shop
reading a book or eating day old pizza
now you must turn the dirt in your garden
plant deep dreamseeds
ideally, the planting would have happened long ago
so now you just water the soil
talk to the leaves
everyday after sundown
you see now it's about
finding nourishing people and places
drink tea instead of tequila
travel more worry less
travel inward listen more
the things one should do to make it through
this labyrinth of city blues
go, go, go
where to?
stay put
it's a dance
this putting one foot
in front of the other
it's okay to dance alone
do things alone
adventure in your own backyard
if there is no garden begin
pick out the land
stand barefoot on its wet mud
imprint love
this will feed you
in the years ahead

Dystopian Pollution
By J. A. Mitchell

Don’t step in
the burst bubbles of
engineered memes
acid rain dots
chemical tears
collectively  shed
by mankind

this pill, it will
make you
whatever you
desire to be

high priced
hi tech  gadgets
magic pixel screens
digital cameras that
capture and flip

drone bombs
leaving in their wake
maimed populations and
luminous yellow
cake crumbs

Sounds from
cyclotronic machines
are strange screams
deep inside the planet
that enter our dreams

have yet to admit the
cumulative effects of
satellite rotation or
wireless communication on
human cognition
“Let it rain information”
say they, squealing with glee

J.A. Mitchell was born in the urban outposts of Hoodoo culture in a suburb of New York City in the early 1950’s.  Writing as Mama Whodun, she pens the Neohoodoo blog. She has been published in Scarlet Imprint’s Mandragora  poetry anthology, in Kalyani Women’s magazine premier  issue and is included in Seeds of Resistance "E4rth is my Flesh" Flor y Canto 2015 Zine.

Fervent Aperture
By Jolaoso Pretty Thunder

Where the Redtail and Kite feed well
And the Owl’s* cough is intricate and varied
We step around it quietly       still seeing
Still hearing the field mice scurry within       ghost.

Grasses burn ripe in this moon
Locusts are on the grain

Antlers lock somewhere in the night close by
Causing a great ruckus on the earth
The stronger of the two pushed the other
Across the scrub brush to the base of Fist Mountain
                        Which took a long time     seemingly

We grow still inside; quiet listening and find peace in the disorder-
The rattling and grind the push and shove. They leave their tracks for those
Who honor such battles

A small stone shows itself there in the dusty furrows, inside it a bear, thunder
We pause, listening again; perhaps we keep it or let it go to another
Who may need it more

We ourselves are only the smallest green in malachite
Our faces fading on the bark and rocks of deep orange lichen
Marrow of sustenance, cool pine needles beneath bare feet
See us in the feather, strike of the flame
       The pine seed winged      strange butterflies

Cupped hands
We are river
Reaching salt
Buffalo against
Alien wire- Goodbye.

We are the Black Salmon sucking    we defy
Often dying close to each other

Pit our breastbone to the moons
Lightning has struck water and rock; The Great Wind has swept it
                                                                                                              We are ready

*Pellet (ornithology)

Iya Jolaoso Pretty Thunder is an initiated Apetebi, Osainista and Orisa priestess of Oya. She lives in the woods of Northern California with her family and two dogs Rosie Farstar and Ilumina Holy Dog. She is a practitioner and student of herbal medicine (Western, Vedic, TCM and Lukumi medicine). She is also an ordained minister of the First Nations Church and the founder of Straight Arrow Women's Lodge. She is a well-traveled poet who loves southern rock, porch swings, pickup trucks, cooking, campfires, lightning, steak, long drives, hot cups of coffee, gathering and making medicine and singing with friends and family.

Seven Morning Senryū
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

morning aftermath
almost complete clean slate
broken and split bones

building shambles
foundations guts protrude
metal seaweed

called paranoid
re: radiation worries
for knowing what they feel

at night street’s silent
the world walks on cat’s paws
no one wants to wake
to the nightmare of meltdowns
to what is no longer

radiation haze
blooms new butterflies
steadfast in their survival

measuring death
the collateral damage
of nuclear power

we dream Japan
waking free of all poison
a blossom unfurled

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, eco-poet, writer, editor, and activist, is the author of four volumes of poetry, her latest, Red Earth Calling: ~cantos for the 21st Century~. She’s worked as an editor for Matrix Women's News Magazine, Community Mural's Magazine, and most recently at Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She facilitates creative writing workshops nationally and is a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070, and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and wellbeing of many people. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, and literary journals on and offline.

1 comment:

Amelia ML Montes said...

Muchisimas gracias, Michael for this wonderful posting. I felt I was with you at the "Dead Sea Scrolls" exhibit. Thank you (because as you know, I'm not in L.A. to actually be there). As well, the Floricanto for Fukishima is so important. Beautiful and poignant.