Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Everyday matters...

Never mind the gorgeous weather, I spent the day tiling a bathroom – believe me, a challenging activity for someone who has osteoarthritis! It's not really by choice. In a city short of tradespeople, it's hard to find someone who will do a small job – which this one had to be, since it's a small bathroom, or washroom, as they say here. (I hate the term, talk truth.) Even when you find someone who agrees to take the job, chances are you'll get that fatal call a day or two before the big day that tells you, "Sorry. No longer possible." An intricate job too, since the tiles (they were already there: I was replacing maybe half of them) are small white octogons interspersed with much smaller black squares. They come set out in pre-set, one foot mosaics that are attached to netting, and that helps in putting them down, but only if you are working in those large dimensions. Patching tile by tile is something else! But what to do? One does what one must, so I'm pressing on. Hopefully I'll be done tomorrow. Then we'll return to painting, and after that, cleaning. I sometimes think I might have been happier living in a cave or in a tent as a nomad – though I suppose having and raising a family in the wild or on the move would not have been any easier, or simpler. Ah well! BTW, if you need to clean carpets, ordinary soda (the white chaser that you use for drinks) works. By the same token, baking soda works too, especially for carpets with pile. There are lots of safe, environmentally friendly alternatives to chemicals. And they're easy to find online and worth trying. On a bookish note, I've just finished reading Olive Schreiner's The Story of an African Farm. Has anyone read it? I'd love to hear what people think. And Nalo Hopkinson's New Moons Arms has won the Sunburst Award! Congrats, Nalo! Keep them coming, and keep them winning! rethabile, thanks for visiting and for the translation. "Sunflowers" now exists in French and Spanish translations. Going to go. Retiring early tonight, as I've more tiling to do tomorrow. Stay focused – and pray! They're doing crazy things with the atom in a 27 km tunnel that runs across the French-Swiss border. A (very, they say) few critics think the experiment, due in late October, might precipitate a black hole that will drag in earth and everything on the planet. Maybe more on this soon...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Sunflowers" – "Tournesols"

Something a little different this time, folks. Here's a poem from my last collection, The True Blue of Islands (Sandberry Press, 2005 – available from I've tried to translate it into French; I knew some French once, but I've forgotten much of what I knew. I'm putting both the poem and the translation up, in the hope that someone whose French and kwéyol is better than mine will make a comment. I'm especially interested in whether there's a way to 'translate' the pun (English "guest" and creole "guess") in the last word. All comments welcome


Vincent Van Gogh the sunflower man
cut off his ear when Paul Gauguin
wouldn’t stay to paint with him
in southern France.

I burnt my veil and wedding dress
scarred both my cheeks
tattooed rosettes
along my arms with cigarettes.

We both needed a man to stay.

You think that it was
loneliness? I don’t
think so. Madness
has always been my guess.

© Pamela Mordecai 2005


Vincent Van Gogh, l’homme des tournesols
s’est coupé l’oreille quand Paul Gauguin
ne voulut rester avec lui pour peindre
au sud de la France.

J’ai brulé ma voile et ma robe de mariée
je m’ai marqué des cicatrices les joues
j’ai tatué rosettes
au long de mes bras avec des cigarettes.

Nous deux avions besoin qu’un homme restât.

Tu crois que c’était
la solitude? Je ne
le crois pas. Toujours
j’avais pensé qu’il doit être la folie.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Are they ‘Christian’? Are they ‘right’?

Who are these people who have claimed the words "Christian" and "Right" as if they have some Divine entitlement to them? And why on earth have the rest of us allowed this foolishness? It’s bizarre that they’ve been able to license themselves in this way, making “Christian Right” into a label for a group of people who are no more Christian and no more right than any of the rest of us, and some of whom are very scary indeed. Yeah, yeah. I know Conservatives are right and Liberals are left, and hence the term (i.e., to refer to the Christian bloc among conservatives) but that is also a bit of folly that we've paid dearly for. The words have a powerful subtext. They’ve facilitated these folks arrogating unto themselves the moral high ground, so that the message is not merely that they are conservative but that they are discerning, wise, enlightened. (I suspect that most people hearing ‘right’ in “Christian Right” think not ‘conservative, but ‘correct’.) Perhaps the most frightening thing is that they’ve been allowed to get away with behaving in decidedly un-Christian, not-right ways. While they insist on holding the rest of us accountable, they don’t seem to have to live according to their beliefs. As a Christian, I try to nurture my relationship with the Holy Spirit, and to listen to his guidance as I deal with what I see around me. The Holy Spirit cautions me not to judge anyone but he also reminds me that Jesus gave me a yardstick in the Sermon on the Mount: "By their fruits shall ye know them." So perhaps we should look at some fruits. For example, when it comes to staying married, these folks don’t seem to do so well. I'm quoting from a 2004 article in the New York Times (See "As researchers have noted, the areas of the country where divorce rates are highest are also frequently the areas where many conservative Christians live." Mmmn. Not such a good fruit crop there… Perhaps we should look for some other telling statistics for the "Bible belt" states. Assuredly, they do not do well in the matter of peace. Peace is paramount in the preaching of Jesus. That teaching began with the angels at his birth, when they sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men.” (Luke 2: 14) He himself exemplified it throughout his life – with perhaps a couple exceptions, one being when he lost his cool and drove the traders out of his father’s house (Luke 19:46), another being when he condemned the Pharisees and Scribes – at some length, it’s worth noting. (Matthew 23). Jesus extols peace making in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9) and, himself faced with weapons in the garden of Gethsemane, warned his disciples against the use of force, against making aggression a way of life: “He who lives by the sword shall perish by it.” (Matthew 26:52) Indisputably the modern version of the sword is the gun. Nonetheless we have ostensible Christians (many being members of the NRA) somehow managing to square their gun toting behaviour with that caution. (I’d especially like to hear Sarah Palin on this.) Worse (for us poor members of the human race, fodder for cannon), how come these claim-to-be-Christians get to support war and take pride in their store of troops, weapons, missiles, and their vast nuclear arsenal? The trouble is that for a lot of people the Holy Spirit is a dead God locked up tight in a book rather than a Live Person who sustains, counsels, guides and comforts. I believe in the Bible as a living Word, one that I contemplate with the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I know that God speaks to me, and that if I listen, I can hear him. Aha! Perhaps that's the explanation. Is it that we have not so much "pretend Christians" in the so-called "Christian Right" but deaf ones?