?

Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile PenUltimate Productions Website Previous Previous Next Next
Poem: "Cohanim" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Cohanim"

This poem was written outside the fishbowl sessions.  It was inspired by a comment from kestrels_nest.  It has been sponsored by Shirley Barrette.  For this poem, I looked up sacred birds along with the Egyptian goose, glossy ibis, and pallid swift.  You can also read about the DNA study of the Cohanim.

Cohanim


A tribe in Africa had a tradition
claiming Jewish descent.
Who would have thought it plausible?
They were black people;
they did not look like Jews,
but like the other Africans around them.

Then the Fledging brought out
the iridescent bottle-green wings
of the glossy ibis, known only
among the Cohanim.

Other Jews rustled wings
the deep brown of pallid swifts
or the light brown of Egyptian geese
as they pondered the meaning
of the riddle of Africa.

They knew, of course,
that the Jewish people had been
wandering for millennia --

but other people seemed to have,
mostly, the plumage of resident birds
while the Jews and the Gypsies
overwhelmingly had
the wings of migrant species,
now appearing in unexpected places
all around the world.

"Perhaps," said an old man
who had survived Auschwitz,
"we have always  been wanderers."

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

15 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: November 23rd, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Indeed. (Using my icon for its *other* star, for once.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 23rd, 2012 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I love that icon. Jewitch pentacle, hee!
From: technoshaman Date: November 24th, 2012 02:23 am (UTC) (Link)
*grins* far from the first I've known.

thesilentpoet From: thesilentpoet Date: November 24th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC) (Link)

This reminds me of family stories, strangely. My great-grandfather on one side was one of 25 children, who knows where we wandered. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 24th, 2012 12:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Wow!

That sounds like an amazing family. Genealogy is so exciting. Everyone's family has some great stories.

... and some rotten fruit.
paka From: paka Date: November 27th, 2012 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mixed feelings about this one. There have been Black and Indian Jews for centuries; there used to be a community in Kai-Feng, too. I thought the genetic studies proved that most Jews and most cohens had genetic markers from Persia?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 27th, 2012 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Mixed feelings about this one. There have been Black and Indian Jews for centuries; there used to be a community in Kai-Feng, too. <<

Where you have overlap like that, there would likely be variation between people expressing a geographically linked species vs. a spiritually linked species of wings. The Egyptian goose, for instance, is an overlap between Jews in (or with ancestors from) Egypt and non-Jewish Egyptians.

>> I thought the genetic studies proved that most Jews and most cohens had genetic markers from Persia? <<

When I researched the historic, geographic origin of Jews I found articles pointing to the Fertile Crescent -- between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, lapping over to the Nile delta. The Persian Empire was enormous, covering most of the Middle East and some lands beyond, though its borders shifted over time and various shapes of real estate have been called "Persia." It's hard to tell looking from one map to another, but it looks like most or all of the Fertile Crescent lay within Persian territory.

Do you think the poem might make more sense with a reference to Persia or the Fertile Crescent as part of the origin of the Jewish people? That is, what geographic marker would yield the most clarity of Jewish origin? I figured that the Egyptian goose -- established by kestrels_nest -- would be a good anchor because most people recognize the Jews/Egypt connection. The other Jewish birds are riparian species from ... I think it was the Tigris River that I used in that search. Searching for Persian birds netted a list from Saudi Arabia with the Persian shearwater. A drawback to that is I have the Manx shearwater for fishermen on the Isle of Man; shearwaters really seem like birds for seafarers to me, and that's not a strong aspect of Jewish tradition insofar as I know. Birds of Iran brought up the Persian wheatear, which migrates.

It didn't occur to me until just now, but maybe I should've checked the Jordan for native species. There's a good list here. Then I thought of Mount Sinai. Turns out the Sinai Peninsula is considered mostly Bedouin territory, but the connection between Sinai and Judaism seems famous enough to work. Out of the Sinai bird survey list, the Sinai rosefinch caught my eye, but they don't seem to migrate. Jordan and Sinai both have assorted species of dove and sparrow that might suit, but I like to aim for geographically explicit names when I can find them.

This does highlight an endemic challenge of this series: I have to work with the available research materials, and there is a lot that hasn't been recorded or posted online. I do the best I can to identify plausible overlaps between the habitat range and cultural connotations of bird species and the historic location of human groups. Sometimes that's fairly easy but often it gets into really difficult areas for migrants (human or avian) and tiny territories. So I allow for the fact that there may be some differences between conventional-Earth and fledging-Earth regarding the exact location of tribes and birds.
paka From: paka Date: November 27th, 2012 11:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I hadn't thought about how not easy that was. I mean most people are mutts to some extent, right? I could swear the genetics thing I saw pointed to specifically chunks of northern Iraq - not Iran.

'Course, no matter what the ethnicity or plumage, I don't think you could convince my remaining European relatives that they've ever been anything other than French.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 28th, 2012 06:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>I hadn't thought about how not easy that was.<<

I put a lot of research into my work, when it needs that. In this series I'm working with very numinous themes, so I use the concrete details of bird species and history as a counterweight to keep things anchored in the everyday.

>> I mean most people are mutts to some extent, right? <<

More so in some populations than others. Some are homogenous a fair way back due to endogamous customs, geographic isolation, or other factors. Some are quite mixed.

>> I could swear the genetics thing I saw pointed to specifically chunks of northern Iraq - not Iran. <<

That could be true. Different tribes may yield different results also. I just try to find something plausible -- actually pinning down proof is often impossible when people are arguing over what "is" going on. And the Middle Eastern geography turns to hash on a map.

>>'Course, no matter what the ethnicity or plumage, I don't think you could convince my remaining European relatives that they've ever been anything other than French.<<

That's one reason why feather dye is popular, especially among the common doves and pigeons with pale feathers. People who didn't get what they most want to advertise may paint over it. The difference is discernible, but not everyone cares about that.
paka From: paka Date: November 27th, 2012 08:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Though now I am imagining how simultaneously horrific and yet wonderful it would be for Palestinians and Israelis to develop the same sorts of feathers.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 27th, 2012 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

O_O

Well that goes to horrifying place ... augh, I just saw a Palestinian something-or-other in my Persian/Jewish excavation, which I ignored because of the nasty political mess in Palestine. Let me go see if I can re-find that ...
paka From: paka Date: November 27th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: O_O

It's been a nasty political mess since the Arab revolt (a three-way nasty mess)!

I honestly feel that 1) Arabs in both Israel proper and Gaza are a lot more the heritage of the original, Jewish inhabitants than either side would like to admit and 2) outside influence - both Arab and honestly American - keeps the pot boiling to quite this extent.

But then my understanding may be very flawed (Sikh/Hindu/Moslem unpleasantness has been bubbling around India since the similar independence movements of the '30s, and the separate Koreas prove that it's possible for people to keep a solid grudge going since the '50s) and arguing this particular bit of politics is more fractitious than most. So please forgive me if bringing it up was in remarkably poor taste.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 28th, 2012 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: O_O

>>It's been a nasty political mess since the Arab revolt (a three-way nasty mess)!<<

I would have said, at least as far back as the Crusades. People have been fighting over Jerusalem for millennia now. And some people, you can break a clue-by-four over their thick heads and all they will do is pick up the pieces to light another fire with.

>>I honestly feel that 1) Arabs in both Israel proper and Gaza are a lot more the heritage of the original, Jewish inhabitants than either side would like to admit and 2) outside influence - both Arab and honestly American - keeps the pot boiling to quite this extent.<<

I suspect that is so. Sadly, the people who prefer violence seem to have more influence than those who prefer peace. I am impressed by the actions of very few individuals and ... I can't think of any nations, really, in this mess.

>>But then my understanding may be very flawed (Sikh/Hindu/Moslem unpleasantness has been bubbling around India since the similar independence movements of the '30s, and the separate Koreas prove that it's possible for people to keep a solid grudge going since the '50s) and arguing this particular bit of politics is more fractitious than most. <<

It's messy. It's been messy for many ages; this is just the latest iteration. I've studied it before. I will probably continue keeping an eye on it. While it's difficult to discern clear truths, there are useful patterns to observe.

>> So please forgive me if bringing it up was in remarkably poor taste. <<

Part of a poet's job is to turn life into art. Sometimes that generates horror stories. Perhaps if people see them as such, they will be inspired to do better next time.

I'm close enough to this issue to be interested and tolerably well informed, although in the middle of a scrum like this, precise information is very scarce. I'm far enough away not to be personally hurt by the mayhem, or insults if someone blows a gasket over it. Somebody needs to talk about the gory stuff so it doesn't get swept under a rug. For maximum parallax, that should include people with an intimate personal perspective, and people from a distance.

In other words, this discussion spawned a hideous poem about hideous events. "Picking and Pecking" is free verse about what happens with the territorial ruckus in the Middle East when relationships come out in feathers. People do not handle it well.

170 lines, Buy It Now = $85
paka From: paka Date: November 28th, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: O_O

Thanks! Because I don't want to be divisive or fractitious - we're here to read poetry after all - any comments will follow in messaging.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 27th, 2012 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Check out the Palestine sunbird from the Sinai list, suggested as the national bird for Palestine. That distinctive orange spot just under the wing might show in the feathers where the wings attach to a human body.
15 comments or Leave a comment