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Housecleaning

04/08/2011

A bit of house-keeping: Thanks to Bill Cohen of Tattoosday for featuring me (as a tattooed poet) during this first week of National Poetry Month. There are a lot of amazing tattoos out there and a lot of amazing poets — and I’m just pleased as punch to be one of his chosen. Check it out. Subscribe. People are darned interesting.

On to house-cleaning.

This week’s Torah portion, Metzora (one who has tzara’at, translated as – but probably not – leprosy) continues the discussion of crud. Unwanted bodily emissions (yes, those), oozing sores, and sick houses. Here is a fabulous line from the text:

Something like a plague has appeared upon my house.

That’s what you tell the priest when red/green splotches appear on the stones where you hang your family pictures. A freaking plague has appeared. Aren’t there just days like this? You drop your cup of coffee on the floor (in a restaurant)(during rush hour). You take a much needed day off and some idiots decide to abolish funding for Planned Parenthood or start a war or otherwise necessitate you picking up the phone and making angry calls. Someone backs up into your car while you watch. Your health insurance company raises your deductible. Your spouse has a headache. It’s still before noon and you’re cranky and and distracted and feeling terribly guilty for having it so easy. I could be living in Japan.

Anyway, here’s what strikes me about the house-plague passages: don’t jump to conclusions when the plague descends. Don’t overreact. First, try closing up the house for 7 days. If that doesn’t work, remove the affected stones and cast them into the city dump; scrape and re-plaster. And finally, only if that doesn’t work should you tear the house down and take the stones & timber & plaster outside the city limits for good measure.

In other words, throw the baby out with the bath water only when absolutely necessary. Don’t pull out the big guns until the littler ones fail to do the trick. Neither naive or a total jerk be.

I was reminded of this gradual approach a couple days ago during a staff meeting at the synagogue. Spring has arrived, and with it ants in one of the pre-school rooms. Although not dangerous, ants are just not the sort of thing you want in a room filled with the crawling, stick-anything-in-my-mouth little ones. Knee-jerk reaction: call an exterminator. Second reaction: get traps you can stick up high on the shelves. Third reaction: a little bit of bleach water or Formula 409 (hopefully from the health food store) applied around the window sills where the ants migrate. Elegant, safe, practically free – and oh so satisfying to do the squirting yourself.

So. Given how far afield I’ve gone from my original idea for a post (perhaps next week on Goldstone & Koran-burning & other recent events), let me conclude with this snippet from a poem I wrote years ago. It pertains.

#1

Black dots advance
across my kitchen counter.
Black dots in formation,
already headed for
the tomb of winter.
I reach for the spray,
press down on the pump,
aim the poison.
I do it because I can.


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