Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

The ode originated in Greek drama when the chorus divided into two groups and danced across the stage singing a hymn of praise for a god or a king. Centuries later, two Roman poets, Pindar and Horace, gave it different stylistic twists: the Horatian ode maintained the Greek emphasis on structure and rhythm, but the Pindaric ode was less formal, and in some ways anticipated the modern free verse ode. Today, the ode is typically a three or four part, fairly long poem written in praise or criticism, concluding with a moral.  It may be rhymed and metrical, or it may be in free verse as in “Ode to my Socks” which was written by Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), the Chilean Nobel Prize winner,

Uncomfortably tucked away
in the land of milk and honey,
with a temperate Mediterranean climate
just south of Lebanon’s troubled Cedars
and north of the Bedouin’s desolate Negev desert,
remaining cut across various human fault lines.
But safe from the chaotic monsoons that it’s distant cousins:
the Indian subcontinental mango and jackfruit must face.
Yet left unsafe from the upheavals,
driven by zealousness in it’s own land.

A seemingly ubiquitous citrus fruit
leaving it’s mark on medieval and colonial supply chains,
starting from Levantine orchards,
and criss-crossing throughout the Old World,
Once a  prideful symbolic reference to days past,
now a symbol of  seemingly eternal contention,
standing in direct contrast to the olive branch,
in the middle of an orphaned and elusive peace.

The result of a fateful genetic mutation,
with probability as destiny.
The Jaffa Orange, an almost seedless variety of fruit,
sharing autumn’s color and luminous contrast.
It’s sweet flesh loaded with Vitamin C and citric acid.
Spherical oval shaped fruits,
almost like they fell from a distant galaxy
many light-years away…
When cut in half
their pale hemispheres
forming an obvious symmetry,
covered by a thick skin that peels right off.

The bustling commercial streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,
but also those of Beirut and Istanbul,
filled with oranges
on a bright sunny midday in spring,
picked with the back-breaking labor of rural peasants
situated in kibbutzims and rocky hamlets.
Some to be eaten locally,
but many ready to export, probably to Europe
where they give their name to Jaffa cakes,
and also now grown elsewhere.
A reminder to never let your treasures go.

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