Saturday, November 16, 2013


In the fourth pairing of the Ten Buts thru Ten Comms Project reading A Box.” through “Thou shalt remember the Sabbath day,” Eleanor Smagarinsky called on a Subject Matter Expert—her mother—to help.


Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle. So then the order is that a white way of being round is something suggesting a pin and is it disappointing, it is not, it is so rudimentary to be analysed and see a fine substance strangely, it is so earnest to have a green point not to red but to point again.


Everyone... please meet my beautiful mother. Mum has always been the biggest fan of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), she has consistently reminded us (her adoring family) of the joy inherent in stopping all work once a week. She knows little about poetry, and nothing whatsoever about GS and Tender Buttons. When Mum asked me "Why does she call them buttons?" my daughter shook her head and motioned "Don't even go there" behind my mum's back. I just giggled.

Me: Mum, just have a look at this. It won't make sense, so just think about it as a type of code. Now, we're looking for any possible connections to Shabbat.

Mum: Shabbat. I like that (she reads)... does this poet always write like this?

Me: Yep.

Mum: I see. (Longer silence than I would like.)

Me: If you don't see anything, don't worry. It's impenetrable.

Mum: Don't be silly. It's obvious.

Me: Well.....

Mum: The first thing I see is the box - it separates things from the outside, Shabbat separates a day, makes it holy. Then the pin - God pinpointed the specific day and gave it to us, for rest and rejuvenation, he pinned it... set it apart. A white way of being round - traditionally we wear white on Shabbat, also the Priests wore white in the Temple, and round, well that's obvious - the cycle of the week. Green means go, red means stop, we go all week, but on Shabbat we stop. But we don't stop just for the sake of stopping, we stop so that we can continue to go on, with the next week, so that's why she wrote again, but it's also a gain - we gain from stopping.

(By now I'm lying on the floor, hyperventilating with joy)

Mum: Eleanor, get off the floor and sit properly. Let's see... the rudeness and the rapid, well, I'm very familiar with that, very familiar indeed. That's what I call "lashing out", and you know what I always say --- changes are first ridiculed, then violently opposed, and finally ... accepted as self-evident.

(I can no longer breathe, I am simply hugging my mother and mumbling incoherently)

Mum: That's what happened with medicine. Everyone thought certain discoveries were ridiculous, even dangerous, but now... we understand these discoveries to be self-evident.

Me:   I cannot believe you just said that. Karren [a.k.a. The Steiny Road Poet] wrote that she felt this poem was about GS quitting medical school.

Mum: Medical school? How impressive, such an accomplished woman. But wait, let me finish sweetie I'm looking at kindness and that means chesed. That's lovely. But painful cattle seems very odd, perhaps something to do with making sacrifices at the Temple? I mean, if this poet always writes like this, then I suppose there can't be wrong meanings. Yes?

(I throw myself at my mother's feet and worship her. She is the Sabbath Queen, and - unbeknownst to me - a Stein scholar. Who knew?)


Eleanor said Chesed (or Hesed) is a special kind of kindness (loving-kindness). Here’s what  Wikipedia says:

In Moses Cordovero's kabbalistic treatise Tomer Devorah, the following are actions undertaken in imitation of the qualities of Chesed:[13]
  • Love God so completely that one will never forsake His service for any reason.
  • Provide a child with all the necessities of his sustenance.
  • Circumcise a child.
  • Visiting and healing the sick.
  • Giving charity to the poor.
  • Offering hospitality to strangers.
  • Attending to the dead.
  • Bringing a bride to the chuppah marriage ceremony.
  • Making peace between a man and his fellow.

Eleanor points out that Chesed is the fourth Sefira (also Sephirot). The Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life are two aspects of the Sefira. In the Kabbalah, the Sefira charts the ten attributes through which Ein Sof (The Infinite—G-d) “reveals Himself and continuously creates both the physical realm and the chain of higher metaphysical realms.”

So “A Box.” Is the fourth TB subpoem and it begins, Out of kindness comes redness. Make what you will of this. However, that business about Ein Sof revealing himslef continuously through many planes could have certainly appealed to Stein's tenet of achieving the continuous present. Stein’s system of pointing seems to run in many directions.

1 comment:

Marya said...

Posted a link to the work of the Button Collective here on my blog --

Mary from ModPo