It was my birthday yesterday and I suddenly felt a surge of gratitude rising up from my left kishke. Of course today, I don’t feel it at all. But I still want to try to summon it up because I want to have it on paper for all the times that I don’t feel any gratitude for anything. Also, this is for people who think that I’m completely cynical and that I have a jaundiced view on life. Okay, so here’s my cripple gratitude list.
I am grateful that at 59 and being a decrepit cripple that I could have a new family and an incredible baby and the two best mommies in the world.
I am grateful that I still have all my marbles and I’m not locked up somewhere.
I am grateful that I found Celexa 15 years ago that saved me from my own mind, so I don’t feel like bashing in my head every five minutes (even though it reduced my libido by 65%).
I am grateful for my addiction to the stock market, even if it cost me a million dollars.
I am grateful to be in the holy land; to be with my people and every day to get to see how Hitler completely failed.
I am grateful that my sister made aliyah 34 years ago and brought my parents over, so that I would wind up here too and we would all be together.
I am grateful that I’m not in a 40 year old nightmare of a marriage.
I am grateful to be a cripple, so I stand out in any crowd and get a lot of attention.
I am grateful that I am a Jew and not a goy, thereby giving a big middle finger to the other seven billion people in the world.
I am grateful to live to see YouPorn; thousands and thousands of porno movies for free without having to masturbate in a skanky movie theater with a hundred other perverts.
I am grateful for music: Jimmy, Neil, John, Billie, Miles, Mick, Bach, and Satie.
I am grateful that I get poems plopped into my head and that I have the ability to polish them.
I am grateful for my sense of humor and that I can make even myself laugh.
I am grateful for women. Even if I haven’t had sex in seven years, I can still look at them.
I am grateful for all my people who not only fought and died and built this land for me, but actually welcome me with open arms to live here.
I am grateful that, after 40 years of not finding an outlet for my yidishkeit, I found my Chabad shul that gives me aliyahs with a smile, even though they know I’m an apikoyres (non-believer).
I am grateful for the Shuk, where I feel the most free and alive, and where there are at least seven different vendors who I can scream “fuck you” to and who will answer back with a big smile, “Fuck you too Morris!”
I am grateful for the cucumbers here. It turns out, I didn’t know what a cucumber tasted like.
I am grateful for my ten nieces and nephews and to have gotten a chance to tell them things that no one else would tell them and to listen to them tell me things that they couldn’t tell anyone else.
I am grateful to Mark Zuckerberg. I can post my poems and stupid videos and get 20 likes in two hours. Thank you Mark.
I am grateful for my 70 shekel bidet. It helps me not only clean myself, but actually expedites matters.
I am grateful for my new micro-enemas, the tips of which are one quarter the size of the old, Fleet enemas. I am proud to say that they are a product of Israel.
I am grateful that I haven’t killed or maimed anyone with my wheelchair in any of my tremendous outbursts of anger.
I am grateful that my parents are dead and I don’t have to worry about them anymore. They can’t give me any grief about yidishkeit.
I am grateful for my catheter and pee pee bag, so I don’t have to wake-up my caretaker. I get to pee in my bed two or three times a night without getting wet.
I am eternally grateful for Snickers.
Lots of people read my poems and think that I just write about going kaki, masturbating, peeing, or picking a booger. They think that I’m just doing it for the shock value. And of course I am. But for me, it’s much much more than that. These materials make up my life, both in reality and in metaphor. These are the things I’m constantly thinking about, talking about, joking about. These are the things that always help me make connections with all kinds of people. They ground me. They make me and other people laugh. They are the materials that bind us all.
I feel compelled to say all of this because since I started posting my poems on Facebook, I’ve been getting many similar comments about these so-called “gross” poems. Of course, I should expect reactions like this, especially because a lot of the readers have not been exposed to poetry. But I’ve been even getting comments from well-read people. My good friend of 50 years greeted me, saying, “Hey Buddy, when are you going to stop with the potty mouth poems?” I was taken aback and kind of hurt. It happened a month ago and I’m still thinking about it.
What do people want me to write about? Would it be better if I wrote about chrysanthemums, sunsets, and falling in love? These subjects are not compelling to me. Also, every other person in the world, poet and non-poet, writes about this stuff. So why should I? To me, it feels like a huge self-denial to write about such banality. As a Jew and a cripple, I feel a great affinity for shit, piss…These are the things that are discarded and considered disgusting; things not to be examined; too uncomfortable to be talked about, even though they are things we see everyday, all the time, everywhere.
I feel like I’m always being told to stay home, don’t talk, don’t move, don’t exist. I think exactly because of this, I feel the urgent need to intrude myself; to shout, to move, to go to places where I’m not wanted. What better paints could be suited for me? I use the discarded, the unwanted, the disgusting. I try to make something beautiful out of them, and then I force it into people’s faces and say, “Look! This is us.” It’s all us.
I myself am not sure. Are we really living in such violent times? I’ve been thinking about these terrorist attacks, seemingly coming week after week: Paris, California, and here in my Jerusalem. We all cluck cluck about it, “It’s terrible. We can’t feel safe anymore. When is all this violence going to end?” We’re so convinced that something very awful and unusual is taking place.
But I have a question. When in world history has there not been violence? Even a bigger question: haven’t there been periods which were ten times more bloody than now? Just think about it: WWI, WWII, the Vietnam War for the Vietnamese and for Americans, China under Mau, Russia under Stalin. We could go even further back in time to the Middle Ages.
Even for in my lifetime, I remember the 70’s in New York when there were at least five violent murders a day. I was scared to go on the subway, even during the day. During the Vietnam War, I remember the news when they were reporting 50-60 soldiers on the daily casualty report. What about my grandparents and great grandparents living in Eastern Europe? They were living in terror of the next pogrom.
So what’s all the kvetching? I think we’re all brainwashed by Hollywood and our politicians to think that there was a mythical, peaceful, perfect time. The time of Ozzy and Harriette. The time of Ike Eisenhower. When America ruled the world and we all lived so cozy and safe on leafy streets in our split-levels.
So what’s my point? I don’t think these are particularly violent times. I think we’re just comparing it to some fictional picture of utopian times that never even happened. Of course, the CNNs, BBCs, and Foxes only reinforce this message.
So let’s all just grow up a little. It’s not so bad and trust me, if you think it’s bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.